Cities: Skylines II Makes Urban Planning Exciting, Stunning, and Mind-Boggling

Cities: Skylines II Makes Urban Planning Exciting, Stunning, and Mind-Boggling

I wouldn't call myself a hardcore gamer. I enjoy platformers, roguelikes, and cooperative games. I'll gladly play a role-playing game if its story knocks me off my feet. But I firmly stick to PC gaming for one and only one reason: to play the epic city planning simulator, Cities: Skylines. In 46 hours of the new sequel, I've founded no less than twelve cities, horribly mismanaged roads, and spawned complete industrial pollution. But I enjoyed every minute of this process.

So, if you're anything like me — curious about city infrastructure and whether you can manage it yourself, with precisely modeled traffic and weather conditions, residential districts, and their ubiquitous social media streams with numerous reviews of your work — this game is for you. It's like SimCity on steroids: a wonder simulator, even without the community mods that will undoubtedly follow its release.

Sponsor Message

Grid (Still) Rules If you've ever played a city simulator, you know that well-designed roads are the key to a functional city, much like in real life. To my delight, C:SII simplifies the creation and customization of roads, especially when they are laid out on grids and parallels.

Precisely modeled roads in Cities: Skylines II. Paradox Interactive The grid mode allows for quickly designing infrastructure little different from Manhattan, and new circular interchanges can simulate a system of diagonal quadrants, as in Washington. To my great disappointment, my attempts to let roads grow more organically towards the city center, like in a Western European city, ended with less space and some awkward gaps between buildings. Despite the game being developed by the Finnish developer Colossal Order, its mechanics push you towards North American block-style cities.

To delve even deeper into the madness, I don't know how to manage traffic, regardless of the map I try to use. Besides planting trees to combat noise pollution, I've only started to touch the customizable traffic features.

Five Times the Playing Area, Five Times the Chaos I created small cities on each of the ten new maps, increasing the population to around 10,000 people. If you're anything like me, you tend to create cities over and over until you're satisfied with the initial layout and its growth potential. In C:SII, seemingly limitless possibilities come with significantly increased playing space.

Take control of a complex and interconnected system. Paradox Interactive Each map has a different landscape, but they're all mind-boggling. The starting area is smaller than in the first game, but you can start purchasing more tiles as soon as you earn money. I'm particularly interested in Archipelago Haven and Mountain Village, mainly because I've spent time on real islands and dreamed of mountain living. Building an archipelago was especially interesting because over time, you can connect isolated islands to each other by purchasing non-adjacent tiles.

Sponsor Message

The Devil Is in the Details One thing I feel was missing in the original game is a district-painting brush. C:SII replaces it with a "click and set" node system, making it impossible to overlap districts. Instead, the ability to distribute objects by district creates a more realistic task as you manage resources and ensure your citizens have access to services at a reasonable distance from their homes.

Enlarge the scale to see little people going about their business. Paradox Interactive But, despite all its enhanced systems, Cities: Skylines II has caused the most buzz around its demanding, flawless graphics. For the sake of my outdated computer, I started the game with the lowest quality settings. I'll tell you, it still looks stunning. The water seems more watery because of how it shimmers. The weather details are breathtaking. When I really want to scrutinize the details of the archipelagic nightmare I'm creating, I use the cinematic camera mode to zoom in on buildings and cars. In doing so, I'm definitely pushing the limits of my computer to see what this game is truly capable of. Who knows, maybe I'll have to invest in a more powerful machine.

Meanwhile, you can see me planting trees along highways, whose traffic mimics the movement on the I-395 stretch in Northern Virginia leading into Washington, as I settle into my second full-time job of managing virtual traffic.