For many people, a daily commute to work involves some form of public transport. They get on, and then get off. Simple. But have any of these people have ever considered the dedication that goes into maintaining a vast, complex system that spans across the entirety of their home town, and runs on a highly strict and well organised time schedule? If you’re thinking “I have”, or “Yes, I think about it morning, ‘noon and night”, then sit yourself down on that disturbingly warm bus seat, and prepare for a somewhat disappointing journey. Alternatively, if you just like transport simulators, you’re welcome to come too, but maybe you’re better off not getting on.
Cities in Motion 2 (the sequel to the first Cities in Motion) lets you take on the stressful role of a transport coordinator as you build bus routes, tram lines, sea buses and railways, this time with sharper visuals, bigger maps, and a few new features. At first, the overall concept seemed quite tedious, and a game that focused on organising a schedule didn’t really strike me as, well, a game. After a few hours, the sprawling metropolis I had envisioned had finally started to come to life, yet my enthusiasm was still back at the station.
During the campaign mode, it is up to you to make sure that everything runs on time, all the time. You accomplish this by building bus depots, placing bus stops, and establishing a well thought out timetable to keep all transportation running fluently. As I previously mentioned, it isn’t just buses that you’ll be managing. The game’s construction menu offers a wide variety of other assets such as toll roads, express ways, trams, subways, and waterbus’. Unfortunately, whilst there are a wide variety of things that you can build, this does not distract you from Cities in Motion 2’s main weakness. It feels very boring. To be completely honest, it feels like actual work. I don’t know about you, but coming home from work only to do more work isn’t my dream ideal.
Colossal Order, the developers behind the “game”, have ditched the colourful, eccentric style of the first Cities in Motion, and gone for a dull, dreary version of realism, in turn sacrificing a lot of personality. It’s like an aerial version of Fallout 3, just as society has managed to fully get back on its feet. Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh, after all, the game isn’t totally void of beauty. You’ve only got to zoom in to street level to see the intricate details. Pedestrians go about their daily business, wind blows through the skyscrapers, and emergency vehicles plough down long stretches of road. This isn’t detail for the sake of detail, but watching certain pedestrians (or CIMS as they’re known) allows you to gain information as to where it may be a good idea to place a train station.
The world in which all of this takes place is also larger, and maps offer a lot more space than the 2011 predecessor. Also, unlike the first game, your city grows around you. Of course, as the primary objective throughout is to build and maintain methods of transport, you only have a small say in what buildings go where. You can bulldoze unwanted constructions for a small fee, and even adjust the layout of both buildings and new roads.
Furthermore, should you choose sandbox mode, there are six maps for you to play around with in total, all with a similar New York feel to them, (oh, and you get lots of money). There is also a map editor that lets you start from scratch, so if you don’t like any of the presets and you have an idea of what your perfect city would look like, then this is the mode I would recommend if it wasn 't for its many grievances. Be aware that this takes a lot of time and effort to get right, and I often found myself with tram tracks strewn everywhere, along with a subway that took an unruly detour towards the ocean. There is a tutorial, but it isn’t much help. It’s filled with walls of text, and is difficult to get your head around. Moving the map itself requires use of the W, S, A, and D keys, as well as the arrows, ultimately adding to the frustration.
In terms of graphics and sound, Pedestrians walk in awkward paths with blocky animations, and they have that annoying habit of rudely walking through each other, as if they’re the only ones in town.
The areas surrounding the cities are unpopulated yet very large, sometimes even bigger than the cities themselves, which is odd considering that they just contain the same copy and pasted pine tree. There’s also limited sense of elevation and depth, as nearly everything appears on a flat plane. The surrounding area could have been filled with so much more, maybe landmarks or distant villages, instead of looking a feeling like uninspired filler for a random metropolis in the middle of nowhere.
As for the sound, the people who give you objectives are monotone and don’t really have an enthusiastic attitude, considering you’re just about build them a bus stop. Moreover, the background music is just a synth-pop track that has been looped infinitely, getting more annoying every second. Though it is sort of catchy, I’ll say that.
In conclusion, the experience leaves a lot to be desired. If you have a lot of free time and you’re willing to dedicate yourself, and learn all the ins and outs, then you may be rewarded; but even then, all your hard work feels pointless. The lack of any defined long-term objectives quickly destroys any motivation to get to grips with the complexity. For a game that is all about motion, Cities in Motion 2 crawls along. If you enjoyed the first game, then you can expect to enjoy this one. But if you’re new to the series, or even the genre, do yourself a favour, and get on the train at the opposite platform.