Cities: Skylines II Ultimate Beginner’s Guide 

Cities: Skylines II (developed by Colossal Order and published by Paradox Interactive), the sequel to one of the most successful city building games of all time, is finally out.

If you’re part of Cities: Skylines’ massive fanbase, you might be wondering how the gameplay in Cities: Skylines II differs from its predecessor. Or, you might be unfamiliar with either game and just wondering what the fuss is about, and how the game works at all! 

So here’s a basic guide to get you started on building your dream city in Cities: Skylines II! 

Picking a Map

The first thing you’ll need to do at the start of a game is to pick a map. Each map in Cities: Skylines II varies in its geographical features and topography, theme/climate, natural resources, and available transport connections. You’ll get a snapshot of the city’s different attributes in the selection menu. 

Your map is subdivided into different tiles, which you’ll unlock one by one in order to expand your city. 

The New Game screen lets you pick out your map, and see details about its resources and connections. Image: Paradox Interactive 

Tip: If you’re just starting out, it’s usually a good idea to pick a map that has a larger percentage of buildable land.  

Pause the Game!

An important tip for anyone new to the Cities: Skylines games: especially early in the game, it’s a good idea to keep the game paused while you mull over decisions like where to build roads or facilities. 

While the game is running, you’ll be paying for the upkeep costs of your roads and service buildings. You’ll want to keep this to a minimum at the start of the game, before you’ve got your economy up and running and don’t have an income yet. 

The SPACE BAR button lets you toggle pause and unpause.

You can pause, slow down, or speed up the game through the simulation controls on the bottom left of the screen, or simply toggle pause with the SPACE BAR. Image: Paradox Interactive

Laying Down Roads 

Planning and building your city’s road network is a huge aspect of Cities: Skylines gameplay, and in the sequel not much has changed. 

The first tile of your city will always have a pair of roads leading into it from an external highway connection. It’s through these roads that your first citizens will arrive and move in. 

This map starts you out with some smaller streets that connect to a larger road that goes outside of your city. Image: Biffa / Paradox Interactive

Roads that aren’t highways (or other specialized service roads) will have a grid outline next to it, indicating that it’s possible to zone buildings on those roads. 

You’ll want to use the larger roads without building zones next to it (e.g., highways) to connect various parts of your city across long distances. 

The roads menu opens up a variety of road types and road layout tools. Image: Paradox Interactive


Zoning is how you grow your city. Zoning is your way of indicating which building types you want to grow in that particular area. 

There are four zone types in Cities: Skylines 2: 

  • Residential – These are where your citizens live. Much of your city’s building space will be taken up by residential buildings.
  • Industrial – Industrial buildings manufacture goods to be sold in your commercial buildings. 
  • Commercial – These sell the goods manufactured by your industrial buildings. 
  • Office – These provide various services to residents and companies. 

Growing your city depends largely on the symbiotic relationship between your zone types. Your residents need places to work and shop; your industrial, office, and commercial buildings need workers (i.e., your citizens) to operate. 

Keeping an eye on your demand meters will be key to maintaining a balance between these zones. 

The demand meter will let you know which zone types your city needs more of. Image: City Planner Plays / Paradox Interactive 


Technically power and water fall under the city services category, but it’s worth a separate mention since these are absolutely crucial for your city from the get-go. 


Just like in the first Cities: Skylines, in Cities: Skylines II you’ll need to provide your city with a power source, and then connect them to your buildings. 

You’ll have several options for power plants to generate electricity within your city. But on top of that, certain maps give you access to external power connections, which allow you to import electricity from other cities. 

In Cities: Skylines II, your roads come equipped with low-voltage cables that power your individual buildings; on the other hand you’ll need high-voltage cable

Building a transformer will allow high-voltage current from the external connections to be converted into low-voltage current that your buildings can use. Image: City Planner Plays / Paradox Interactive


Water and sewage in Cities: Skylines II works similarly to the first game: you’ll need both water supply and sewage management. 

Water pumping stations will take water from surface water sources (e.g., rivers, lakes, and oceans), while groundwater pumping stations retrieve it from underground. Do note that groundwater can be depleted (and replenishes over time), and is susceptible to ground pollution. 

Sewage outlets allow wastewater to drain out into surface bodies of water. Make sure to place any sewage outlets downstream of your water pumping stations, or you’ll contaminate your water supply and make your citizens very ill!

Place your water pumping station upstream. Image: City Planner Plays / Paradox Interactive 

Note: A new feature in Cities: Skylines II is that roads already come equipped with water and sewage pipes underneath them, so you won’t have to build them manually to cover your zones.

City Services 

Beyond the basic utilities, there are also numerous city service buildings that you can build to improve your citizens’ quality of life. Fulfilling residents’ and businesses’ needs for these services will lead to more productivity and more people wanting to move into your city. 

However, you’ll still want to be judicious when it comes to building these, as each city service building comes with a building cost, as well as an upkeep cost. 

City services come in the following categories: 

  • Healthcare 
  • Deathcare 
  • Fire & rescue 
  • Police 
  • Education 
  • Public transport 
  • Communications 
  • Parks & plazas

Milestones & Game Progression 

Similarly to Cities: Skylines, Cities: Skylines II also has milestones that you hit as you grow your city. Each milestone rewards you with an expansion permit, which lets you purchase a new tile on the map. 

Whereas in Cities: Skylines, milestones are purely determined by your total population, in Cities: Skylines II, progression towards your milestones is tracked by Expansion Points, or XP. 

XP is gained passively as your population and your city’s happiness level increases. You also gain XP actively as you invest in your roads, city service buildings, and other facilities and unique buildings. 

There are 20 milestones that you can unlock for each game. Image: Paradox Interactive 

Development Points and Tech Trees

Hitting milestones also rewards you with development points, which you can use to unlock new nodes in the city service tech trees. 

The city service tech trees open you up to various upgrades that increase the scope and efficiency of your various city service buildings. 

All in all, this new system allows you a much more personalized game progression. 

For instance, you can invest more of your development points into your public transportation tech tree, to prioritize access to metros, airports, and other forms of mass transit. Or you can instead invest more heavily in education, increasing the capacity and efficiency of your schools. 

The Development panel will show you the unlockable tech trees for the different city services. Image: City Planner Plays / Paradox Interactive


Just like in the first Cities: Skylines, building a flourishing city in Cities: Skylines II rests a lot on a well-balanced economy. 


Your city earns its income primarily through the taxation of your different zones. However, Cities: Skylines II offers you finer controls over tax rates, specifically when it comes to your industry. 

Be aware that higher tax rates may negatively affect the demand for that particular zone. Residents and companies will be hesitant to move in if taxes are high.

You can adjust the tax rates for various industry sectors, and even the specific parts of the production chains. For example, you can lower the tax rates for your vehicle industry, as well as the metal and glass manufacturing that it requires, to encourage more production and more new businesses in that industry. 

You can adjust the tax rates for different zones, as well as for specific categories within each zone type. Image: Paradox Interactive 


On the other hand, you’ll also need to keep an eye on your expenses. All of your city services, including your roads, have certain upkeep costs that can really pile up. 

Particularly in the early game, try to stay conservative and build only what you really need. 


Weather and the seasons are much more integral to gameplay in Cities: Skylines II (compared to the first game, which required DLCs for weather effects). 

The seasons and weather affect the demands on your city services. For instance, expect greater power consumption when temperatures soar in the summer, when people switch on their air conditioning, and in the winter when they need more heating. 

In the wintertime you’ll also need facilities to clear roads of snow, or risk vehicular accidents. 


Let us know in the comments if there are any aspects of Cities: Skylines II you’d like to learn more about!

You can also check out our Game Guides section for other tutorials that you might find useful!

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