Cities Skylines 2 review | VG247

After years of expansions and DLCs, Colossal Order and Paradox are lastly urgent reset on Cities Skylines. For this kind of simulation sport, this can be a large second. These titles aren’t a lot video games as they’re platforms for years of content material and growth – and so beginning contemporary is a really large deal certainly.

Fortunately, Cities Skylines 2 is a smartly-designed and clearly very fastidiously thought-about reimagining and retooling of a lot of what made the primary sport a beloved inheritor to the city-building style. With that mentioned, it’s additionally a sport that’s clearly the inspiration for a platform that’ll run for the following decade – with struggles and slight cut-backs that relate to that.

In case you’re new to the entire shebang, the Skylines collection is a descendent of the likes of Cities in Movement and (in fact) SimCity; the place you’re put into the position of a benevolent eye-in-the-sky mayor and let unfastened to dictate every part about how town is designed and functioned.

Curiously, this time round there’s no main ‘situations’ or story mode – although there’s a talent tree the place new buildings and options have to be unlocked as your metropolis grows, which creates a campaign-like development. In addition to contending with the wants of town, you’ll additionally have to battle issues like pure disasters, excessive climate, and even points like homelessness. This time across the simulation is deeper and extra intricate – although a lot thought has additionally been put into ensuring that these intricacies don’t change into irritating distractions.

Cities: Skylines 2
Each cloud. | Picture credit score: Paradox Interactive

This kind of sport is troublesome to sum up, but when I have been to succeed in for a single phrase to outline Cities Skylines 2 when in comparison with its predecessor, I’d go for ‘scale’. This can be a bigger scale, broader, and plainly extra bold sport at each stage. It’s maybe most evident, nevertheless, within the sport’s featured buildings.

By featured buildings, I imply the particular, necessary buildings you place all through your metropolis – issues that present a particular utility like faculties and schools, police and fireplace stations, energy vegetation, and so forth. Subsequent to none of this stuff are new (although how Skylines 2 breaks up and transfers utilities has been tweaked, and there are a number of new components that aren’t within the first sport) – however all of them are bigger.

I imply this actually. If you place an oil-fired energy plant or a medical college on the map, it’s huge. It dwarfs every part. Within the earlier sport, it felt like even the biggest and most important landmarks had a reasonably agency higher restrict when it comes to their potential measurement. In Skylines 2, putting these buildings looks like extra of a real occasion, and helps to outline your metropolis extra, due to how a lot they stand out. Many of those buildings will be expanded, too – made bigger so as to add new performance or to bolster their present setup.

The dimensions feels prefer it’s come from a want for visible spectacle, for the power to create cities that extra intently resemble the actual factor. This results in new instruments for ease of crafting the form of roads and a practical metropolis structure, in fact. Nevertheless it additionally means there’s extra artwork for a diversified variety of buildings. There is a tighter simulation, the place you’ll be able to zoom proper in and watch one particular NPC go about their day in the event you like. Even issues like branding has been fastidiously thought-about, with a whole bunch of pastiche model names and logos featured within the sport to pack your cities out with realistic-feeling companies.

Aerial shot of a city in Cities Skylines 2
All roads result in biome(s). | Picture credit score: Paradox Interactive

All of this creates a curious paradigm: a sport that feels a lot bigger, but additionally extra granular. That is additionally expressed within the metropolis boundaries themselves. Particular person tiles that you just purchase to broaden your metropolis’s footprint are a lot smaller, which means you unlock much less floor early on. However as your financial institution steadiness balloons, you’ll be able to aggressively purchase tiles en masse and find yourself with an total map a number of instances bigger than the earlier sport.

In an analogous vein, many programs are extra detailed than something that has come earlier than – whereas additionally leaving apparent gaps of their design that’ll inevitably be crammed by expansions and DLC. It’s larger and smaller, abruptly; a TARDIS of a sport.

All of it feels wildly bold, if iterative. However this comes at a price. Some followers have been disenchanted on the sport’s minimal specs, after which doubly disenchanted once they have been bumped slightly increased. The console model has been delayed – presumably as a result of it wants sharpening. For higher or worse, this can be a sport that’s been constructed as a platform for the following decade or extra. And it’s power-hungry because of this.

A top-down shot of a turnpike, a residential distrcit and some skyscrapes in Cities Skylines 2.
Larger scale. | Picture credit score: Paradox Interactive

I performed Cities Skylines 2 on one thing fairly rattling near top-of-the-line attainable PCs you’ll be able to have. An RTX 4090, an i9-13900k, 64GB of reminiscence. It’s a beast. It crushes just about every part I throw at it. However this pre-release construct of Cities Skylines 2, which the builders frantically patched a few instances throughout the evaluate interval, gave it a critical run for its cash. As we transfer into late October, it’s getting chilly right here – however I didn’t want the radiators turned on in my workplace with this sport operating; the PC stored me heat.

Now, I might’ve turned the settings down for a smoother expertise. However what’s the purpose in a rig like this if to not max every part out? Particularly on a sport like this, the place twitch reactions will not be required. So I soldiered via with a sub-optimal body fee and numerous slowdown (and the odd crash right here and there). These items is irritating, clearly – however I additionally don’t view it as the top of the world, as a result of I do know I’m in a sport like this for the lengthy haul.

Like a brand new entry in one thing like The Sims, or like a new Street Fighter, I’m all the time keen to offer a little bit of a move on the opening as a result of I do know this can be a rising expertise. Such is the case right here. The plethora of latest instruments all make an enormous distinction; constructing roads and different transit, zoning, and understanding the wants of your metropolis’s folks as a way to fulfill them are all extra simple and but provide extra granular management than ever earlier than. There’s a number of instruments that I feel want some work, (landscaping is complicated and naff) however on the entire, this can be a drastically extra clean expertise than the unique sport.

Key art featuring a gorgeous city scape built around a huge river in City Skylines 2
Lake to the celebration. | Picture credit score: Paradox Interactive

That, I suppose, is the headline. I’ve a whole bunch of hours logged on Cities Skylines, and it was one in every of my ‘consolation’ video games that I all the time left put in on my PC to often play; an excellent de-stresser or hangover day sport. The day earlier than penning this evaluate, nevertheless, I uninstalled it. It has been outdated and changed. With a number of the new options, the brand new visible look, the sense of scale, and the quality-of-life enhancements – I couldn’t return. It’s Skylines 2 from right here on out.

The truth that I’m keen to half methods with the unique sport even within the face of early efficiency woes and the truth that in the end Cities Skylines 2 has a good bit much less content material than the unique, with its oodles of growth packs and DLCs, says quite a bit. This is a wonderful sequel, and an thrilling basis for what I’m certain will likely be a brilliant, addition-packed future. For these with weaker machines or a concentrate on efficiency, you might very nicely need to wait. However on this preliminary launch we will see the foundations of a generational traditional. It simply may take a number of extra years to succeed in that full potential – identical to its predecessor.

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