Cities Skylines 2 Review: A Disappointing Sequel? | Deep Dive into Gameplay, Bugs & Features

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Cities Skylines 2 by Paradox Studio is the latest game in the well-known and beloved series by many players around the world. The game was supposed to introduce many new mechanics, an advanced city simulation, and improve everything known from the first game. In other words – to be better in every way. However, it suffers not only from a huge number of bugs, but also has problems with the fundamentals and overall concept. The game gives the impression that nothing you do matters or has an impact on the city and the entire simulation. This is not a city-building simulation, but only painting it, and each time it’s the same city.

Success of the First Game.

Cities: Skylines had its premiere in March 2015 and was released by the Finnish studio Colossal Order and Paradox Interactive. It quickly became one of the most successful and popular city management simulation games. Known for its open structure, allowing players to create detailed and extensive cities, the game quickly gained recognition among both genre fans and critics. It hit the mark perfectly, as it premiered at the same time as the completely unsuccessful, long-awaited Simcity 5. Until then, Simcity was synonymous with city-building games. That changed.

One of the most attractive features of Cities: Skylines is its deep and complex city management system. The game offers a wide range of planning and management options, from road construction, through managing public transport systems, to setting urban policies. Players have full control over the development of their city, allowing them to create their vision of the perfect city. This freedom of creation is one of the main reasons the game became so popular.

Another important factor contributing to the game’s success is its modding community. “Cities: Skylines” has supported player-created mods from the beginning, allowing for significant expansion and personalization of the game. Modders have created thousands of modifications, from new building and vehicle models to complete game mechanic overhauls. As a result, the game has continuously evolved and offered something new even for the most experienced players. The studio itself regularly releases new expansions and updates to the game, expanding functions, tools, and creating new challenges. Thanks to this, the game remains fresh for over 10 years and maintains an active player base. Interestingly, it has been over 100 days since the release of the second part, and it does not support modders or people creating their own assets.

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When the first announcements of the second edition of Cities Skylines appeared, expectations skyrocketed. The favorite city-building simulator was supposed to be better than anything before. The creators emphasized that they listened to the players and would transfer the best mods directly to the new part of the game. In addition, advanced simulation, where every resident has their own life. They commute to work, make decisions. You can even move around the city and look from their perspective. On the way to work, there can be a road accident (which was not there before). There are also novelties like complicated supply chains, or managing high and low voltage power grids. Add to this changing seasons, variable weather, new options for designating construction zones (for the first time mixed zones of blocks with services on the ground floor), etc. Everything looked great, which only fueled the hype for this game.

After the premiere, the enthusiasm faded. The game is plagued by hundreds of larger and smaller bugs, which can completely spoil the gameplay. The developers initially released regular patches that fixed some of the problems. However, they recently announced that they are ending this type of updates and will introduce them only with the next DLCs. Meanwhile, to put it mildly, the game runs quite poorly. This refers not only to performance, which can fail even in small cities, but also to numerous bugs. However, it turns out that the creators removed the best solutions from the first game and not only did they not improve them in “the second”, but they did not introduce them at all. Did you like building parks? You only have a few squares and they are quite empty, looking terrible. No park zones, paid entry, expansion, nothing. Seasons or weather conditions have absolutely no impact on the gameplay. They are mainly cosmetic and irritating. Fall in the game is non-stop rain, which turns colorful and sunny cities into depression. Production chains, on which the creators so relied, do not work best. However, it must be admitted that the level of their diversity is really great, but still something very strange is happening here. For example, you can build a coal power plant, which at some point stops working because the coal supply runs out. In the supply chain panel, we see information about how much coal the city imports and what it is used for (e.g., for the power plant or industry), but this is not visible in the game. The power plant consumes the supply with which “we buy it” and stops generating electricity. It has to be demolished and rebuilt. It doesn’t even matter that we have our own coal mine nearby. Building farms, we receive information about how much of the given resources it will produce.

I built 10 farms producing 250 tons of vegetables each. This should give a total of 2500 tons of vegetables produced by the city. However, according to the panel, the city produces only 17 tons, the rest is imported because the production is too small. A very strange bug is the sudden crash of a given production line. It’s hard to say exactly what to call it, but very often there is a situation where the city earns huge amounts of money and suddenly the monthly income changes to red indicating a loss. And not just any loss, because in my case, almost 300 million. Reviewing the budget, it turned out that randomly some supply chains instead of earning, generate a huge loss and that for no reason. After a few months in the game, everything returns to normal and regularly repeats.

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Tax System, Money, and Zones

Speaking of money, the overall tax system and economy in the game don’t make much sense. We can move sliders indicating the tax burden for different industries or zones. But it only controls the temporary demand for certain zones and does not have a greater impact in the game. If we set the taxes for residents to zero percent, we will not be flooded with a wave of immigrants, unemployment, or traffic jams in the city. It is also very hard to go bankrupt in Cities Skylines 2, I never even had to take out a loan to develop the city. From the very beginning, it is enough to build a power plant or an efficient water pump, connect it to the city limits and the surpluses are immediately exported, providing a huge cash injection. There are no contracts, negotiated rates (like, for example, in Simcity..3), everything happens automatically. There is no need to specifically invest in basic city resources, because they can always magically come to us from non-existent neighbors.

A big problem is the strangely designed system controlling the land value. It moves along the main road and very quickly the value of the surrounding land increases so quickly that numerous icons appear on the screen suggesting that residents of small houses complain about too high rent due to the land value and will soon move out. The solution is to eliminate zones of houses in favor of blocks, which is not an aesthetic solution. It quickly turns out that the demand for residential zones permanently drops to zero, because no one can afford to live.

Another major problem is the small number of assets, houses, commercial, service, or industrial buildings look very similar if not identical. Game can also create whole zones where next to each other there are 15 of the same gas stations.

Where Are the Best Solutions from first game?

I was very surprised at how this game is quite poor in content. I had almost all the expansions in CS:1, so each city was unique and you could have great fun implementing various unusual ideas. If you want to create a beautiful city with a tourist district in the CS:2, you can indeed – put a few squares, parks, but the category of tourist attractions has as many as 3 buildings that can be placed only once (2 monuments and a mini water park). In the statistics, you can see how many tourists there are, how much money they leave, and also how many overnight accommodations there are. In several of my cities, I could not force any zone types to build any hotel and with 100,000 tourists in the city, there was not a single hotel. There are no entertainment zones, hotel zones, etc. There are districts, which I feel have been cut in terms of capabilities compared to the first part of the game. Industrial zones themselves rely on placing the main building, from which a fence is led indicating the space for conducting business by a given industry. In the first game, it was more complex, it gave us the opportunity to build additional objects, style zones for our needs. Here most often we have just a uniform texture of the ground and sometimes a barn or machine will appear. I laughed when I created a mining district and the game placed a huge machine for mining ore on this area. It obviously forgot to check that the metro was running right under it.

In the game, of course, there are traffic jams, but in the previous part, you could at least check why these traffic jams occur. There was a tool showing how traffic flows – where from, in what way, where are transfers, where people travel most often. There is not even such an option here. If you want to check something similar, you have to click on a random NPC and check individual statistics, but you can’t do it in a group.

Traffic Simulation

It’s worth pausing on the topic of advanced traffic simulation. Every vehicle in the game has a destination, moves from point to point, doesn’t disappear. It obeys traffic rules and even uses parking lots (which is actually a great addition but there is no anarchy in their projects. You can’t design it, just plop). Roads have been improved and some solutions from popular mods created by players in the first part of the game have been transferred to them. It must be admitted that they are easy to build, you have more control over them and it is easier to create exits and junctions. If there are a lot of traffic jams in the city, or the roads are in poor condition – there may be accidents, which is new. Cars then block traffic and wait for the arrival of public services. However, they are not privileged and most often they themselves stand in a traffic jam caused by the same accident. After some time, however, the traffic resets and the accident site… disappears. Cars can turn around on avenues in the middle of the road and not only passenger cars, but even a truck standing in a traffic jam. It happens very often that vehicles completely ignore the rules. To remove a traffic jam from an intersection, I put up a sign prohibiting left turns. The sign appeared, the directional arrow was removed from the road, but the cars still turned left without any thought. It is also not possible to create half-intersections, where, for example, a side street (so-called collector) leads to an avenue and cars can only turn right without creating a whole intersection. There are also no bike paths, cyclists, etc. I also don’t like the limitation of animations. Earlier, when there was a fire, the fire brigade would arrive at the scene and start extinguishing the fire. Here, a vehicle arrives, stands in place for a while, and that’s it. In this case, it looks better… Simcity, where the police could shoot at criminals at stores.

Summary

I created this review on February 14, nearly 100 days after the premiere of Cities Skylines 2. In my opinion, this game is still in beta phase and at this stage should not have been released. Studio comments that maybe this is not a game for people who complain and only complain – are completely out of place and it’s just spitting in our face. Cities Skylines 2 is an example of when both rich and poor have it just as bad. The developers knew exactly what was expected of them. This could be seen by the popularity of various modifications created by players. However, the game runs and looks worse than the first game, it is hard to find good solutions from it. So it’s not a good purchase and if you would like to play Cities Skylines 2, hold off for at least a few more months until the first DLCs. Why? Because the creators announced that they will no longer patch the game on an ongoing basis, but only with the release of DLCs. The game does not even have support for mods from the community, which in the case of various games can often fix them faster than the devs. And still that radio, which instead of funny commercials and great music, tries to imitate radio programs talking about current events in the city. Most often it is served in the form of very repetitive or, for example, in the case of an accident, we hear that it happened, but it is not known on which street, but drivers will definitely recognize it by the traffic jam. Very funny.

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Jakub Markiewicz
Jakub Markiewiczhttps://jotem.in
Hi, I am the author of the Jotem.in blog and series of thematic portals since 2013. I have nearly 15 years of experience in working in the media, marketing, public relations and IT. If you are interested in cooperation, you would like me to write about something or test a product - let me know.
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