Cities Skylines 2 Is Missing Huge Features From The First Game, But Goes Hard On Micromanagement

Highlights

  • Cities Skylines 2 suffers from the Paradox paradox: while it has a fresh new coat of paint, it lacks the extensive features added to the original game through DLC content.
  • Despite missing features, the sequel has more original and unique features at launch, allowing for deeper control of the city, including min-maxing postal service, water, sewage, and trade routes.
  • The game showcases improved graphics and engine performance, with more realistic citizen behavior and a variety of building options, but there are still some glitches and road placement issues to be resolved.


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Cities Skylines 2 suffers from the Paradox paradox. You’re getting a fresh new game with a shiny new coat of paint, but ultimately missing the huge range of features that were added to the original base game in the form of DLC content.

For instance, when I asked if the parks were fully customizable, as they are in Cities Skylines with the Parks DLC installed, I was told that no, not currently. I shouldn’t be surprised about this because we had to wait for this function the first time around, but it’s still a big loss. However, it’s also a Paradox title, so regardless of how much it might cost, you’ll probably play this game for a decade, and it’s about time the engine got a revamp. But customization is not a specific theme pack that cannot carry over due to licensing, it’s now an integral part of playing the game, and the sequel has cut it, only to add it back later.

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But it’s not like effort isn’t being made here. Aside from missing features that stem from resetting the DLC timeline, Cities Skylines 2 has more original and unique features at launch than its predecessor did. Control of the city is now even deeper in your hands. You can min-max the postal service, water, and sewage, as well as the internal and external trade routes (something fans of the older SimCity games will remember fondly). This is enhanced by more realistic behavior from your citizens who respond to the time of the day, with more cars appearing on the road during rush hour. By extension, the ‘pocket cars’, the mechanic which meant citizens would appear to simply carry their car around with them, has changed completely. Each car needs an individual spot and car parks now serve an important function in the city, as do the variety of public transport options available, like taxis.

During the hour or so I had with the game at Gamescom, I managed to hit a tier five city, which is still pretty early in. One thing that most stood out was the variety of buildings during this early phase. Not only can you choose the theme between European and North American buildings in the launch version, but you also get access to more interesting zoning options quickly. Medium density housing arrives early and split-zones, like commercial units underneath apartment blocks, offer more diversity on a street level. You also get access to office blocks relatively fast. It makes for a more realistic city much faster.

Cities Skylines 2 overview of city

The scale of buildings is also obviously different – the cemetery, for example, is absolutely massive. Compared to the previous game I’d say it’s around three-times bigger. Schools, hospitals, fire stations, police stations, etc, can all be placed and then upgraded in a modular way, which should reduce the need to build several clinics to cover an area – the idea is to create a more realistic distribution of buildings. Modular extension of buildings can increase range, capacity, and effectiveness without having to plaster them all over your map.

In terms of engine upgrades, Cities Skylines looks fantastic. One particular detail that caught my eye was the clever rendering of the interior of apartment blocks, with nothing distinctly modeled, but with lighting and shadows that indicates furniture, a television, and the warm glow of the lights when the sun goes down. On a micro level, Cities Skylines will always look a little rough around the edges – that’s just the nature of this massive simulation – but there’s still a noticeable increase in fidelity. I will inevitably get lost on long bus trips across my cities, even as they disintegrate entirely from my awful traffic management.

That being said, there were parts of the game that didn’t look quite as good as I expected. There was some graphical tearing and flickering, especially around the dense areas of trees. Road placement has always been a bit fiddly in Cities Skylines, though it eventually evolved to be quite polished in the first game, with the help of some mods. Here, I saw some moments where very gentle terrain and joining two roads together could cause some pretty weird problems with zoning.

However, these glitches may be down to the pre-release version of the game I got my hands on, and ultimately, roads usually end up as the first thing on the modding chopping block when players dive in. I love the new angle counter on road placement, though – it’s a simple quality of life feature but perfect for perfectionists.

Overall, Cities Skylines 2 was exactly what I expected it to be… and that’s fine. A refresh, a revamp, a clean slate for future DLC built on a solid foundation of improved graphics and engine performance. Cities will be larger, denser, and more alive than before, but get ready for another long ride before we reach content parity with the first game.

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