Everybody needs transport, from getting to work in the morning to the dreaded 5-hour train to go and see your granny in Edinburgh, it’s essential. Often overlooked are the many companies who provide this service to us by building roads, buying vehicles and trying to keep everything running as smoothly as possible. Cities in Motion 2 gives the player a chance to experience this first hand by allowing you to run your very own transport company and shows you that keeping those trains or busses running to the exact minute on the timetable isn’t as easy as you’d think!
Following on from the first in the series, the complete focus of this game is to manage the transport channels around your city. If you’ve ever played anything like Transport Tycoon, this will be pretty familiar to you, otherwise think SimCity but with no control over what is being built. Besides a new engine; this game adds day and night cycles, rush hours and the option to tweak the timetables of all of your routes. Also added, is city expansion. You can watch the city grow and expand your own transport networks to meet demand.
Your job is to build the most efficient transport network possible, keep commuters happy, help the city expand and make yourself some money in the process. The game features several modes in which to do this. The first is the campaign mode, which features 12 scenarios and gives you a series of objectives to complete. This is good for 10 or so hours of gameplay, but I’ve always found that in simulation games like this, it’s more fun to have complete freedom in what you do. Thankfully there’s a sandbox mode for this which allows you to build uninterrupted and with unlimited money if you choose. Initially, you are given 6 maps to choose from which seems a little limiting, but there’s a map editor so you can build as many cities as you want. As an added bonus, there are also online co-op and competitive modes. All of these features are more than enough to justify the £15 asking price.
The first thing you’ll want to do on starting Cities in Motion 2 is play through the tutorial. This is absolutely essential, as the UI is complex. The tutorial gives you a series of menial tasks to do that walk you through the basics of building lines, setting up timetables, and getting a basic transport network going. I never really found it particularly engaging, maybe something like a voice over and a bit more added fun elements would add some polish. The tutorial also does a good job of pointing out one of the game’s biggest flaws – the clunky user interface. As previously mentioned, games like this come with a lot of things to do, so have a big user interface. Rather than having big bold icons for the simplest of tasks (building roads or tramways for example), you have to navigate your way through cryptic sub-menus for the type of task you want to do. To build a bog-standard road, you first have to press the ‘tools’ button (a saw and hammer), select the road button, select the subcategory of the road (one-way, expressway etc.) and then pick from a huge list that appears. It’d be a great help if you could have little floating windows with road types for quick access.
Building roads and other transport pathways is another process that could be vastly improved. You have to zoom right in and make sure that you select the right side of the road to building on. There is no undo function either, so if you mess up and build something on the wrong side of the road, you’ll have to manually bulldoze it! I often found myself misplacing bits of the tramway, so the city sometimes looked like a kid had gone crazy with their life-size trainset. Making routes has a pretty steep learning curve too. Every route has to start and end at a depot, which doesn’t really make any sense to me; surely vehicles return to the depot only when they’re needed to? After you’ve made your depot, you need to place a series of stops. Each stop has a boundary area which is the distance your little commuters are willing to walk to catch their ride home. This shows as a circle when you’re placing stops, so it’s quite easy to space them. Once you’ve finished building your perfect route, you then have to create a new route. Once again, the UI makes this more complicated than it should be, but once you’ve found the right button, it’s just a case of clicking the stops in the right order. It’s often at this point you find out that you’ve built a stop on the wrong side of the street! Once you’ve overcome this learning curve and learned how the game works, you’ll get far quicker at building things and getting your huge transport network running.
You’ll find yourself buying a lot of vehicles too, each one with its own stats. As usual the better the vehicle, the more it costs. There’s a pretty limited selection, but the game has a store where you can buy the best vehicles and other bits (a combined bus/tram/trolley stop looked useful) I’m not usually too keen on DLC, but everything on the store was 79p when I looked – a small price to pay for some genuinely useful things!
A key gameplay element is to keep your commuters happy. You can see them going about their daily business by zooming in and watching them. You can keep track of each one and see their requirements or if they’re happy or not. They even complain if their transport is late! With rush hours in the game, it’s nice to be able to tweak your schedule to meet demand by running services more frequently. Another nice feature is to be able to set zone-based pricing, similar to the London Underground – just to maximise your profits!
Cities in Motion 2 is a great, in-depth game. It’s really nice to get lost in hours of building and watching your city grow. All games of this genre come with a learning curve. I’ve been playing Transport Tycoon Deluxe, a very similar game, for 10 years now and I’ve still not mastered it. If you’re willing to put the time in to learn the game and work around the slightly clunky user interface, you’ll get a lot of good gameplay and fun out of Cities in Motion 2.
Written by Nick Bedford
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