Cities: Skylines II Review

Game: Cities: Skylines II
Genre: Simulation, Strategy
System: Steam (Windows)
Developers | Publishers: Colossal Order Ltd | Paradox Interactive
Controller Support: Yes
Price: US $49.99 | UK £41.99 | EU € 49,99
Release Date: October 24th, 2023

Review code used, with many thanks to Johnny Atom PR.

In 2015, Cities: Skylines was released, a simulation game where you build a city from the ground up into a thriving metropolis. Cities: Skylines was a massive smash hit and proved very popular with many city-building fans worldwide, including myself. Here we are, eight years later, and Colossal Order is releasing their next-generation city builder, Cities: Skylines II. By the way, you can find our Cities: Skylines II guide here.

New Game, New Features

Cities: Skylines II introduces many new and exciting features, like a progression system, seasons, and climates. Deeper city services, map changes, new zones, signature buildings and more.

Being a long-time player of the first game, it felt familiar and unfamiliar in equal measure when I sat down to play Cities: Skylines II. Still, that unfamiliarity felt good as I was excited to play. To compare Cities: Skylines II to its predecessor graphically would not be fair, as this game looks amazing, but then it is a next-gen game and not eight years old.

Ten Maps

screen showing the maps you can play on in cities skylines 2
Ten maps to choose from

For starters, one map tile is much smaller. But you can unlock almost all tiles, giving you 441 map tiles to work on. There are ten maps to choose from. Each map is themed in the EU or North America and has various scenery. I particularly like the Archipelago Haven map, which is based on a cluster of islands with a chain of smaller and larger islands. However, the maps will challenge some players, as most need terraforming before you can build. And best of all, terraforming is free and available immediately.

images shows a city surrounded by snow and mountains
The city in winter

Maps are seasonal. It snows in winter, and the trees change colour in the autumn. Then summer comes around, and all the cims complain via Chirper (in-game social media) that it’s too hot. While I like the winter, the white snow can be blinding, and there isn’t a setting to turn the seasons off. And strangely, during winter, the traffic drive with their windscreens covered in snow; how do the cims see where they are going? Also, when spring came around, I noticed a bug; all the trees were still in autumn.

If you are playing on a map with mountainous terrain, the snow creeps down as winter sets in. I like it, it’s a nice effect, as is the changing colour of the trees.


Autumn scene from the city showing the autumnal colours
Autumn in the city where the trees change colour

Cities: Skylines II does an admirable job of easing you into many of its broader concepts. The game’s tutorial is pretty good; it gives you the basics to begin a city, and you can check the question mark for a reminder of the tutorial.

Additionally, for players who like reading the stats, the numbers behind their cities and how it’s growing, they are much more in-depth in Cities: Skylines II. There are many more valuable menus for you to check and get information on how things are progressing, which makes you feel even more involved in your city.

Milestones, Development Tree and Points

image shows the milestone screen

There’s a lot to do in Cities: Skylines II. Still, it’s manageable being a mayor, thanks to the new progression system. The system has two layers: Milestones and Development Trees.

As you build your city, you earn Expansion Points (XP) accumulated passively and actively. The expansion points add a new concept to the game as the population grows and you build roads. Both systems are tied together as the Milestones give Development points to spend in Development Trees, allowing you to unlock more advanced services for your city.

image shows the development tree
The tutorial on the development tree

Once you reach a Milestone and receive the development points, you can spend them on what you want to unlock from the city’s services in the Development Tree. I really like how the city’s progression is unlocked in Cities: Skylines II; it gives the player more choice and free rein as you choose what services, roads, transport and parks you want your cims to have and when.

Additionally, the progression and the development point unlocking make sense according to your city size. For instance, you won’t see an international airport in a small town of 500 people. And you can unlock trains and transport networks much sooner than in the previous game.

Service Buildings Upgrades

large cemetery
The cemetery has grown in size since CS1.

This game has been developed to be modular, and that’s evident in the new service buildings. Instead of building multiple of the same service buildings, players can now upgrade one building to enhance its utility. Also, the service buildings have a larger footprint and feel and look much more substantial. All service buildings are very detailed and look the part.

Improved Zoning

Image shows a row of houses
There is more choice for zoning areas.

Zoning has improved and diversified the system immensely, as you have much more choice in zoning an area. From single-family homes to mixed-use housing to towering office blocks.

This time, High-Density housing means high density in Cities: Skylines II, with a more reasonable quantity of households to a building.

The game also has many taller towers, considering we got skyscrapers in the first game only when the DLC was released. So, having skyscrapers in the game at release greatly improves on its predecessor and makes for a more realistic city.


adding a roundabout to the road
Add roundabouts to roads, simply.

The road tools are critical to a game like Cities: Skylines, and in Cities: Skylines II, the road tools are a dream come true for players. Colossal Order has done an incredible job of refining them; all the options and measurements are fantastic.

The road tools
The road tools are brilliant.

Laying out your road network with all the extra road tools is simple and intuitive. The tools are a significant upgrade and are a joy to use. Rarely have I seen ‘You can not place this here!’ warnings when placing roads. It works seamlessly and is easy to use.

Building highways and interchanges is a doddle. Retaining walls are now a thing, and of course, the one mechanic players have been crying out for was some form of traffic management, which is now included in the game.

Traffic management and AI

image shows a traffic accident in a busy street
Oops, a traffic accident

You can place crosswalks, traffic lights and stop signs on your chosen road junction. Road traffic accidents are now a part of the game, so it is best to make sure you have the correct services available to attend.

As for the improved traffic AI, I haven’t noticed any major issues with it so far; the roads do get busy. In my larger cities, the road traffic has been flowing reasonably well. The traffic AI still does odd stuff, like vehicles floating above the road occasionally and cutting lanes, but overall, it is flowing smoothly.

image shows upgrading the road to be tree lined
Upgrading the road to be tree-lined

Best of all, the roads (not highways) come with electricity, water and sewage pipes attached. So no more placing electricity pylons around your city and making it look unpleasant.

I love the new trains and the train yard, it is massive. Furthermore, making outside connections on the map for trains, cargo, and more is a welcome addition to the game. Setting up your public transport network is similar to before, though it works much more smoothly.

image shows two buildings growing in the city
Good variation in the styles of buildings

Some odd decisions were made on what features to include in this game. For instance, there isn’t a bike network or bicycles. Also missing is a zone adjuster. A zone adjuster is a feature that allows you to de-zone a road and is a useful tool. I expect we will have DLCs with bicycles and such released further down the line.

Fans of Detailing

college in the city
Most of the building assets are very impressive.

Things have changed slightly for those who enjoy detailing our cities. Trees are now small trees when you place them. And as the city grows, so do the trees. This ties in with the new industry resources; you must have wood for forestry and more, and trees give wood, so I understand why trees must grow and are small to begin with.

However, I’d prefer a variety of fully grown trees to plant and young trees. It’s hard to get the full picture of your detailing when waiting for the trees to grow.

Thankfully, there is a tree brush, and you can plant more than one tiny tree at once. However, you can not mix the variety of trees. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything resembling a line tool that allows you to place rows of trees. It’s tedious placing trees individually. Hopefully, a line tool will be added in a further update.

Music and Visuals

a fire in a building on a city street
I hope the fire services are on their way.

Visually, the game is stunning, especially in 4K. The buildings are extremely well-detailed and designed. For instance, the residential homes have little fences attached and greenhouses in the garden. The streets are alive with cims moving around the city.

However, none of those items, like fences and plopable items, can be placed individually by the player. So we can’t take full advantage of decorating our cities properly if we don’t have the correct tools.

The main theme music is excellent and very relaxing to listen to. As for sound effects, they are atmospheric; you can hear the sounds of a busy city going about its daily business. The city feels much more alive than in the previous game.

Performance on PC

image shows office skyscrapers and other city buildings.
Office skyscraper

Now, down to the nitty-gritty and how Cities: Skylines II performs and runs on PC. My laptop is above the required specifications to run the game, so I can only go on how my PC runs the game. When I first played the game, there were noticeable framerate issues and judders as I moved the camera across the city.

Then, before release, Colossal Order updated the game, and 4K textures were added. Since that update, the framerate has improved greatly. Moreover, the game hasn’t crashed at all since I began playing it for this review.

Ultimately, it will depend on each player’s PC and if they have enough specs to run the game properly. Additionally, most PC games have some immediate issues on release. Cities: Skylines II is no exception; however, I’m confident they will be updated.

On Monday, 23rd October, Colossal Order released further information on how the game runs on PC and about the console version and Paradox mods.

Modding will become available in Cities: Skylines 2 shortly after the PC launch, but Colossal Order and Paradox are also confirming that when the game launches on console, console players will be able to use asset mods. Very few games allow cross-platform mods of any kind, so this is exciting news for players across all platforms.

Colossal Order and Paradox are 100% aware Cities: Skylines 2 requires high-end hardware for high-end performance, and they want to ensure that players are also aware of this. They are going to keep working on performance as more feedback is received from players worldwide, but the game is not being delayed, and so players should keep the recommended specs in mind.

You can find the full statement here and further information on the Paradox mods here!

image show a city surrounding by mountains with snow
Snow on the mountains

Conclusion – A Worthy Successor

Cities: Skylines II has much to live up to, and you know what? This is a fantastic start to a fabulous game. I’m excited for the future of city building. The game will take off once the modders get to work and Colossal Order pushes out the usual updates.

If you buy Cities: Skylines II, you can expect unfamiliarity, familiarity, surprises and the occasional frustration. But once you settle into it, plenty of new gameplay mechanics will keep you on your toes.

I love it, and I can see that Colossal Order love their game, too and wants to make it the best next-gen city builder. I predict Cities: Skylines II will be even more successful than its predecessor.

Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up Two thumbs up


Note: For players experiencing performance issues with Cities: Skylines II, Colossal Order has released a Guide to Optimize Performance, which you can find here. 

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