Cities: Skylines 2 — Some Thoughts on the Launch

Back in September, the flood of teasers for Cities: Skylines 2 ramped up in a big way. Content creators from all over were given (if they didn’t already have) early access to the game and the ability to post certain chunks of gameplay between then and the game’s release, last week.

As someone who has greatly enjoyed Cities: Skylines, particularly over the last few years where I more properly gave it the time required to get to grips with its systems, what it excels at and what it doesn’t, the release of Cities: Skylines 2 couldn’t come fast enough.

Well, they do always say, ‘Be careful what you wish for’. Because in some ways, Cities: Skylines 2 has come too soon.

Not that that’s stopping me from having fun with how the game is now.

Cities 2 has joined the long litany of games released in 2023 without a good performance and optimisation pass. Colossal Order has been transparent on this fact over the weeks leading up to launch, and even pulled their console launch and shifted that out to next year. But given what I’m hearing of how the game is performing for some people, I can only imagine the horror the console version must’ve been at the moment.

Personally, my experience from a performance perspective has been ‘OK’. I wouldn’t call it great, especially in contrast to the visual fidelity — but it has been OK. I don’t really get stuttering in either the visuals or the simulation speed, but, two things to note there:

  1. You should really hope not after the upgrade I made in March.
  2. I haven’t pushed into high population counts yet — my biggest city so far has only been up to ~15k pop.1

Having said that, there are people reporting stutters and slowdowns on fairly OK machines even before they’ve even plopped down their first zone.

Sports car racing along a quiet road early in the morning. Hopefully not destined for a crash! Cars in CS2 can do that now.

The performance issues though, I think are the least of the game’s launch woes. Worse by far, in my opinion, are the game and simulation-impacting bugs that make things not react or behave as expected.

As just a few examples from the confirmed bugs/issues list on the CS2 forums right now…

  • Zone demand not calculating correctly
    The initial reporter put this through as Commercial always being maxed on demand against all reason, but I’ve had it with Residential, which others have chimed in about as well, and yet others saying they’ve had it with Industrial.
  • The Resource Import/Export Economy is Bugged
    Originally reported as calling out the devs for trying to pull one over on us, but since confirmed as simply ‘not working as intended’. Some examples? City services only trade with outside connections, even when you have local storage companies able to provide the needed supply. Harbours on the other hand will only trade with the storage companies and not city services. Industry and Commercial properties don’t seem overly fussed though, as they’ll continue to do business even if they supposedly cannot get access to the resources they say they need…

    Possibly a related issue, some people have reported issues where their city starts importing garbage. Literally, and LOTS, of Garbage. More than their processing facilities can handle leading to the poor residents having their garbage going untended and piling up.
  • Taxation Bugs
    I haven’t seen this one yet — but in some circumstances, tax can get stuck on ‘0’ for a particular demand type and there doesn’t appear to be any way to fix it once you get this issue. Even switching from actively taxing to offering subsidies doesn’t shift the needle on the number once it has kicked in.

And there are plenty, plenty more — ranging from showers of sewerage coming from the sky, to muddy-looking textures, to cims continuing to use pedestrian crossings that were long since removed.

The scale of some of the buildings in the game though is really something else. There is a case to be made for the service buildings on offer being too big (when they’re the only options) but that won’t be a long-term issue, I reckon!

So… Ultimately…

I wish the call had been made to push the launch back along with the console launch. There is a lot here that clearly needs more love and attention. Alternatively, launching with a clearer ‘Early Access’ tag would’ve been acceptable to me and I certainly still would have picked it up.

But despite this, I’m perhaps not as upset about the situation as maybe I should be.

I’m still having a good degree of fun with the game despite everything.

More than that, I do trust that Colossal Order will fix that is broken and in short order.

More than that even, is the consideration for Cities: Skylines 2 as an update to the Cities: Skylines platform. They have pushed changes to the simulation and tooling that could never be achieved by mods alone. Graphically, same story. Current issues aside; there is an incredible amount of detail put into the game’s assets. I just saw a video of a Cities 2 content creator flying through in camera mode, inside the Botanical Gardens asset, to a newstand inside it, where the text on the stand items was legible.

We could never have mountains like those in the distance under Cities 1, that’s for sure.

Cities: Skylines 2 is likely to be with us for the better part of the next decade, over which the additional base capability as a platform will shine an ever harsher light on the limitations of the first game.

So, as much as I certainly carry some disappointment about the launch state of the game, I’m excited for its future. Both in what the modding community will bring us and in what Colossal Order themselves will deliver.

If you’re not a diehard fan of the series or genre, I’d certainly still suggest giving this one a little more time in the oven before picking it up.

But in this case, I suspect we’re talking a couple of months or so, rather than a year before a checkback would be a good idea. :)

Footnotes

  1. I have been on a bit of a city-restart binge, testing out the new maps.

Naithin

Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.

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