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Cities: Skylines 2's huge maps blew me away with their sheer size and scale

I clearly need to think bigger with my city planning

A series of apartment blocks in Cities Skylines 2
Image credit: Paradox Interactive

Confession time: if you've been keeping up to date with Colossal Order's feature highlight video series for Cities: Skylines 2 over the last couple of months, you're probably not going to learn a huge amount from my experience of playing it at Gamescom a couple of weeks ago. I spent most of my hour-long demo session steadily working my way through its extensive tutorial, as I have not, in fact, played Cities: Skylines before now - although I can at least confirm that its tutorial is very newbie-friendly, and that I now feel more prepared to give it a go properly when it comes out in full on October 24th.

But the thing that really impressed me was just the sheer scope of its playable spaces. We've known since the end of July that its maps are roughly 5x bigger than those in the first game, and when I saw Colossal Order's Maps & Themes video, I thought, 'Yes, those sure look enormous!' But actually seeing them in person really put things into perspective for me, especially when I tried zooming the camera out and it just kept going and going and going and…

I picked a scenic-looking fjord map for my demo. It had a reasonably easy-going temperature range, for starters, which is important given that climate variations won't just put extra pressure on your electricity grid when it's rainy, snowy or very hot, but inflict all sorts of other infrastructural problems I knew I wasn't prepared to deal with yet (not that this really mattered for the length of an hour long demo session, but you can never be too careful). Plus, it's also just a goddamn beautiful fjord - a lovely kind of landscape I've always wanted to visit, so why not live out my glacial lakeside dream by building a bustling new town beside it?

The tutorial plonked me right into one of the very far corners of this fjord map, and without really realising just how much of it extended beyond the reaches of my zoomed in starting area, I set about learning the basics of putting down roads, connecting up water pipes and electricity lines and generally getting to grips with setting up the requisite residential, industrial and commercial zones. All within… err… maybe the same 1km square region perhaps? I was quietly feeling quite pleased with my little plot, even if my ratio of houses to shops was a little off-kilter and I had four different kinds of energy production going on for maybe as many houses.

A night time urban scene in Cities: Skylines 2
A series of skyscrapers from Cities: Skylines 2
I aspire to this level of city-planning... | Image credit: Paradox Interactive

(Apologies to my accompanying Colossal Order and Paradox reps who were doing their best to guide me in the right direction - I imagine they must have been biting their knuckles at my sheer ineptitude, so I'd like to thank them from afar for bearing with me).

Eventually, though, I had to create a sewage pipe that ran out to the sea, and only then did I really appreciate just the sheer size and scale of the playable area I had at my disposal. Since I'd concentrated all my buildings in the top corner, the pipe stretched for literal miles, and in hindsight looked really quite daft - a lesson I'll definitely be putting to better use when I get to play it properly. And as the error of my ways was slowly dawning on me, I took the opportunity to just zoom my camera all the way out to get the full sense of this place, and crikey, this map just went on for days. A ridiculously large space, and it was clear right there and then that I was suffering from a case of 'incredibly small town thinking' (don't blame me, I live in Bath, a city whose centre you can traverse on foot top to bottom in the space of 20 minutes. 30, if you're going slow).

A hospital from Cities: Skylines 2
Now that's what I call a fancy-looking hospital. | Image credit: Paradox Interactive

Naturally, I still have tons to learn about building in Cities: Skylines 2 before I attempt Fjordtown 2.0 in October - if only because, just before the end of my session, my demo handlers loaded up a 'here's a city we made earlier' file, and ah, yes, that's how you're meant to use that kind of landmass, I see where I was going wrong here. But I'm heartened by the fact that even that initial hour of horribly basic planning bumbling was still very chill and enjoyable. When things started going wrong - such as my three residents being concerned that there wasn't a hospital nearby (or at all) and that the power station right next to them was maybe a bit air pollute-y, its intuitive menus made clear where I was falling behind and how to rectify things. Likewise, watching buildings slowly go up with cranes and construction workers feels very satisfying. I'm into it! Not sure how I'll manage an actual city budget when the time comes, but hey, that's what infinite money cheats are for, right?

For more of the latest news and previews from Gamescom 2023, head to our Gamescom 2023 hub. You can also find everything announced at Opening Night Live right here.

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