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cover-Cities: Skylines II

Sunday, October 29, 2023 3:55:46 AM

Cities: Skylines II Review (Dale Kent)

I am now at 85 hours. After learning the mechanics of how the simulations work, I will admit my original review is influenced by not fully understanding some mechanics. For instance, the constant low density residential demand.
Aside from bugs rendering whole chunks of the game broken, such as trade and garbage bugs, after 85 hours the biggest issues I have with this game are two-fold:
1. An extreme lack of content. Building (and farm) diversity is extremely lacking. I suspect content will be DLC'ed to hell, which I strongly oppose Paradox's DLC strategy of removing content to the bare bones and then selling it to players later.
2. Design decisions that just simply don't work, or don't make sense. For instance, pegging "wealth" to "education level". Wealth should be pegged to career instead. How off map city services function also doesn't really work. They work against the principle of building a healthy, functioning city. If you lack a service, it doesn't negatively impact your game, except that sims have a little less wealth as they pay for the off map service. But that's easily countered by cheaper taxes. Standard genre features like the RCI meter work differently to all previous city builders. Instead of showing what to build for a healthy city, CS2 RCI meter shows what the city wants (which most likely doesn't result in a healthy city). Design changes away from genre standards are fine, just make sure to include in game ways to let the player know what the change is from the genre standard.
Anyways, after 85 hours my final conclusion stands. I cannot recommend Cities Skylines 2. Aside from performance and bugs, the game has very little content, and has design decisions that don't work, or don't make sense.
I tried to like CS2, I really did. I can ignore the performance issues and bugs, as these are things I see being fixed over the short term with some patches in optimisation. However, there are much bigger issues that you need to be aware of. The numerous simulations in the game have such foundational flaws in them, that I believe this game is the most fake city builder of them all.
This game is marketed as "the most realistic city builder ever", with multiple levels of simulation in the city, sims, economy, services, and traffic. Unfortunately, there are huge flaws in each are of the simulation.
After 20+ hours playing, aside from the known performance problems (which I've mitigated by running the game at lower gfx than I should be), these are the biggest issues I see:
- The economy is broken. Goods in your city aren't actually traded. Import/export don't actually do anything, so trucks deliver goods to your stores and train stations, ports, and airports, but the transportation networks never pick it up to deliver off map. Industry, commercial and residential don't use your produced goods. There is no cargo traffic in your city, because there is no simulation of producing goods, transporting them to your shops, and then sims buying those goods. It's all completely fake. Colossal Order have confirmed this on Paradox forums.
- The progression system is broken, just place a tourist trap and bulldoze it, repeat over and over. Level 20 without doing anything. Progression is not linked to population, just "XP" gained from placing stuff. Thing is, it doesn't remove the XP if you bulldoze straight away. As a result you can have a "Flourishing Metropolis" with 50 people. Each main step should have a population limit. IE: town 10k, city 50k, metropolis 100k or something.
- Most people don't actually go to work, kids don't go to school, people don't shop. You can track individual sims. When you follow them, they actually don't go to work. They will get in their cars, or walk to the tram or whatever, jump on, and then do a circuit back home. Or they'll arrive at work and get straight back onto transport again to come home. Kids do not leave the house. They will stay in their homes, not going to school. The whole rush hour thing is a joke. Basically, the sims simulation is..... fake. And this is the big ticket item that this game is sold on. A simulation of each individual sim, going about their world, doing what the do. Living, growing, prospering, dieing. All faked.
- The city only ever demands low density housing, never anything else. City of 50k, with very little office demand. Always, low density residential will be 100% demand. You can even buy 20 tiles, do a massive grid of low density residential, it'll all pop into existence and demand will still be 100%.
- You don't need to build any city services, it all comes in really cheaply from off map. It's cheaper to import all services, than to build the services yourself and pay for maintenance. The only exception seems to be power and water. You can export power and water for enormous profits.
- Maintenance and expansion is not balanced at all. For some buildings it's cheaper per unit to build a new one, and some are cheaper to just expand. For instance water pump: $10,000 to build 100,000 unit pump, and $7,000 to expand one an extra 50,000 units. Cheaper to make a new one there.
- The traffic AI is just absolutely stupid and retarded. I couldn't think the traffic AI could be worse than CS1, but they actually managed to do it. Cars will do u-turns in the middle of a highway. Cars will stop in the middle of the road, jump across 3 lanes causing a big traffic jam, just to reach a left-hand turn they go straight through instead. Opposing carriage turns (ie: right from left side drive, left from right side drive) will not wait till the approaching through traffic is clear. They will turn like it's the middle of Delhi and cause a huge accident or traffic jam.
- The economy is extremely frustrating. There are no small-town service buildings, so to cater for your citizen demands you need to build service buildings priced for cities much larger than what you have. This results in grinding your city's economy into the ground. The only way around this is to largely ignore city services until at least 25k population when your tax revenue is starting to be enough to pay for these demanded services. All the while the annoying bird, building icons, and radio announcements will continue harping on about all these citizen demands. On the flip side, electricity and water exports are priced so out of balance, that building a few extra coal power plants and water pumps, and exporting every single piece of it, will have you swimming in money.
- The whole off map servicing of your citizens is quite simply extremely flawed at it's foundations. When you utilise off map services, the price of those services do not adjust to cater for the simple economic principle of supply and demand. You can pump as much electricity to the off map as you can, and the game will continue to give you the same high price for each MWh. Same with importing off map services. Using off map fire services will remain the extremely cheap price no matter how many fires they have to come and put out.
- The garbage system is totally cactus. Your incinerators will go get garbage from off map to burn, rather than burning your own. Your landfill fills up, your buildings fill up, and stupidly off map garbage trucks come and get your rubbish. The only way to get around this is to build huge landfills, and once they are full just bulldoze it. Poof, all garbage gone. Since incinerators don't collect your garbage from landfills, as it's cheaper for them to drive off map and get it there, it's the only way to process landfill.
TL:DR - Optimisation issues aside, there are MAJOR flaws in each of the game's simulations. The entire game presents a facade, layered on top of fancy marketing speak. I think in reality, this game is the most fake city builder out of any of the top-tier city builders in the 30+ years I've been playing city builders. Ultimately, I do not see how Colossal Order/Paradox proceed from here.