I wouldn't call myself a hardcore gamer. I enjoy platformers, roguelikes, and cooperative games. I'll happily dive into a role-playing game if its story captivates me. But I staunchly stick to gaming on a PC for one and only one reason: to play the epic city-building simulator Cities: Skylines. Over the course of 46 hours with the new sequel, I've established no fewer than a dozen cities, managed roads horrendously, and spawned complete industrial pollution. But I've enjoyed every minute of the process.

So, if you're anything like me—interested in city infrastructure and whether you can manage it yourself, with meticulously simulated traffic and weather conditions, residential districts, and their ubiquitous social media feeds with plenty of feedback on your work—this game is for you. It's like SimCity on steroids: a wonder simulator, even without community mods that are sure to follow its release.

Grid (still) reigns supreme If you've ever played a city simulator, you know that well-thought-out roads are the key to a functional city, just like in real life. To my delight, C:SII simplifies the creation and customization of roads, especially when they're laid out in grids and parallels.

Meticulously simulated roads in Cities: Skylines II. Paradox Interactive The grid mode allows you to quickly design infrastructure little different from Manhattan's, and new roundabouts can mimic the system of diagonal quadrants as seen in Washington, D.C. To my great dismay, my attempts to allow roads to grow more organically toward the city center, as seen in Western European cities, ended up with less space and some awkward gaps between buildings. Despite the game being developed by Finnish developer Colossal Order, its mechanics push you towards North American block-style cities.

To delve even further into the madness, I have no idea how to manage traffic, no matter which map I try to use. Aside from planting trees to combat noise pollution, I've only just begun to dabble in the customizable traffic features.

Five times the playing area, five times the chaos I've built small cities on each of the ten new maps, increasing the population to roughly 10,000 people. If you're anything like me, you tend to create cities again and again until you're satisfied with the initial layout and its growth potential. In C:SII, it feels like boundless possibilities with significantly expanded gameplay space.

Take control of a complex and intertwined system. Paradox Interactive Each map has a different landscape, but they're all mind-boggling. The starting area is smaller than in the original game, but you can start purchasing more tiles once you earn money. I'm particularly interested in the Archipelago Haven and Mountain Village cities, mainly because I've spent time on real islands and dreamt of mountain living. Building an archipelago was especially enjoyable, as over time, you can connect isolated islands, purchasing non-adjacent tiles.

The devil is in the details One thing that, as I perceive, was missing in the original game is a brush tool for zoning. C:SII replaces it with a "click and set" node system, making it impossible to overlap zones. Instead, the ability to allocate objects to zones creates a more realistic challenge as you manage resources and ensure your citizens have access to services at a reasonable distance from their residences.

Increase the scale to see tiny people going about their business. Paradox Interactive But despite all its enhanced systems, Cities: Skylines II has caused the most buzz around its demanding, impeccable graphics. For the sake of my outdated computer, I began the game with the lowest quality settings. I can tell you it still looks magnificent. Water seems more watery due to the way it glistens. The weather details are stunning. When I truly want to scrutinize the details of the archipelagic nightmare I'm creating, I use the cinematic camera mode to zoom in on buildings and cars. At this point, I'm seriously considering upgrading my computer to see just what this game is capable of. Who knows, maybe I'll need a more powerful rig.

Meanwhile, you can watch as I plant trees along highways, whose traffic mimics the flow on the I-395 stretch in Northern Virginia leading into D.C., while I settle into my second full-time job managing virtual traffic.