Cities Skylines vs. Cities Skylines 2 - which should you opt for?

Credit: Colossal Order

Credit: Colossal Order

When it comes to city-building simulations, a new release always sparks excitement. Cities Skylines 2, the sequel to the much-loved Cities Skylines that has just been released, is no different.

People are curious to know how it compares to the original. In this article, we will discuss the main differences between Cities Skylines and Cities Skylines 2. We will talk about what the developers improved despite some performance issues, what they changed and added to the popular franchise, and help you decide which is better, Cities Skylines vs Cities Skylines 2.

So, if you are wondering which city-building simulation to choose and build your virtual city, read on as we compare these two fantastic games.

Experiencing those performance issues? Check out our best settings for Cities Skylines 2.

Cities Skylines vs. Cities Skylines 2 - major differences

Before you download Cities: Skylines 2, it is paramount to know what the new iteration of the game offers to the fans of the city-building games:

  • Graphics and visuals: A shift from a more cartoonish style to realistic graphics with physics-based lighting.
  • Gameplay changes: The addition of a day-night cycle and seasons for added complexity.
  • Map size and density: Larger maps while maintaining a sense of city density.
  • Improved road management: Enhanced road placement and overlap tools.
  • Building upgrades and zoning: Upgradable buildings and revamped zoning options.
  • City services and progression: A new progression system based on in-game actions.
  • AI and citizen simulation: Enhanced AI and more realistic citizen behaviors.
A screenshot from City Skylines 2 in winter showing a white train on tracks.
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Credit: Colossal Order
cities skylines vs cities skylines 2

Graphics and visuals

In Cities Skylines 2, the transition from the original's somewhat cartoonish visuals to a more realistic style with physics-based lighting is immediately noticeable. Playing both games, we were struck by this visual upgrade, and this is a clear win for the second iteration of the game in the battle of Cities Skylines vs Cities Skylines 2. The overall feel of the game brings a more lifelike experience.

A screenshot from Cities Skylines 2 showing a city at night with a traffic light glowing green and buidlings in distance
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Credit: Colossal Order
Graphics Cities Skylines 2

Buildings now cast shadows, while you will also notice that lights respond to the time of day change. This has improved the game a lot, offering an immersive gaming experience. The new graphics will easily pull you into the virtual world, making it easier to immerse yourself in city planning.

Gameplay changes

Cities Skylines 2 has introduced a day-night cycle, which makes the game far more interesting in comparison to Cities Skyline. This has brought a whole new atmospheric setting, and you will be able to bask in your virtual city during nighttime. However, this means a few more things to juggle with, including traffic and lightning.

A Screenshot from Cities Skylines 2 showing skyscrapers glowing at night
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Credit: Colossal Order
Day and night cycle Cities Skylines 2

This isn't the only change, as you will experience changing seasons. Winter will bring snow and heating issues, while in summer, you will need to keep your buildings cool among other things. Cities Skylines 2 is more complex than the first installment, but this change makes the game far more interesting.

Map size and density

Another game-changer that can steer your decision in the battle between Cities Skylines and Cities Skylines 2 is the much bigger maps in the sequel. You will have more space to explore and expand your dream city. In the sequel, you can experiment with different city layouts.

A screenshot from Cities Skylines 2 showing a map of a blue lake surrounded by forests and mountains
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Credit: Colossal Order via City Planner Plays YouTube Screenshot
map size cities skylines 2

Despite the size, you won't feel like your city is an empty space. There will be plenty for you to manage as you might be on your way to building a new Tokyo or something with a similarly vibrant energy.

Improved road management

When comparing road management in Cities Skylines vs. Cities Skylines 2, it has taken a big step in the right direction. You will easily place roads and make them overlap. There is no need to be a traffic engineer to ensure traffic flows smoothly, and you will love playing with roundabouts in Cities Skyline 2.

A screenshot from Cities Skylines 2 showing a road network that leads to a bridge over a river
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Credit: Colossal Order via City Planner Plays YouTube Screenshot
Road network cities skylines 2

There won't be traffic jams or intersections that could make you lose your mind. This is just one of many improvements you didn't know you needed until you experienced it within the game. Anyway, it will make your city management a lot easier.

Building upgrades and zoning

Another option that has received a major facelift in Cities Skylines 2 is building upgrades and zoning. In the sequel, you can upgrade the old buildings and replace them with new, modern layouts. You can leave a personal touch on your city, but it will also boost the functionality of the city. However, you will need points to get these replacements, but that can be done by finishing simple tasks.

A screenshot from Cities Skylines 2 showing a city under construction with several buildings, roads, and infrastructure being built
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Credit: Image Source: Colossal Order via City PlannerPlays YouTube

Moreover, you can now create a bustling downtown, brimming with life thanks to zoning options, but also a serene residential district. You have the freedom to shape up your city districts the way you want. Imagine yourself as a painter with an empty canvas and a rich color palette to create your dream city.

City services and progression

City services and progression in Cities Skylines 2 have evolved to give you more control over your city's growth. It is like having a personal city-building coach. This is an entirely new feature in the franchise, and it lets you style your city to your unique vision.

A screenshot from Cities Skylines 2 showing a red and white fire station building with a fire engine parked outside
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Credit: Colossal Order via City Planner Plays YouTube Screenshot
placing fire house in Cities Skylines 2

You can focus on improving specific services like healthcare, education, or public safety, and the game rewards you with points you can spend on unlocking new buildings, policies, or customization options.

AI and citizen simulation

In Cities: Skylines 2, the AI has received a massive overhaul. Now, your citizens will succumb to daily routines that mirror real life. You will watch your city expand and develop and, at the same time, monitor the unique pattern of each citizen.

A screenshot from Cities Skylines 2 showing citizens walking in the park
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Credit: Colossal Order via City Planner Plays YouTube Screenshot
AI simulation citizens

For example, during winter, they might seek indoor activities, increasing the demand for entertainment venues, or they may choose to use public transport during rainy weather. This gives you yet another thing to immerse yourself in when building your next megalopolis. Cater to your citizens' needs and keep them happy, but also manage its expansion.

What does Cities Skylines do better?

Now that you know the major differences when it comes to Cities Skylines and Cities Skylines 2, it is time to let you know what the first installment does better than the new one:

  • Rich modding: Over the years, we have witnessed numerous mods that have added to the value of Cities: Skylines. These mods improve the gameplay experience and offer new options, which come close to perfection when it comes to city-building customization.
  • Expansions: Besides mods, developers have offered several official expansions that have altered the original game. Unfortunately, some of these expansions haven't made it to the sequel just yet.
  • Stable performance: Since released, people from Colossal Order have ironed out the game, which now runs smoothly on new and older machines, unlike Cities: Skylines 2, which has higher system requirements that can be met only with the latest hardware.
A screenshot from Cities Skylines, showing completely built town in city skylines with houses, buildings, roads, and river
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Credit: Colossal Order
Cities Skylines graphics

To conclude your choice between Cities Skylines and Cities Skylines 2, you should know that both games provide hours of fun if you enjoy city-building simulations.

It all boils down to personal preference but also hardware limitation, as Cities: Skylines 2 demands powerful hardware. Another thing to consider is mods, but with Cities: Skylines 2 being the new game, it will undoubtedly outperform the original in every aspect in the years to come.

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