LGR - Cities Skylines 2 Review

LGR - Cities Skylines 2 Review

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[piano-laden jazz tunes play] [computer buzzes, beeps] After a lengthy 8½ year run, Paradox and Colossal Order have finally set aside Cities Skylines and plopped down the long-awaited sequel: Cities  Skylines II. Which is always a bit weird when   it comes to simulation games, being that the  entire goal of a simulation is... to simulate,   as much stuff as possible. And after 11 full  expansion packs, several mini expansions,   dozens of cosmetic, flavor, and creator packs,  plus free updates and countless mods? Yeah,   the sheer amount of SIMULATION available in the  original Skylines is categorically overwhelming.  

So it’s a given that starting over from scratch  with a new entry will feel like a step backwards,   right? Or two or three or five steps– look,  I’m gonna be straight with y’all. On launch,  CS2 is the mixiest of mixed bags. On the one  hand, there are a slew of fresh features,   quality of life improvements, and logical  additions that make CS2 feel like a proper   evolution in city sims. And I respect that they’ve  included CS1 content that was previously part of   paid expansions. Like weather, specialized  industry, disasters, cargo hubs, trams,   and taxis. But despite doing so much right from  day one, there's a weird amount of stuff currently   worse than before, or missing outright. Like  the lack of placeable props, few city policies,  

missing animations and certain basic features,  and opaque under-the-hood logic making the sim   feel unbalanced, or even broken at first glance.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s clearly a different   simulation than CS1 and there’s a lot to like  here making for a solid foundation to build upon,   and I’ve still come away having fun with the core  game. But I also think CS2 seriously needed more   time in the development oven before being publicly  unleashed, because it feels like I’ve been playing   a pre-release game. Oh and to be clear, I’m not,  this is the public release! I paid for the game  

myself and was not offered any kind of review copy  or early access at all, so I only got to start   playing on its regular launch date. That said,  I’ve still managed to rack up a good 50 hours thus   far, so let’s dive into the nitty gritty of what’s  old, what’s new, what’s good, and what sucks. And well, it’s no surprise that Cities Skylines  II directly follows its predecessor in attempting   to be everything that SimCity still wishes it  was. This is a classic city builder focused on   managing demand for Residential, Commercial,  and Industrial zones, while juggling citizens’   needs regarding power, water, traffic, education,  city services, and so on. And much like before,   there are two main ways to play: The gamified way  by starting with a set amount of cash depending on   chosen difficulty, and earning XP to unlock city  levels, gradually providing new buildings and   features. Or there’s the wide open sandbox way,  with infinite money and everything unlocked from  

the start, allowing you to skip the progression  system entirely. This time around though,   there aren’t nearly as many maps to play on, with  only 10 in the standard edition base game and one   more in the ultimate. And as of now, there’s no  map editor included either. Or an asset editor,   or any kind of editor at all, as it’s still  in beta and yet to be released. That said,  

the included maps are diverse enough I suppose.  They not only have their own themes, climate,   and resources, but the map sizes are roughly five  times larger than vanilla CS1. Each map contains   159 square kilometers of play area according  to the devs, split up into 441 tiles that can   be unlocked as needed. Each individual tile  is smaller now, but I think this works better   since you can strategically snap up only the  bits of land you need without spending a ton.  

And tiles don’t have to be connected either, so  you can purchase tiles all the way on the other   side of the map to exploit resources and set up  a remote mining town or whatever. Each map can   also experience a gamut of seasons year-round,  so depending on their preset climate they can go   from spring, to summer, to autumn, to winter, and  endure the accompanying weather patterns. And yep,   snowfall can occur without specifically being a  snow-focused map now, fixing that rather silly   limitation from the first game. That said, there  is no way to adjust or turn off weather either,   and if you enable disasters before loading up  a city? Then you’ll randomly have to deal with   those too, with things like tornados, forest  fires, hailstorms, and flooding. But yeah,   starting off it’s a simple matter of  placing roads to generate zone tiles,   and both features have been tweaked with positive  results. With roads, the tools for placing,   upgrading, and adding onto them are significantly  improved. Like check this out, so long as you have  

snap disabled and replace mode on, then you can  not only change road types without bulldozing but   you can even move them around bit by bit until  they’re exactly where you want them. It’s also   way more forgiving with building complex approach  angles and intersections, plus roundabouts and   bridges are now a placeable feature, it’s awesome  stuff. Roadways also contain underground pipes   and power lines, another feature that I am all  too happy to see. No more nasty above-ground   power cables and spaghetti-fied water and sewage  lines! Unless that’s your fetish and in that case,   carry on. And zones now go up to six tiles  deep, allowing for larger and more varied   building shapes. This also ties into the fact that  scaling has been adjusted in a much-needed way,   I really like the overall look of buildings here.  Ooh and I also really like that street addresses  

are generated for each zoned building, you’ve  gotta appreciate the little things like that. And   you have a bunch more zone types as well, like row  housing, low rent apartment blocks, plus European   and North American varieties for all residential  and commercial zones. And even mixed use zoning,   finally! So you can place small businesses  underneath residential in a single building,   ya love to see it. And practically every building,  from homes to offices, factories to skyscrapers,   feels visually cohesive and closer to reality.  Compared to CS1, where it felt like looking at a   bunch of mismatched playsets all crammed together  with different sizes and art styles. There’s also   more complexity on buildings now, with better  textures and detail work, well-lit windows and   glimpses at interiors, and lots of clutter objects  scattered around. About the only complaint I have  

with buildings comes from the ploppable ones,  where many of them seem utterly gigantic and look   out of place in a smaller town. Like sure, I’ve  seen elementary schools this size in real life   cities. But this is a tiny town with a thousand  people, why is this the only option in the game?   Ah well, at least they had the good sense to rip  off one of SimCity 2013’s best ideas: modular   upgrades! So now you can increase a ploppable  building’s capabilities by purchasing add-ons and   dropping them either nearby or on the structure  itself. Water, sewage, power, garbage, healthcare,   deathcare, the new communications buildings –  pretty much every city service building can be   elegantly upgraded, without being forced to  buy another oversized monstrosity! Wait, if you commission a huge building is a that a  colossal order? It all makes sense now. But yeah,   you’ll want things working at peak performance,  particular with the new service trading system.  

Now whenever you generate a surplus of some  resource or service, you can sell it back to   the grid, so to speak. As long as your city has an  outside connection, selling happens automatically   whenever you have a surplus. The opposite is  also true, if you have a deficit then outside   connections are used to import those services.  Power, water, garbage and fire trucks, industrial   supplies, whatever, it’s all potentially being  traded in the background, and there’s no control   over how much you buy or sell or how much it  costs. Early on this really caused me some   grief with things like my water system not being  fully connected but I had no idea, cuz the game   automatically imported tons of expensive water  to compensate. And I built a nice big landfill,   which is fun due to the new draggable boundaries  tool that lets you create custom shapes and sizes!   But it was constantly being filled to the brim  even though I had a small town, which made no   sense. Until I realized it was automatically  importing garbage. So pay attention to that  

Economy Panel, because it’s too easy to let  cashflow go bananas early on. This is also where   you take out loans, adjust individual city service  budgets, see what’s being produced, and adjust tax   levels with all-new granularity. You can even  change precisely how much tax is collected from   individual types of products and resources, and  which types of commercial and office businesses   will get what kinds of tax breaks or hikes. The  residential side of things threw me for a loop   though, taxing citizens based on education  level? What the heck, what municipality does   that? But yep, citizens are taxed based not  on how much money they make, but on how much   schooling they have. I assume as a proxy for  income level, or potential upward mobility,   assuming that higher education always means  higher-paying jobs? I dunno, seems odd. As does   the way trending gains and losses are displayed,  because my city budget was constantly “in the red”   for the first couple dozen hours. Which is weird  because I was also constantly turning a profit.  

And then after 20,000 citizens or so I was “making  money,” even though I had been for years, I don’t   get it. I also don’t fully understand the new RCI  demand system, which has been logically expanded   to include individual demand for residential  densities as well as offices separate from   industry. That combined with how demand adjustment  is immediate after placing new zones made me think   this was all an improvement, but as time went on?  I was baffled by how certain demands constantly   stayed at a hundred percent while others  remained at 50 or even zero. And on top of that,  

there’s an issue with citizens not treating  commercial businesses correctly leading to an   inordinate number of them failing, it’s all kinds  of frustrating. Some of this results from bugs,   some of it’s simply obtuse, but either way  there’s not enough in-game info revealing   how zone demand is calculated, and without  knowing the simulation’s economic assumptions,   you’re left making trial and error assumptions  yourself. And this vagueness is not what I   want in a city sim. I also found the new radio  announcements and Chirper to be utterly useless,   since they keep telling me the exact same issues  over and over and over in a loop, regardless of   what I do to address them. At least with Chirper  you can click on who’s causing a fuss, track them   down, see where they live, and enact some petty  vengeance from on high. Mm, the Orwellian future,  

isn’t it great? You know, I feel like I’d be  better equipped to actually handle people’s   problems if I could enact the right policies, but  again Skylines 2 disappoints. Both citywide and   district policies are severely limited compared  to CS1, there’s like a fifth of what we used to   have here. You only get basics like incentivizing  recycling and green energy, limiting traffic,   placing ads, educating prisoners, and charging for  taxis and parking. That’s it, it’s pathetic. Now,  

you can at least complete objectives to unlock  signature buildings, and in a way these offer   policy-like functionality. Placing these one-off  buildings in your city will affect the way things   operate, boosting certain zone types, education  levels, service efficiencies, or even bringing   in tourist traffic. On that note, Skylines 2 seems  to be somewhat more forgiving in terms of traffic   flow, at least while your city’s still gaining  its footing. But oh-hoo-boy does traffic get  

very real, very quickly after reaching a certain  population level, which for me was around 25k.   Car wrecks, pile-ups, vehicles setting on fire  and mowing down pedestrians, rush hour traffic,   and massive highway traffic jams? Yeah it’s all  here and it is delightfully time-consuming to   deal with. I mean, to me it is anyway, I dunno  why but I rather enjoy it, each traffic issue   is its own puzzle to solve. Often as simple as  placing a new highway, other times it’s limiting   turning lanes and traffic lights. I really wish  you could place individual lights and stop signs,   instead of only an entire intersection at once  though. Parking lots are also a thing now,  

and they’re a nightmare if you place them in  the wrong spots since driving in and out of   them causes everyone to lose their mind. Still,  I found it gratifying to solve parking issues   and get as many people away from street parking as  possible. Somethin’ about that depressing suburban   sprawl and outdated car-focused urban design  that just makes my day. About the only thing  

that doesn’t ruin traffic is traveling wildlife,  for whatever reason. The moose remain unfazed. [assorted moose, traffic sounds] On that note, it’s amusing how we get fully  animated forest creatures and bizarrely   high-poly character models for every single person  in the game. Yet things that you see all the time,   like ambulances picking up patients and fire  trucks responding to raging infernos? Yeah there’s   simply no animation there at all anymore. They  lazily pull up to a location and sit there until   whatever’s happening stops happening. Ugh. And  while I’m on petty gripes, let’s point out a few   more! Like how DARK it is when it’s... dark. Cuz  man, as much as I like admiring a city at night,  

it is absolutely atrocious for getting anything  done. Darkness is dark, I get it, but am I supposed to just not do anything at night? CS1 not  only had more forgiving darkness, but the cursor   lit things up so you could see what’s around  it. Not so here, and I end up disabling the   cycle entirely. And what’s going on with elevated  tram and train tracks? I love that you can build   elevated rail, it’s one of my favorite features in  any city. But since there aren’t any elevated rail   stations or platforms, citizens simply walk  along the railways to get to their stop, and   then float up and down through the air to return  to street level. Like there are supposed to be  

stairs but there just, isn’t. And nope, you can’t  connect pedestrian pathways either. Not unless   you make a jerry-rigged pseudo platform using  elevated streets in addition to rail. Finally,   modding things are no longer built in, there’s no  Steam Workshop and no mod menu. There are plans to  

include mods, but c’mon! Mods were such a capstone  of the original Skylines from the word go, and   leaving out such a key aspect on launch just adds  to everything else that feels rushed. I certainly   look forward to trying out whatever the Paradox  Mods system ends up being, but in the meantime I’m   really missing that community. At the very least,  I can say that the performance isn’t as horrendous   as reported early on, and for me it’s even better  after the first patch! There are plenty of online   guides about what’s best to adjust and disable  so I won’t go into details, but these are the   settings I’ve been using with the 1.0.11f1 version  throughout this video. PC specs are in the video  

description. And with all that, I get between 35  and 60 fps, mostly hovering around 50 but often   dipping into the forties during normal gameplay.  This seems to be the case regardless of city size,   and I’ve tested two save files with over 100k  population, one from the channel City Planner   Plays and another from GameStar Magazine. And  yep, whether it’s a megalopolis like those or a  

city half the size, the performance really doesn’t  vary much. At least it’s quote unquote “fine” for   a city builder, and on-par with what I got in the  first game, but no doubt improvements can be made. And gosh does that statement sum things up! So for  now I think I’m done with Cities Skylines II, as   it stands here in early November 2023. It’s a game  that irritates, amuses, confuses, impresses, falls   short, compels, and repels with its mishmash of  great ideas and wonky execution. And considering  

it costs 20 dollars more than the OG Skylines,  it’s a bit of a hard sell. Fifty US dollars for   the base game, and ninety dollars for the Ultimate  Edition, which includes additional assets and the   Expansion Pass for future DLC. And I dunno man,  my first impressions were strong and my overall   feeling is positive, even hopeful! But it’s such  a back and forth thing the longer I play, where   despite the cracks continuing to show, I still  like learning the new systems and using improved   features. CS2 is full of lovely things, heck I  haven’t even mentioned the new photo mode and   camera system, which gives you an absurd amount  of lens and environment options, plus a system   for programming camera moves. And all the other  great stuff like mixed zoning, underground power,   modular service buildings, fantastic road tools,  and a better sense of scale. And due to how The  

Sims burned me, I truly appreciate that they  didn’t yank out features like weather, hubs,   and public transit to sell back to us through  expansions. Yet for every welcome upgrade,   there’s also an area of confusion where I can’t  tell if something is an oversight, or bugging out,   or if it’s missing entirely. And for as much as it  seems to love micromanagement, there are plenty of   things you can’t manage at all, macro or micro.  Like, why can’t we see pedestrian routes and   individual traffic paths anymore when you click  on ‘em? You can see their ultimate destination   but not the path they’re taking to get there,  making traffic flow troubleshooting a pain.   Before long it’s all a visually cluttered mess of  translucent buildings, grids, and infrastructure,   and it’s tough to decipher what’s what when  attempting renovation or detail work. Not  

that there’s much detail work you can actually do  compared to CS1, since things like props, fences,   and decor items are by default inaccessible.  There are trees and shrubs of course,   though they’re trickier to place since you plant  saplings that grow into full-sized plants over   time. I do love the flora brush tool at least,  that’s nice to have. But why the heck do we have   to enable developer mode to access everyday props  and do basic scenery adjustments? And why can’t   pedestrian paths connect to parks anymore? There  are these lovely parks and the pathway tools are   so much better now, but there are no longer any  nodes to directly connect pathways to parks.   So much of the game is like this: step forward,  step backward. Then add on all the reports online   of economic balancing issues and broken supply  chains, largely surrounding features I haven’t   fully explored yet, and... yeah. It makes me not  wanna spend time with CS2 until a few more patches  

and modding opens up. Honestly, if they’d  released it in this state as early access,   or a public beta or something? I wouldn’t be  bothered, and I could’ve happily ignored it   until the game was finished. Instead, we’ve got  a flawed yet promising foundation that’s just   itching to be fixed up and built into something  superb. I’m truly rooting for a heroic rise   from disappointment to greatness here, it’d be  wonderful to see Skylines 2 become the game I know   Colossal Order sought out to make. For now though,  perhaps give this one a pass until things improve. [downtempo music intensifies] Heh, “give this a pass,” it’s available  on Game Pass right? Not what I meant but   hey whatever. Anyway, I know this video was a  bit of a downer but I hope it was enlightening  

or entertaining at least! And I plan to  cover the first couple CS2 expansions, but,   beyond that? We’ll have to see. Till next  time though, thank you for watching LGR!

2023-11-12 04:05

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