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My car-free Cities: Skylines 2 dream inevitably devolved into a cruel endurance test

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While reviewing Cities Colon Skylines 2, I didn’t actually go in that hard on public transport (beyond providing it and making it free), despite the urge. Since then though, it’s become a game where I don’t so much build a single mega-city as a series of experiments.

Naturally, those experiments devolved from a noble effort to remove the stain of cars into a sadistic urge to drive thousands of my own people on a never-ending hell march.

Unlocking buses takes time thanks to the progression system, but switching that off is easy, and as a side effect unlocks about 60 million in cash rewards, effectively infinite money for a starter town. Eggtown was its name, and it comprised entirely of pedestrianised roads. Those allow passage to taxis and motorbikes, both of which carry migrants, who came steadily enough for slow expansion.

Eggtown was a happy little place with burgeoning lumber, ore, and food trades, as well as their many derived products. We might even make money, if I wasn’t spending a quarter of the budget on a basketball court and skate park. Somehow. The youth of Eggtown accept only the kickest of flips. But the growth slowed. Without the steady stream of incoming smogboxes, demand for all zones flattened.

I was troubled. Eggtown’s industry had expanded to a second island, and its regular bus service should have meant people got around fine. Everything that could be free was free, and happiness very high, which prior cities had demonstrated was enough. A train station was the natural solution. I placed one down haphazardly on the far side of the industrial district, and didn’t expect much to come of it considering nobody seemed to want to join us.

But they did. Oh, they did. You join me now as 198 people get off the first train and are now walking 11 kilometres to their new homes. Some of them brought dogs. Clearly, the word has spread. Eggtown is fully pedestrianised, they say. Jobs are plentiful, there are no cats, and water falls from the sky. The basketballs are communal, and made from solid gold.

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A lone woman standing in her concrete front yard, staring at her house, in Cities: Skylines 2
Image credit: RPS/Paradox Interactive

This is a little like the one time I used the US-themed building set, built a suburb, and the first person to immigrate drove onto her entirely concrete garden, got out and stared at her house for several minutes, then got back in her car and emigrated again without ever going inside. These are my people. I love them.

11km isn’t actually that far, honestly. I’ve walked farther than that to get home, also at 3am, after secretly spending the night in the library I worked at with a lover. It took about two hours. But there’s walking home on a sickeningly in love high, and then there’s moving house on foot at night, through a choking industrial district, over a long footbridge across the sea in buffeting, town-powering winds, across the whole town, and then through the hellish labyrinth I added to the whole thing to see how far they were willing to go.

Look, they’re my people. I own them. I could build a bus stop by the train station, but I’m not going to. In this town, people arrive when they’re there. Things happen when they happen. We go by the vibes clock.


A group of civilians on the march in Cities: Skylines 2
“That one’s wearing sunglasses.” | Image credit: RPS/Paradox Interactive

As the crowd leaves the station, a lone resident wanders up to welcome them. His name is Ashton Parker. According to the crime panel we only have one criminal, so I assume this is him, inspecting wallets. During their trudge through the industrial area (now hiring! A new life awaits you in the ore stacking colony), a line of cars forms in the opposite direction and I almost choke. Apparently everyone in town who owns a car has frantically sped to the train station because it has a car park, and thus the only parking spots in town. There are no roads that are not pedestrianised, and once parking they, too, will have to make the long walk home. Suddenly I remember that I can go into the train station’s menu and implement a parking fee of $50, to see if they go back to retrieve them. And after watching my new people stoically begin their hell march it occurs to me that it might take an hour even at triple speed. I begin some preparations.

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Through earlier experiments I’d learned that traffic will find a new path if the current one is demolished, even if the only alternative is a gordian bridge-tunnel that spans the entire length of the map. And no, you can’t delete both ends to trap them in a nightmare wheel forever. They disappear. So I reason that my walkers might also submit to such a journey, and begin building a pedestrian road with lots of unnecessary loops, spirals, and tunnels. Meanwhile, another 100 immigrants have arrived behind them. Perhaps Eggtown will just be Like This from now on, with a constant stream of newcomers through the streets like that bit in Shawshank.


A wide view of a town in Cities: Skylines 2 with complex, looping roads and bridges
Image credit: RPS/Paradox Interactive

Pausing briefly to delete a bus stop that some marchers stopped at (“That’s cheating!” I cry, citing a rule that I just made up), I’m impressed that this didn’t faze them. They resume walking, implictly accepting my challenge, making it stranger still that it condemns the surrounding factories. I guess that was a load-bearing bus shelter. Seconds later, a bus drives past, taunting them. The drivers have specific instructions.

Once the marchers reach the bridge, I pause, and delete the end of it before connecting the sadistically long alternative route. Unpausing causes havoc in town, cutting everyone off from most of the industry and, I discover later, adding 240 buses to every route. It is not impossible that I have taken this too far. But whatever, tormenting newcomers is more important than trivialities like an economy.

The hell march continues across the bridge, and I leave them to it while I build a new, even more distant neighbourhood, with an observation tower to inspire and/or menace newcomers. I’m probably not inside that tower, staring down at my increasingly captive town with hateful, insane eyes.

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But alas, during the course of this distant tunneling and levelling and demolishing houses to move people as far as possible from the train station, the crowd of marchers mostly disappears. I can’t tell whether they’ve despawned, changed their mind and gone to work in nearby buildings, or what. I do notice, however, a small throng going towards the station, even though they’re supposedly “moving in”.


People marching through the industrial district at night in Cities: Skylines 2


A large group of people marching along a road by a beach in Cities: Skylines 2

Image credit: RPS/Paradox Interactive

Having damn nearly learned a humbling lesson about not tormenting my people, I set about tormenting my people. The first I single out is young Rusty Parker, who responds to my plan to extend his journey indefinitely by walking all the way back to the station and waiting for a train out of here. No longer are they lining up to join Eggtown, but to leave. Was it the forest fire and tornado simultaneously menacing the path into town? Was it the mayor going mad with power almost immediately? The realisation that we don’t even have any eggs? Well, no. Rusty Parker waits on the platform and rides a train all the way out… and then comes back a few minutes later in a taxi.

I can only admit defeat. My citizens responded to my ever-increasing malice with the drastic collective action technique of ceasing to exist when the boss looks away. I haven’t found their precise limits, as doing so would take longer than I expect to live, but it’s somewhere between “several miles” and “infinity”. I’m actually quite impressed with how far they’re willing to go and the ways they’ll re-evaluate even their current journey, judging by their willingness to retrace their steps and catch a train to another town just so they can use a fucking car. The people, united, will never be defeated. But I will keep trying.

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