Paradox Interactive’s Cities in Motion was a welcoming management experience that was limited due to the development team’s relative youthfulness. It was a hugely enjoyable experience, but by the time players had ventured half-way through the campaign they had seen all that the videogame could offer and no amount of expansion packs could rejuvenate this limited amount of assets. With Cities in Motion 2 however, Colossal Order Ltd. already have a successful release under their belt, and as such are more willing to push the envelope in the exact ways their fans hope.
The core foundations of Cities in Motion 2 play in exactly the same fashion as the original: the player is tasked with maintaining a transport infrastructure that caters for the needs of the population. This involves public transport as well as road layout, and also demands that the player take into account what types of patron will be using the available services. There’s no point in placing a low cost bus service in a high earning business district, and likewise students are unlikely to want to use more expensive high speed railway. Cities in Motion 2 isn’t a simple case of butting a few bus stops on a circular route: this is a complex design of assessment, planning and execution.
Cities in Motion 2 offers two fronts for the newcomer: Sandbox and Campaign. Colossal Order Ltd. clearly know where their strengths lie, offering Sandbox as the leading option on the main menu, but the Campaign isn’t exactly a poor showing. A selectable difficulty setting is available as your journey through each increasingly lengthy level, with new objectives and issues to overcome in each. The Campaign does begin gently with a tutorial that’s balanced tightly between being informative and handholding, and it’s not too long until the player is making important decisions for themselves. This is the essence of Cities in Motion 2, of course, making decisions based on the information available and then working with the results. Things won’t always pan out as you had intended, but Cities in Motion 2 works best when you take this on board and work with whatever is put in front of you; reloading a save may put you in a better position, but it will also cheat you out of the joys of overcoming previously unseen hurdles and reaping the rewards.
Sandbox mode offers the player a handful of pre-constructed cities and invites them in for the long game. This is where fans of the original Cities in Motion will find themselves at home, with Cities in Motion 2 offering far more customisability than the first title whilst still offering a familiar interface. A number of changes have been made, most noticeably the floating information and statistic panels that allow you to quickly grasp any given situation without blocking your view of the real-time action, but the biggest improvements come in the form of execution. The player has a vastly expanded toolset with which to develop their transport infrastructure and the city around it: this isn’t Sim City, so you won’t be choosing where to place the mayor’s house or a new power plant, but you will be able to carve entirely new spaces and promote your own intentions for what kind of activity should fill the district.
Cities in Motion 2 also includes a multiplayer gameplay mode which, should you manage to fins someone ready and willing to play, allows for co-operative transport management as well as more competitive gameplay. The former is undoubtedly a winning design – should you find a likeminded someone willing to pour hours into a city – with players able to divide all aspects of the management and act at entirely separate locations simultaneously. It’s this kind of co-operation that’s all too quickly dismissed by similar titles, giving Cities in Motion 2 another string to its bow of uniqueness.
The visual quality of Cities in Motion 2 is of a more than reasonable standard, regardless of the fact that this is not what players will be purchasing a ticket for. It’s a genuine thrill to start a new area from scratch and invest hours into building a perfectly balanced network only to then sit back and watch everything fall into place. And even when micro-managing to work out the kinks in your design, Cities in Motion 2’s visual feedback goes far beyond that offered by the original outing.
Available for both Windows and Mac format PCs now, Cities in Motion 2 remains unique in its field. It’s a management videogame that would sit comfortably next to Sim City, Theme Park et al but goes into much greater depth than either of those titles, and manages to avoid direct comparison by opting for a more niche aspect of city design. Despite its flaws, there would be few titles willing to go up against the original Cities in Motion on its home turf, but in the field of virtual transport infrastructure management Cities in Motion 2 has knocked it out of the park.