Updated: May 6, 2016
Normally, I am against DLC stuff, unless things come packaged as complete expansions, in which case, the extra quiche can be justified. But when developers decide to release roughly 80-90% of new features available in DLC as free upgrades to the existing game, you feel like buying and contributing to help their nice, non-greedy ways. This is the case with Cities: Skylines, a supreme urban simulator that is just getting better and better by the hour.
So we have two new expansion packs, or DLC, if you will. One is After Dark, which introduces a greatly requested daylight cycle into the game, as well as all the pros and cons on having night time descend on your fine city. The second one is Snowfall, and this one brings rain, sleet, blizzard, cold temperatures, ice on the roads, and snowed maps. Sounds like a blast. Let's have a go.
'Tis like a new game
I have to say I was giddy with excitement as I started exploring. So many new options. So many improvements. This game is blooming, growing, expanding, and the logic is quickly catching up with what SimCity 4 offered in its heyday. There are more features, more new buildings and tools and services, and you need to invest more time and energy to make it work. Then, if you take your time planning properly, you will be rewarded with more efficient, more life-like, grand urban projects.
Traffic changes & improvement
You no longer just get roads with decorations. You can now add bicycle lanes and bus lanes, like in real life. There are also cycling routes in addition to pedestrian footpaths, expanding the walking and working range of your citizens. But then, you also get trams! Yay. This is another great feature. The trams have their own tracks, and can run independently, or as part of four-lane road grids, chugging into dedicated depots at the end of the shift. Then, to top it off, you can also use taxis, with large dispatch stations and small, local stops.
When it comes to cargo transport, one of the missing features in the original game was the fact cargo harbors did not have a rail connection. This has been fixed with the new cargo hub, so you can now enjoy larger volumes of goods without silly traffic jams developing near and around your ports. The airplane traffic now also includes a large international airport with its own metro connection. Again, makes absolute sense, and mimics the reality ever more closely.
Loads and loads of new stuff. You have summer and winter parks, you get winter sport facilities, including ice rinks, snow mobile tracks, and ice sculpture exhibitions. Then, for the lovers of water activities, you get restaurant piers, fishing wharves, a marine, and other amazeballs buildings. These help boost the quality of your districts. You also get new special buildings and landmarks, some with a distinct winter theme. On a purely cosmetic side, some of the parks, as well as several other buildings, have been redesigned to take less space, and fit more naturally into the cityscape.
Terraforming - Landscaping
The initial capability is here. You can elevate and lower the ground, you can create elegant paved waterfronts that allow a more logical placement of residential and commercial areas near the water line, and you can also create canals, although I still have not discovered why they might be useful. But wait, we're only warming up [sic].
Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head - and snowflakes too
Weather management is where it really gets interesting. Day/night and freezing temperatures bring their own shenanigans. Normally, you would probably build large solar plants, so your city feeds on clean energy. But come the night, you will lose all the power! So you can no longer just rely on the sun for power production. On the other hand, wind and rain may help generate more power from the turbines. Going nuclear is still your best if costly bet.
Fog, sleet and snow also means worsened road conditions and houses that need heating. No worries, the game has it all. You can create boiler stations or geothermal heating plants, and distribute heating pipes under your city, so the citizens can have warn and fuzzy homes. Alternatively, you can use the cheaper ordinary water pipes, but then use more electricity during winter months. On arctic maps, the heating is a permanent, critical demand, so your power bill will be much higher. You might as well have separate power for your heating stations, to make sure nothing goes wrong.
Roads covered in ice and snow will not be passable by cars, and this means a disruption of your services, city supply, and work commute. You must keep your roads clean, which is why Snowfall introduces road services, with gritters and plows and snow dumps. Once you get really industrious, there's nothing more charming than a bunch of trucks working hard into the cold, snowy night. Do this properly, and your city will prosper. Skimp on the heat and snow management, and your people will freeze.
In the Air Tonight
Well, a DLC isn't just randomly called After Dark if not for some rather important features related to day/night cycles. It's not only about pretty street lights and solar power. After Dark gives you a complete new apre-work experience. Your commercial areas become tourist and leisure centers, no naughtiness or euphemisms intended, where your city folks and visitors can chillax come the evening hours. This also affects your traffic, your services, and all your other utilities. In turn, expect your city to have a completely different vibe and transportation pattern when the colors change toward the lower RGB values. But it makes for some rather pretty scenes.
Night also brings crime in higher percentages than what you see during the day. The schools are closed and the industrial areas largely deserted. There's more chance for traffic accidents and fires, and when it comes to heating, the temperatures will drop, and you will need more power to keep your citizens cozy. In other words, it's a blast of fun and finance.
How does this all come together?
Beautifully. Majestically. Total fun. Chaos that just works. If you thought Cities: Skylines had its challenges, it gets even more interesting now. What kind of roads do you go for? Six lanes with or without buses? Do you let your cyclists pedal alongside your cars, or do you only give them dedicated routes? Should you have trams? They cost money, but they are also quite practical. On the other hand, the tram tracks will often have to cross roads, and that means traffic lights, and that means delays. You will have to position the rail very carefully, and often use one-way tracks to manage the traffic flow correctly. This can minimize the number of intersections so that at least one half of your car flows runs unabated without having to stop at the red light.
The extra cost of additional services means tighter budget, and more rigorous management. I am not bothered, as I often play with unlimited funds, but if you really want to keep it real, your cities will always face grim shortages, always face dire challenges, and you won't be able to provide top-notch, ample services all the time. You will also have to compromise on road quality, the abundance of parks and schools, and you will have higher taxes and more dirty industrial areas than posh hi-tech camps.
But then, you will feel utterly rewarded watching the cyclists and pedestrians and taxis and trams all come together in a hectic orchestra of noise. New music and sound effects add its charm, except the drill-like clutter that drives me insane. When the night settles, the street lights and the buildings come alive with color. Snow covers everything with soft, pristine beauty, and because this is a Finnish game, you will often see Aurora Borealis in the hazy sky above your city. Simple awesome.
Some more super goodness:
While I'm contemplating new articles and guides, all I can say, After Dark and Snowfall totally justify their price tag, and if you're even mildly keen on Cities: Skylines, you should invest a few bobs to help the developers and their amazing projects. Especially, since they gave most of the features as a freebie anyhow. But even without the extra perks, the richness, quality, variety, and usefulness of the new tools, buildings and services are more than just a perfunctory nod at the whole DLC thingie.
Basically, a whole new game. That's the sum of goodness you get here. Childish happiness at discovering new features and conquering the game logic all over again. There's no price tag to that. As the popular theme song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show goes: let's do the time warp again. Yup. A freebie kick back in time, allowing you to experience the magic of city building the way it once was, the way it should be. Really cool. I'm ultra pleased. See ya.