Cities: Skylines II Guide

Our regular readers know our saying: when we love a game, we write a guide. I’ve been a long-time player of the Cities: Skylines game. I recently reviewed Cities: Skylines II and gave the game got our highest score of Two Thumbs Up.

So naturally, it’s time for a guide for new and long-time players. After all, building the city of your dreams can be easier said than done. Being Mayor is a busy job, and you will have much to care for. Your task is to build and maintain an ever-growing city and keep everyone happy.

It is up to you to design your city layout and urban planning by controlling zoning, road placement, taxation, public services, and public transportation in your city. You’ll also work to manage various city elements, including its budget, health, employment, traffic, and pollution levels. Additionally and most importantly, you must keep your citizens happy; if you don’t meet all their needs, they will leave your city, never to return.

Moreover, if you don’t get your city management right, you could go bankrupt with a ramshackle city in desperate need of serious investment.


Map screen
Take your pick; which map will you play on?

When you begin the game, you have the choice of ten maps to choose from. Each map has challenges, such as limited space and various landscapes. Additionally, every map has a theme, either Europe or North America.

The European or North American map themes define the street markings, traffic lights, vehicle models for certain city services, and other roadside props. While each map has a theme, you can choose your favourite, and once you do, the theme can no longer be changed once you start your city.

Map options screen with different gameplay options
Map options

The visual style of residential and commercial-zoned buildings also depends on the selected theme when creating a zone. The game will default to the map’s theme. But you can freely choose between the available themes when zoning and create a mixed city using both themes of EU and American-style buildings. Click the little EU or NA flags in the tools menu to change the theme.


snow in the city, covering the building and traffic
The cold climate map has snow.

Cities: Skylines II maps all feature climates with various characteristics unique to each map. Climates are based on latitude and longitude. This results in differences in the length of day, amount of sunlight, and other elements such as temperature range, cloud coverage, and precipitation.

Temperate map climates have seasonal changes, such as hot summers, autumn, and a wide temperature range. In contrast, maps with the continental climate introduce notable annual variations in temperature. Lastly, polar region maps feature a short and cold summer and a long-lasting cold snowy winter.

When you pick your map, the next screen will give you various options to choose from: unlimited money or disasters enabled, unlock all and tutorial options.

Pause the Game

Before building, you should pause the in-game time (space bar). Doing so lets you go at your own pace and not worry about maintenance costs eating away at your 500,000 starting budget. Now that you’re all set up, it’s time to start making a prosperous and beautiful city.

Citizens’ Life, Happiness and Well-Being

image shows a residential area in the city
Check your citizens’ happiness.

The citizens in your city are simulated to be life-like, just like you and me. Additionally, they will bring your city to life as they live.

Furthermore, your citizens are the house residents, the workforce for the city’s industry, and commercial and office buildings. In their spare time, they like to socialise and have fun. They will shop, go to work or school, study, sleep, and even become ill.

As your citizens go about their daily lives, it has a knock-on effect on how your city runs. For example, travelling to different places causes traffic on the roads; shopping causes economic simulation changes, and if they are ill and go to the hospital to get medical treatment, that takes up patient spots at the medical facility.

image shows the happiness of the citizens in the city
Happy Citizens

So, their happiness is paramount to how your city functions since it represents a citizen’s satisfaction. Providing the correct city services, such as education and health, is vital to your citizens. Other services like schools, postal service and high-speed internet connection are also valued by citizens, along with suitable-sized homes that match their household’s needs.

You can check how your citizens feel in the citizen’s info panel (click on the house) and hover over the family’s combined happiness level with the mouse or in the household’s info panel, as both show detailed information about everything contributing to their happiness.

Game Progression and XP

progression screen from cities skylines II
Progression screen

Instead of unlocking milestones based on population alone, this time, in Cities: Skylines II, you earn Expansion Points (XP) towards your next milestone as you build your city.

Passive Expansion Points are awarded sixteen times throughout an in-game day due to increased population and happiness. In contrast, active Expansion Points are granted immediately due to your actions, such as placing or upgrading a service building, constructing a signature building, or expanding the city’s road network.

Every Milestone you unlock will reward you with a lump sum of money, development points, and some expansion permits. Expansion permits are used along with cash to expand the number of tiles you can build your city on. In Cities: Skylines II, you can purchase small tiles anywhere on the map, which is ideal for purchasing a tile with resources outside your city or building a village.

Development Points and Development Tree

cities skylines development tree
Development tree

Clicking on the Development tab will bring up the progression Development Tree, where you can spend your progression points on city services and roads. At the beginning of the game, you start with the basic city services unlocked; each can be upgraded once you build them. However, as your city grows and expands, your citizens’ needs grow, too.

Using the Development Tree allows you to unlock more city services to cope with demand. The Development Tree is divided into different tiers and has varying nodes on the tree to unlock. You can spend your development points whenever you receive them or store them up; the choice is yours.


Roads are the backbone of your city

The roads are the bloodline of your city, used to move traffic from A to B. Without roads, residents wouldn’t be able to get to work, and goods wouldn’t make it to the shops or out of the city for export.

The road tools are excellent and pretty easy to use once you get used to them. Many options are available for straight roads, bends, elevated roads, etc. You can left-click and drag to upgrade many roads at once. Roads come in different sizes and configurations. They range from small alleyways to large highways. Furthermore, the larger the road, the higher the speed limit and the traffic capacity.

When you select a road, an info panel pops up telling you important details about the road, such as speed and if it has parking, etc. You can place roundabouts on intersections; there is no need to delete roads. Just place the road or roundabout you want to use on top of the existing road, and the game will add the appropriate road marking.

measurements in the road tools
Plenty of measurements in the road tools

When I start a city, I like to use the least expensive roads as every road you lay costs you money in upkeep. The roads can always be upgraded later to better ones once unlocked. Placing roads takes some care, as you should try and follow the rules of road hierarchy.

Road hierarchy is all around you in every real-life city. Road hierarchy categorizes roads according to their functions and capacities. It also works pretty well for your road layout in Cities: Skylines II using highway > arterial > collector > local roads.

For example, collector roads collect traffic from local roads and distribute it to arterial roads. Arterial roads then allow traffic into the Highways.

Road Tools

Network tab on the toolbar with the raod tools
Network tab on the toolbar with the road tools.

Straight Road: Use to draw a straight road from point A to B.
Simple Curve: Define a start and bend, define the endpoint, and make curves.
Complex Curve: This tool lets you define a middle point, bends and the endpoint.
Continuous: You can make roads with many bends.
Grid: Allows you to make a grid of roads. (This can be a little finicky.)
Replace: Replace or upgrade any road by clicking on the original road to replace it with a new road.
Elevation: Change the height of the road, up or down or below ground.
Elevation Step: Move the road up in elevation by steps.
Parallel Mode: Run two roads parallel together.

Snap and Toggle Options

Toggle all snapping: Turns the road snapping off or on.
Snap to Existing Geometry: The roads will snap to the geometry.
Zone cell length Snap to: The road will snap to the Zone.
Snap to 90 degrees: You can make a precise 90-degree turn when placing a road.
Snap to the sides of Buildings: The road will snap to the sides of buildings. This also lets you place a building first and then the road.
Snap to guidelines: Snap to the guidelines shown on the map.
Snap to zone grid: Allows you to snap roads to the grid.
Show contour lines: This allows you to see the terrain contour lines.

You also have the help of precision measurements and guides when placing the roads. The game shows you the angles of the road you are placing, guidelines, and distance measurements.

Eventually, you unlock more roads once you progress along the road Development Tree. Building highways has gotten easier in Cities: Skylines II with the addition of large prebuilt intersections. For instance, there is a Directional T Intersection, Oartial overleaf, Dumbbell intersection, Teardrop roundabout, Single point interchange, Roundabout interchange, Cloverleaf, Four Level Stack Interchange and more.

Again, once you unlock them, you will also find parking Spaces in the road menu: Various parking spaces and garages. Citizens will use the parking spaces, so place plenty in your city. You can set the fee for each parking lot or turn the fee off completely.

Road Services

Road service tools
Road service tools

Once you place a road Maintenance depot, the menu opens to allow you to do some traffic management. By clicking on the intersection of a road, you can place traffic lights, stop signs, crosswalks, and change roads to tree-lined or grass verges and add lights to highways.

Info View

The Info Views button is on top of the left-hand side of the screen of Cities: Skylines II. An info box will pop up when you click on each info view. The infoboxes are how you can read all the information about your city services, the happiness of citizens and more. Use them often, as your city can go downhill quickly if you don’t keep on top of things. When that happens, citizens quickly move out, and buildings become abandoned.


coal power station sitting beside a road
Coal power station

Electricity is one of the two essential services immediately available at the start of each game; the other service is Water. There are a couple of ways to provide the city with electricity. Electricity can be produced locally in the various power plants. Electricity can also be traded with outside connections through power lines. Available to build from the start of the game are the Small Coal Power Plant and Wind Turbines.

Additionally, if there’s an electricity deficit, the city automatically buys electricity from the neighbouring cities if your city is connected to the power line leading to outside connections.

When you build any power station, you must connect it to the city by using power lines, either overground or underground.

Underground or Overground Power Lines

Electricity tool bar and info panel
The electricity toolbar and info panel

If your city produces excess electricity, it can be sold to outside connections through a power line connection; this happens automatically. However, importing electricity is quite costly but can help during electricity usage spikes. Also, exporting electricity can partially cover the production costs. Available to build from the start of the game are the Small Coal Power Plant and Wind Turbines. If you initially want to import electricity from outside your city, you can connect it to the outside power line if you build a transformer.

You can build Emergency Battery Stations and battery upgrades for certain power plants (click on the building to upgrade it) that can store excess electricity produced in the city when the city experiences a spike in electricity usage.

Electricity Flow

info view for electricity in a city showing the electricity runnng underground
Info view for electricity

Electricity flow is directed around your city using power lines under the roads (where they belong) and by building transformer stations. The animations on the road show the flow of electricity through your city. Low amounts of electricity are shown as short bars. However, when the electricity flow increases, the bars grow longer to indicate this. Furthermore, there is a limit to how much electricity cables and power lines can transfer.

When too much electricity flows through the power lines and cables than they can manage, the electricity grid suffers, and buildings don’t get enough power. Electricity bottleneck can happen if the cable or line has exceeded its maximum capacity. To avoid this, you have to bypass the bottleneck by redirecting the flow of the electricity. Building a transformer station near the bottleneck will take care of it.

Water and Sewage

water and sewage info screen
Water and sewage tab

Cities: Skylines II has a water simulation, meaning the water flows. Importantly, sewage pipeline wastewater will float away from your city in the direction the water moves. Small arrow markers indicate in which direction the water flows, so ensure you observe those before placing sewage and water pumps at the water’s edge.

You must place the freshwater pumps (essential for clean water) upstream from the sewage pumps. If you place the water pumps too close to the sewage pumps, you will start pumping raw sewage into the water supply of hospitals and residential areas. Sickness will spread quickly across your city, killing your citizens within a few hours.

info showing the water and sewage pipes under the roads
Water and sewage pipes under the roads

You begin the game with unlocked water and sewage pipes, sewage outlet pump, water pump and water tower. For further water and sewage facilities, unlock them via the Development Tree: groundwater pumping stations, advanced water pumping stations, and wastewater treatment plants.

If you are using a Groundwater station, it needs to be placed where there is groundwater, as indicated by the blue on the map. The sewage piping will be highlighted in the road and ground while the sewage pipe is selected and the water and sewage info view is active. Connect both the water pumps and sewage outlet to the road utility network with a water pipe; you use the sewage pipe for the sewage pump.

Garbage Management

garbage area in the city
Garbage management tab

A good garbage management system keeps citizens happy and healthy. Like us, citizens do not like the ground pollution or the smell of garbage floating over the city in the wind. So when you build the garbage facilities, pay attention to how the wind is blowing (air flow arrows) and place the garbage facilities outside your city area. Garbage management facilities send trucks that collect waste from around the city and bring it back for processing.

Place the main garbage building in a location with plenty of room for the lot; using the landfill tool and starting from the back of the building, you can draw out the area size you want the lot to take up. The circle around the building marks how far you can extend the lot from the building.


residential area in the city
North American residential zoning

If you want some citizens in your city, you must zone residential areas. Citizens move in for work, students seek education opportunities, or people want to move in because the city is an inviting place to raise their families.

Once you have sorted out electricity, water and sewage, it’s time to plan out your road layout and start zoning. The first step is to draw out the general shape of your residential areas in your city by building roads.  Citizens don’t like noise, ground pollution or air pollution too much, so when choosing the spot for your citizens to live, you must consider all those factors. In Cities: Skylines II, each zone type has a Zone Suitability info view, which activates when you start zoning. It shows relevant information about which areas suit the selected zone type.

Before using the zoning tools, check the Zoning Demand tab on the toolbar that indicates the type of zone in demand. Not all zones are available initially; they unlock as the city grows.

Zone demand

Zoning Tools

Fill Tool: Fill all the continuous zoning cells with the selected zone type.

Marquee Tool: allows you to select a rectangular area of any size and fill that with the selected zone type.

Paint Tool: makes it possible to create very specific zoned areas, painting one cell at a time.

De-Zone: To de-zone any zoned area, press the right mouse button while you have any zoning tools active. While the Fill tool is active, you can de-zone an entire continuous area.

Changing the zone type is also easier and faster as it no longer requires you to first de-zoning the previous zone type before adding the new one. Just click on the zoned area you want to change with the new zoning, and the game will replace it.

Zoning a residental area
Zoning a residential area

Residential Zones

Low-Density Housing: EU and North American style single and semi-detached housing.
Medium Density Row Housing: EU and North American style row houses.
Medium Density Housing: EU and NA small apartment-style housing.
Mixed Housing: EU and NA apartment building with commercial spaces below.
Low Rent Housing: Large apartment blocks with lower rents provide the lower tax bracket citizens with housing.
High-Density Housing: EU and NA large, expensive apartment blocks.

EU residential homes
EU residential homes

Zoned buildings have five development levels. Higher-level buildings have increased upkeep costs, producing less garbage and pollution. They also consume less water and electricity.

With the zoning tool themes, you can zone buildings from both the North American and European architectural styles. Just click on the EU or American tab. A European city can feature North American-style buildings and vice versa.

Commercial Zones

Zonning a commercial area
Zonning a commercial area

Commercial zones feature low and high-density buildings where companies sell goods manufactured locally or imported from outside connections.

Additionally, commercial buildings include everything from groceries to clothes, cars and paper products, and they also provide the citizens with leisure options in the form of restaurants, movie theatres, bars, hotels, and more. Commercial zones thrive close to residential areas as they provide them with customers.

Commercial businesses come in two sizes: low and high density.

Low-Density Business: Boutiques, gas stations, supermarkets, restaurants, bars and travel agencies.
High-Density Business: Supermarkets, malls, hotels, big movie theatres, concert halls, fitness centres and department stores

Small businesses employ fewer workers and can serve smaller amounts of customers. In contrast, large businesses have many employees and can service more people.

Industrial Zones

Zoning generic industry

Industrial demand is based on citizens needing jobs in the manufacturing sector and local commercial companies requiring goods and products to sell. Citizens don’t like to live close to industrial areas, as all industrial areas pump out ground pollution, air pollution and noise.

Cities: Skylines II has a generic industry and industry specialist. Industrial demand is based on citizens needing jobs in the manufacturing sector and local commercial companies requiring goods and products to sell. The availability of local resource extraction by specialised industries can further increase the demand.

zoned generic industry
Zoned generic industry

The generic industry is factories and small workshops, warehouses and storage yards. They manufacture goods from materials transported outside your city by delivery trucks or are extracted and processed locally in specialised industrial areas. Some goods are sold to commercial businesses, who then sell them to customers.

In contrast, the industry specialises in farming and mining for stone, ore, oil and forestry. You can build specialised industries to extract resources to increase profits for industrial companies.

Industrial Specialty

Specialised industry areas

In your city, the specialised industry areas require natural resources: Fertile Land, Forest, Ore, or Oil, except Livestock farming and stone quarrying, which can be placed anywhere.

Furthermore, natural resources, like Oil and Ore, are limited, resulting in less and less resources being extracted. At the same time, fertile land and forests replenish their resources over time but are vulnerable to pollution.

The overview map of available resources

When placing an industrial speciality building, you must draw out the area using the Area Tool; it is much like placing a landfill for the garbage. Using the overview on the map, you can choose the best spot for your industry as indicated by the colours.

Industry Resources

If need be, you can adjust the size of the specialised industry area after it has been created. Also, you can select and move any existing nodes to adjust the shape or create a new node by selecting the line between existing nodes.

Livestock farming: Can be set up anywhere to provide livestock.

Grain Farming: specialised industries to produce grain can be set up on the area of fertile land indicated by the yellow map legend.

a farm in cities skylines
A busy farm

Vegetable Farming: Vegetable farms specialised in producing vegetables can be set up on areas of fertile land.

Textile Fiber Farming: Produces textiles diverse and can be set up on fertile land.

Foresty: Produces wood products that can only be set up in forested areas on the map that show up in green.

Stone Mining: Specialises in quarrying stone, and can be set up anywhere in your city to produce stone.

Coal Mining: Produces Coal and can be set up on natural ore despots on the map.

Ore Mining: Produces Ore mined from the Natural ore ground areas indicated by the map legend.

Oil Drilling: Produces Oil, which can be set up on the map area indicating an oil despot.

Office Zones

A city would not only be hustling and bustling with offices; they also give your citizens employment.

Offices in your city produce immaterial goods and services for private citizens and companies. Furthermore, office demand is increased by citizens wanting to work in the office sector and citizens and businesses needing the various immaterial goods that offices provide.

Office zones include electronics retailers, banks, law firms, insurance companies, and telecommunications companies.

high density office skyscrapers
High-density office skyscrapers

Low-Density Offices: Small office buildings.

High-Density Offices: Skyscrapers and large office buildings

It’s important to note that Industry and Residential housing don’t mix due to noise and ground and air pollution. If you place industry next to a residential zone, it’s not too long until the citizens will get sick. Use office zones and/or commercial as pollution and noise pollution buffers between residential buildings.


A healthcare system is needed in your city; after all, you must have somewhere for sick citizens to go. It helps prevent your citizens from getting a disease and being sick and causing untimely deaths. Healthcare services also help dozens of citizens be healthier and happier by giving advice and information.

EU-style hospital clinic

Clinics and Hospitals

Sick citizens visit clinics and hospitals for treatment alone or by ambulance. All medical clinics and hospitals have a fleet of ambulances and limited patient rooms, so build more than one medical clinic or hospital in your city. Medical buildings can be upgraded to increase the capacity of both rooms for patients and ambulances.

At the beginning of the game, you start with a medical clinic. Each medical service building can be further upgraded by clicking on the building. As you progress, you’ll unlock hospitals, disease control Centers, health research institutes and more.


a city cemetery

Like real life, your citizens have a life span and will eventually pass away and must be buried or cremated. A cemetery is available from the beginning of the game, with a crematorium available after you unlock it. Each of these buildings can be upgraded to increase their services.

Education and Research

Now let’s talk about education, as you must supply an education for your citizens to keep them happy. The Education Services in Cities: Skylines II provides citizens with schools, colleges and universities, all of which can be upgraded. A citizen’s education affects their job position and income, so you will want to ensure they have school available.

education screen from cities skylines II
Provide an education system.

Furthermore, your citizens have different preferences for their level of education, which is affected by their well-being and jobs. Some citizens may only attend school until high school; others will go on to further education.

University building in the middle of a city
Higher education, University

Education in Cities: Skylines II has different levels. There is schooling from the lowest level to the highest level to fill jobs that require both levels of education. However, to begin with, your city only needs to provide lower-level schooling facilities. To provide employees with jobs with a higher education requirement, citizens need an entire education path from lower-level schooling to higher education.

Citizens education is separated into five levels ranging from Uneducated to Highly Educated. The types of jobs available in the city and the number of open positions affect which educational services are needed,

Educational buildings for your city

The game begins with elementary schools and high schools unlocked. Higher educational buildings are unlocked via the Development Tree and are a college, university, technical university and medical university.

Other buildings found in the education tab give your city bonuses when placed. They are a radio telescope and an Astronomy research facility that increases citizens’ interest in further education and graduation rates. Then, the Geological Research Centre performs geological research and helps discover despots of Ore and Oil. Finally, the Large Hadron Collider is used for research and gives valuable bonuses to your city’s productivity.

Fire and Rescue

fire in a residential area in the city
Fire! Quick call the fire service

In the history of mankind, fires have often ravaged whole cities. Your city needs Fire Services and Fire Stations to keep it and your citizens safe from fires. Accidents and road traffic accidents will happen; firefighters are needed to help the other emergency services.

fire hazzard info screen
All is good in the city; there aren’t any fire hazards

Fire Houses and Fire Stations will decrease the Fire Hazard in your city as they always have several Fire Engines prepared for dispatch in case of emergency.

In the tab for Emergency Services, you can see all buildings for the fire department, and also in another tab, buildings for Disaster Services. The firehouse can be upgraded with a garage. The large fire stations can be upgraded with a garage, training facility, disaster response unit and helipad.

The fire watch tower keeps a watch out for forest fires and can be placed in the wilderness to lower the risk of forest fires in the city’s surroundings. Forest fires can easily spread and light nearby buildings, so you will need the Firefighting Helicopter Depot to send out its helicopter fleet.


a building collaspsed during bad weather in the city
Bad weather caused the building to collapse.

The Fire and Rescue Service tab also includes disaster prevention and response buildings. If you have enabled disasters in the menu options when you choose a map, you can expect disasters to occur in your city.

By building small emergency shelters, an early warning disaster system, and large emergency shelters, your city will be prepared for any disasters that strike.

Fire engines rush to rescue citizens trapped in collapsed buildings, while the Early Disaster Warning System detects natural disasters early and sends notifications to citizens to take shelter. If the city has Emergency Shelters, citizens hurry there and await the disaster. You can expect to see some tornados, hail stones and heavy rain in your city.


Police stations and headquarters will send out patrol cars, which patrol the city’s roads and reduce crime overall. Each police car will work a shift before returning to base. Police cars will also race to emergency calls in specific buildings when they occur or road traffic accidents.

Upgrading the police station

When the vehicle arrives at the destination, it will pick up the criminal or help the RTA and either return to the station, patrol or respond to another call.

Available from the beginning of the game is the police station, which, like most service buildings, can be upgraded further. Once you unlock it in the Development Tree, the Police headquarters can be built and upgraded. A Prison can be upgraded with additional wings.

In the other Police service tab, there is a Central Intelligence Bureau. The Central Intelligence Bureau is the local intelligence headquarters, and it lowers the overall crime rate in the city.

Administration Buildings

Central bank building

Administration buildings include services such as the Welfare Office, City Hall, and Central Bank. Each building gives your city a bonus or effect. The City Hall has city-wide effects, ranging from lowered loan interest rates and import costs to reduced crime rates and building levelling costs.

The Welfare Office helps people down on their luck and boosts their well-being if their happiness is below half. The Central Bank also helps reduce loans and boost companies’ profits by lowering import costs while increasing export profits.

City Hall has different government branches that raise imported goods’ prices and lower loan interest rates. It can be upgraded with city planning offices and a city court.

Post Offices and Mall Boxes

Residents need mailboxes placed around the city

Post Offices handle local mail to and from the city. Residents can visit the post office directly to drop off their mail for delivery. Mall Boxes can be placed by the side of any road. They are best placed conveniently in locations around residential, commercial and office areas. Furthermore, Post Vans will automatically collect mail from the mailbox. Additionally, a Post sorting facility will unlock when you reach the Milestone.


 a red bus driving in the city
If you give your citizens transport options, they will use them.

Giving your citizens a way to move about the city, from home to work and in leisure time, is vital. Buses, trains, ships, trams, and aeroplanes transport passengers between cities, bringing new citizens and tourists to your city.

Furthermore, your citizens will happily take more than one mode of transport to reach their destination. For example, a typical journey may involve taking a bus to the local train station. Then a passenger train into the city centre. Finally, they transfer to a metro train to reach the banks of the river.

Setting up subway transportation

A transportation network also cuts down on the traffic flow on the roads and highways and accidents. The main difference between all forms of transportation is that they all have different capacities, meaning each can carry a different amount of passengers.

In Cities: Skylines II, you begin with bus and taxi transportation unlocked. Further transportation options can be unlocked on the Development Tree. They are trams, trains both passenger and cargo trains. Additionally, there are underground and overground subway systems, water transport, ferries, and cargo ships.

Finally, there is Air transportation, with the airport and international airport.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

image shows making an outside connection for buses in cities skylines II
Make outside connections for planes, trains and buses

Planes, ships, trains and buses can transport passengers from and to outside connections. Outside connections allow citizens to visit other places and tourists to visit your city.

Buses require the Bus Depot for maintenance and come in two types: traditional fuel-operated and environmentally friendly electric buses. However, to use electric buses in your city, you must update the bus depot to maintain them.

Buses spawn at bus depots and then go to bus lines. So, you do not need to connect the depot to lines; the depot just has to exist before you can create bus stops and bus lines.

image shows a Train route looping back to the station
Train loops back to the station

When you create any transportation line, there are a few things to consider, such as where your citizens want to go in the city. For instance, children travel to school, adults travel to work and shops, and citizens enjoy leisure time. So, when placing any transport hubs, it’s important to work out the routes your transportation is taking.

Line Tool

The train station in the snow

Once you have decided where your bus route is going, it’s time to place bus stops or bus shelters. Place stops on the other side of the road because your citizens need to travel in both directions. Then, using the line tool, create the bus route in a loop by clicking on each bus stop. Finally, you close the loop by connecting it to where you began the route.

Trains, Subway and Tram also require a depot where they return to after their shift. Setting up transport routes for trains, trams, and subways is done pretty much the same as setting up bus routes. Trams require tram roads; you can place tram roads on top of the original roads in your city, and there is no need to delete roads.

For planes, trains, and buses (both cargo and passenger), routes to outside connections, you start the route at the particular station or airport and drag the route to the icon on the edge of the map and back to where the route began.

Transportation Overview

All transportation lines and routes you have built so far are shown in the transportation overview tab on the UI. They are divided into the categories of public transport, lines and cargo routes.

You can view and adjust the amount of each transport vehicle on the route and adjust the ticket prices for each line and route separately by clicking on the magnifying glass on the right side.

Purchasing Map Tiles

purchasing a new map tiles in cities skylines II
You choose what tiles to unlock.

Instead of buying large map tiles like in the previous game, Cities Skylines II has a new way of unlocking the smaller map tiles. You earn expansion permits as you play the game and reach each Milestone. Furthermore, a new city starts with nine map tiles unlocked, roughly the same starting area as in CS1.

Using the expansion permits, you can unlock new map tiles and continue to grow your city. To buy new tiles, click on the Map Tile on the UI to give you a top-down map view. Additionally, you can move the camera around and rotate it. Doing so allows you to find the most suitable areas to expand into.

buying a map tiles screen.
Check to see where resources are before you buy map tiles

Once you select a map tile, it shows you important information. The buildable area size, the resources, and how much the map tile costs. You can select multiple tiles to buy all at once and see the combined cost before finally purchasing them. Alternatively, right-clicking the tile will deselect it.

The cost of any map tile depends on the size of the buildable area and the availability of resources. When purchasing map tiles, you can choose tiles that are not adjacent to each other; this allows you to create small, isolated towns and villages on the same map.

Districts and Policies

image shows the add districts screen that you use to areas in your city
Add districts to areas in your city.

Districts are available once you have progressed far enough in Cities: Skylines II. A district is a collection of zoned buildings (commercial, residential, etc.) specialisation for which you can set policies.

A district can be used for several different purposes, from making an area residential only to setting up a nice tourist area in your city. Using the district tool, draw out the area you want to make a district.

You can enact many different policies in your city or district. If you click on the district, an info panel pops up, and here, you will find some policies to incorporate. The most important trait you can set is a district’s “no heavy traffic” policy.

You can enact many different policies in your city or district.

This can be extremely useful if you create a residential district that would be technically faster for heavy traffic to go between your industrial and commercial sectors. However, you will eventually want your trucks to use the longer arterial roads to connect to the better-equipped highway to handle heavy traffic, and the citizens won’t complain about the noise and pollution.

Additionally, you can select what service buildings you want to cover each district. Once you have drawn a district, if you click on a nearby service building, you can add it to that district.

City Economy

city budget
City budget screen

Cities: Skylines II features an in-depth budget and economy mechanic. The economy panel shows the flow of various resources among your citizens’ households, businesses and city services. Everyone in your city has expenses and income to balance, much like you must budget the city’s budget.

Households spend money to buy resources and pay rent; businesses buy resources and turn them into other resources, which they then sell to other businesses or customers.

Production screen were you can check what your city is exporting and importing
Production screen where you can check what your city is exporting and importing.

Furthermore, businesses also pay rent for their building, which is considered when calculating their profit. Certain city services also consume resources, and these expenses are added to their monthly upkeep. You can adjust how much money you want to allocate to each service, which can help or hinder the coverage and capacity of city services.

The expenses list shows you the different payments made by your city for expenses and what your city is earning in revenue.


taxation screen where you can adjust your city taxes

The taxation tab allows you to view and adjust the tax rates; you can raise or lower the revenue or expenses of individual zone areas. With the sliders, you can adjust the tax rate to an entire zone type. Or you can adjust taxes per Education level for the residential zones. You can also adjust the tax rates for each product type for commercial, industrial, and office zones. Finally, you can expand the tax tab for more precise control on a zone type to adjust the tax rate based on individual citizens or the resource type.

Raising or lowering taxes can benefit your city, depending on its situation. Setting a negative tax rate means the city pays subsidies; however, this can attract citizens or businesses into the city. Setting it too high for too long, and the citizens will complain about high taxes, so you need to find a balance that suits your city’s needs.

aurora borealis in the night sky
Aurora borealis in the night sky

The total tax budget is adjusted constantly according to changes in your city, such as residents moving in and out, new businesses springing up, or even businesses closing down.

The services tab shows your city services’ current revenues and expenses. It also allows you to adjust service budgets and fees to fine-tune your economy.

It pays to keep an eye on your specialised industry and adjust the tax accordingly depending on how many resources are exported. Furthermore, the estimated bar at the side of the taxes gives you the projected estimate for the monthly tax income.


loan screen from cities skylines II
Take out a loan.

Loans are a great way to finance city buildings when you have a low cash balance. When taking out a loan, pay particular attention to the interest rate. And the resulting monthly cost, so you do not end up overspending.

When you have borrowed money, you only pay the interest monthly. So, the loan amount you owe back remains unchanged until you pay it back. Use the slider bar to reach the amount of loan that you wish to borrow.

Signature Buildings

Signature Buildings are unique buildings that fall into the categories of residential, commercial, industrial, and office buildings. Each signature building has its unlocking requirements, such as reaching a certain Progression Milestone, a specific citizen Happiness level, and/or having several cells zoned with a specific density.

the rock musicains mansion
The rock musician’s mansion

Once met, the building becomes available and can be placed anywhere on the map, similar to service buildings. A signature building is unique and can only be placed once. However, signature buildings are entirely free to build.

Additionally, signature buildings also have one or more positive effects. These effects range from affecting the neighbourhood to city-wide effects. Before you place each signature building, you can read its effect in the info panel.

Parks and Recreation

 a park in a large city
Build parks for your citizens.

Parks provide entertainment to buildings in a certain radius and increase land value, and citizens love to visit them. Cities: Skylines II has many parks, from children’s playgrounds to dog and sports parks.

Start by deciding on a location for your park. Putting numerous parks near your residential zones is always a good idea, as this will help those residential homes level up.

You can also build Park Maintenance buildings to maintain your parks. These vehicles will travel around the city and maintain all parks. They will stop at a park, and the maintenance crew will get out and service the park, then return to the vehicle.


Wi-Fi, TV and radio

Your citizens automatically have access to basic radio, TV and internet. However, more advanced services can be built to make their lives better.

Build a more advanced system by placing a Radio Mast or two. And a Server Farm building will let you upgrade Wi-Fi services to optic cables. A Telcom Tower supplies Wi-Fi services to your city. The Telecom tower is the centre for media broadcasting, and increases entertainment city-wide and attracts tourists,

Furthermore, the Satellite Uplink, once built, can transmit all sorts of data globally, increase the capacity of your city network and increase entertainment value.

Landscaping and Vegetation

use the terrain tool to manipulate the terrain
use the terrain tool to manipulate the terrain

Landscaping allows you to move the land’s soil and form smooth or steep landscapes. The landscaping tool can lower or elevate the terrain by adding or removing soil at a small cost.

The Landscaping tool has four features:

Shift Terrain Tool: Used to move large areas of land. Click the right mouse button to select the target height, then use the left mouse button to move the terrain.

Level Terrain Tool: Use to level out the land. Click the right mouse button to select the target height, then use the left mouse button to flatten the terrain to that height.

Soften Terrain Tool: Used to soften any landscape areas that have been moved.

Slope Terrain Tool: Used to make a slope or hill. Click the right mouse button on one end of the area where the slope will be located. With the left mouse button, click and drag from the other desired end back towards the first point to create the slope.

You can change the sizes of the terrain brushes and the strength by adjusting the tabs at the side of the terrain tool. Depending on the size and strength of the brush, the amount of soil being added or removed will also be affected. Use the contour lines in the landscapes to measure how much you want to move the earth.


image shows thetrees and shurbs panel in Cities Skylines II
Plant trees and shrubs to make your city beautiful

Trees, bushes, paths and other greenery can be used to decorate your city. Trees grow with time. Additionally, trees are great for reducing noise pollution around residential areas but must be used in large numbers to see a significant effect.

Plants and trees are regional, so a different set is available based on the currently selected map theme. To change the theme, click on the EU or NA flags to the right of the vegetation toolbar. You can place one tree at a time or use the tree brush in the vegetation tools menu to place large numbers of trees or shrubs.

images shows a city with a dark night sky
The night sky in the city

And with that: Good luck, Mayor, and most of all have fun!

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