Cities: Skylines II Review – If You Build It They Will Come

Cities Skylines II Review
Image Credit: Paradox Interactive.
Cities Skylines II Review

There will be a time when I will easily spend dozens of hours a day playing Cities: Skylines II without hesitation. That time is not now, however. Instead, it’s a “mere” several hours a day.

The sequel to the popular 2015 city-building game has incredible bones, but it’s missing some finishing touches that make it a must-buy on day one. Don’t let that deter you, though; this is still a very, very good game. Yet I can’t help but wonder why Paradox Interactive needed to release this game now and not in a couple of months. 

My first impressions of the game were incredibly satisfying. As great as the original Cities: Skylines is, there’s no doubt that it’s feeling dated. Cities: Skylines II receives a visual overhaul that helps make the interaction feel sleek and modern. Things feel more accessible than before; an abundance of information is thrown at you, but it’s being done intelligently to ease you in and guide you properly.

However, the more I play, the more the issues start to crop up. Again, these aren’t exactly a dealbreaker, but it’s something to consider if you’re on the fence.

Cities: Skylines II Is An Impressive City-Builder That Creates A Lifelike City

As familiar as Cities: Skylines II is to the original, many differences are found within the game. This helps the sequel feel like an evolution of the original rather than more of the same, instead focusing on refinement and improvement to build on the already successful foundation. Given the impressive mod support from the original, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Developer Colossal Order had a lot to work with, and they’ve certainly taken advantage of it. 

The most impressive thing is their aim to make each city more realistic. It’s no longer about creating somewhat random, artificial demand for building zones, population growth, and traffic. Instead, it’s all tied together with how you’re planning and building your city. People want to live near the hot, in-demand attractions. They also want to have affordable housing options, too.

cities skylines 2
Image Credit:
Paradox Interactive.

One of the new features that plays into this is the expanded options for residential zoning. Introducing medium-density (row housing, apartment buildings) and low-rent housing (think tall apartment buildings with studio-sized apartments) means that there’s another type of demand to meet. It creates an interesting dance between supply and demand that determines the ebbs and flow of your city; steer too far in one direction, and you’ll have the appearance of a thriving city hub. In reality, it’s noisy, cramped, loud, and dangerous. Things can spiral quickly out of control due to poor conditions that ultimately bring down the rest of your city. 

Many of these touches throughout the game make Cities: Skylines II feel less like a city-building game and more like a living, breathing city that you’re constantly working with to react and adapt for the betterment of your citizens. 

The Progression System Makes Cities: Skylines II Far More Easier To Digest

The biggest issue with the original Cities: Skylines was the information overload being thrown at the user. The game still has a lot of information, but it’s tucked away through its new progression system. As you build your city, you’ll earn progression points that can be used to purchase city systems and features. This allows the player to decide what direction to take their city infrastructure: do you want to focus on expanding your road network? Maybe you want to invest in clean power as soon as possible. Or perhaps you want to unlock the power of public transportation.

It’s a subtle yet powerful decision to make the game far easier to digest, especially for newcomers, and undoubtedly the best part of Cities: Skylines II. I don’t have to have multiple ovens running simultaneously. I can take my time and devout my resources as I see fit. Given your city’s realistic demands and issues, it’s a wonderful change that is incredibly welcome. 

Cities: Skylines II Unfortunately Could Have Benefited From More Time In The Oven

Despite the host of new features and tools at your disposal, Cities: Skylines II can sometimes feel barren in terms of content. 

For starters, only ten maps are available at the game’s launch, and a handful feel incredibly similar. I wanted to double-check the amount of base maps found in the original Cities: Skylines, and I was surprised it was only twelve. I guess we’re around the same baseline, especially considering the maps are bigger this time. 

As you’d expect from a game still in the prerelease stages, there is no mod support. Colossal Order has done a great job of making the base of Cities: Skylines II far more functional than the original’s foundation was at launch. Still, some issues arise, particularly with landscaping. As intuitive as the rest of the game is, this is the one thorn in my side that resulted in me just forgoing any landscaping during my time with the game. Terraforming can be awkward sometimes, and planting trees takes forever to grow. Which, I get, is incredibly realistic, but still…

cities skylines 2
Image Credit:
Paradox Interactive.

Additionally, some quality-of-life updates aren’t in the game yet but will most likely be within the next few months. Nothing is really game-breaking here; we’re talking about just being more meticulous and time-consuming with your city planning. The times I would mutter to myself during my playthrough were too numerous to count. 

Cities: Skylines II Will Eventually Be A Beautiful Game

The biggest issue is the game’s performance, which is a work in progress. Playing the game with a level of detail higher than “very low” results in a major drop in stability and frames. The game is already a resource hog; my computer goes into overdrive the second the game boots up and never stops. Throughout my time with the review build, updates were being deployed that could address these issues. It’s still not perfect, but the game is playable. In fact, it’s far more playable than the original Cities: Skylines. 

There are some weird visual bugs and glitches as well. In the busier parts of my cities, buses routinely got stuck on the road while other vehicles drove through them. 

Why do these matter? One of the marquee features of Cities: Skylines II is its visual power. The game now features the support of seasons, allowing your city to shine throughout the year. Backed by an overhauled photo mode and cinematic camera, you can take gorgeous images of your city and create the skylines of your dreams. Yet, not being able to run the game at full visual power at launch properly is a disappointment. 

Wrapping Up

Cities: Skylines II is going to take over my life. I just know it. It’s a game with really good bones that will truly shine once things are fully ironed out. The more I dive into it, the more I discover and fall in love with it. Some of the concerns mentioned above will deter people, but at the end of the day, it’s nothing that detracts from the overall experience.

If you can put up with some hiccups and growing pains, Cities: Skylines II will be worth it from day one, even if it needs some time to reach its full potential. Others will be waiting for improvement updates and the introduction of mod support. Once they’re addressed, the sky’s the limit for Cities: Skylines II. 


Cities Skylines II Review
Cities: Skylines II Review – If You Build It They Will Come
Cities: Skylines II is a very worthy sequel to the popular 2015 city-building that improves upon the original. It could stand to use some quality-of-life updates, performance optimization, and mod support, but don't let that deter you from diving in.
Updated mechanics make the cities feel more realistic than ever.
Incredibly acessible compared to the original.
Highly addictive.
Performance issues at launch when running the game on high levels of detail.
Some questionable decisions regarding quality of life features.


Written by Jake Valentine

I am the Editor-In-Chief of BossLevelGamer. I'm also a lover of video games, food, and beer.

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