What better way to escape the freezing February temperatures and the winter blues than by building your own little paradise in Cities: Skylines? Well, maybe the fast dropping snowflakes that make up Snowfall, the latest add-on for GameWatcher’s 2015 Game of the Year, aren’t the best escape from winter weather, but is this expansion a worthy addition to the excellent city-builder?
Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
Snowfall is snow big deal.
Subscribe to GameWatcher YouTube Channel for our latest upcoming PC video features!
Snowfall’s most obvious new additions are its winter-themed maps. Three snowy locales are included, and the in-game map editor has naturally been updated to allow users to build more. In addition to offering visual variety, these maps add some gameplay considerations, as well. When bad weather hits snow will start accumulating on the roads, forcing you to send out snowplows to keep the roads safe. A heavily-dusted road will slow down traffic and thus add to congestion. These plows are sent out from “snow dumps,” which are are essentially identical to landfills, except that their contents will eventually melt away.
As a visual effect, the snow’s quite wonderful, and watching it accumulate on cars and buildings adds some much-needed visual variety to the base game, and the calculations used for accumulation mean that it should also apply to modded buildings and custom objects. But the snow’s actual impact on your city’s management is minimal. The snow dumps take care of everything, have a massive range of influence, and are very inexpensive, meaning that winter road maintenance is just a matter of plopping one down and forgetting about it.
The snowfall on these winter wonderlands is a really beautiful effect
The winter maps also have unique landmarks, like high class spas and giant Christmas trees, and again, these offer welcome aesthetic options but nothing meaningful to the game itself. The same goes for the new parks and plaza options, which include things like skating rinks and snowmobile tracks. The only other consideration for winter cities are a couple of related policies, like enforcing studded tires or requiring the elderly to wear cleats so they don’t slip and hurt themselves.
The remainder of Snowfall’s content applies to every map type. The first thing you’ll notice is a thermometer at the bottom of the screen. Heating is now a consideration for your infrastructure, and while the need is greater on winter maps, it applies to all your cities. If you load up a pre-expansion city, the most apparent effect is a substantially increased need for power as the temperature falls. You can compensate for this either by increasing your power output, or upgrading your water distribution system to pipe heating alongside sewage. This is a thankfully simple matter of using an upgrade tool like the one used for roads and connecting a heating station, which come in both polluting and more expensive green varieties. A few policies have been added in relation to heat, such as adding extra insulation to the building codes and determining whether your citizens should focus on using electricity or water-based heating systems in their homes.
The other big new feature is the tram system, which fits alongside buses, trains, and other forms of public transport. Two and four-lane roads can both be upgraded to include tram tracks, which function pretty similarly to your previous public transportation options. Plop a tram station, designate a line, and you’re ready to go. The trams are effective, but they’re only a minor planning variation versus, say, buses. Still, if you want to build out downtown San Francisco, your recreation can now be a little more accurate.
I have no idea how you do it in Europe, but city-built underground water heating is completely insane to this American
All cities also get a new option that sits alongside the snow dump in the new road condition tab: a road maintenance depot. These buildings will send out road crews to generally improve the conditions, allowing traffic to move at a faster speed. There’s also a new sauna building under the healthcare tab, which gives a minor boost to wellness in the immediate vicinity. Oh, and there are new hats for Chirpy. (Yay?)
All of these additions are improvements to the core game, but they’re very, very minor ones. Trams are a fun extra transport option. Road maintenance is a useful boost to traffic speeds. It’s nice to have more general wellness improvement options. But I wasn’t missing any of these things when I played vanilla Skylines, and their benefits are trivial. And the new heating system really just adds a bit of expense to your overall city budget, and the single strategic choice on how to pay for that expense isn’t really compelling.
It’s maybe telling that the free addition to this screen is way more exciting than anything in the paid expansion
The winter cities are a more interesting addition, but the visual flair they add is just that–visual. The new weather system is neat, and watching the snow accumulate and get swept away by road crews is a fun little diversion, but it really just served to make me wish that seasons had been incorporated as a more extensive feature. Having a full seasonal rotation in every city would’ve added far more depth to both the heating and weather systems, and would have made long strides toward making this a more compelling package.
Launching alongside the expansion is a free update for all players that includes (purely visual) rain and fog effects in all cities, a much welcome expansion to the public transportation interface, and a new theme editor that will allow players to recolor and retexture their maps. The public transport tab in particular is an incredibly useful addition, and a far more compelling one than most of the content in the paid expansion. You may have heard that the expansion would introduce some compatibility issues with certain mods, but I didn’t run into any technical issues while playing - though, to be fair, I run a lightly modded game. Your mileage may vary, but Paradox is working closely with modders to make the transition smooth.
Cities: Skylines – Snowfall can be purchased from Games Republic for £9.99.
CITIES: SKYLINES - SNOWFALL VERDICT
Every addition that Snowfall makes is fun and adds a bit of variety to your city-building. But those additions are few, and even the more sweeping systems like road condition and heating don’t add any long-term strategic considerations to the game. Even the new winter cities are a mostly visual change. It’s tough to recommend dropping money on such an insubstantial expansion.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Watching the snow fall while shivering in my home office. It’s too real, man!
Snow looks great!
Trams, spas, and road maintenance all add a bit of variety