Updated: March 24, 2018
Cities: Skylines is one of the rare few new games that I'm super-happy to be playing. I go to sleep thinking about all the fine urban planning I've done, and I'm anxiously waiting to wake up, find some free time and start building and evolving my cities once again. This kind of giddy feeling normally belongs to my distant youthful past, and it's a true testament to how great a computer game can be.
After the amazing SimCity 4, this is the ultimate urban simulation, and it comes with all the right bits and pieces to keep you motivated and engaged. I've happily purchased the After Dark and Snowfall expansions to support the company and have some extra fun - although I normally hate DLC, but when it's done right, it's done right. And just recently, I also bought the Mass Transit DLC. And this is the reason, once again, why we are here, chirping merrily about this fantastic little game.
Urban Jungle is Massive
Mass Transit does not fundamentally alter the gameplay in Cities: Skylines, but hey, the devil is in the detail. The algorithms remain largely the same, the pathfinding is still a bit tricky, but you now have a much wider repertoire of transportation modes and props to enjoy yourself. At a glance, Mass Transit introduces ferries, monorails, cable cars, and blimps, new road types, plus some new landmarks and extra perks. Sounds quite interesting.
If you're familiar with the game, you already know that the bulk of your people will commute by car, followed by buses. Metro is the second preferred option, and trains make more sense with the industry, although you can be quite innovative here. Now, you can add monorail to the equation, which doubles as an overground metro slash decorative refreshment to your cityscape.
Better yet, you now also have combo stations - the international airport already comes with a joint metro stop, and you now have an option to create traffic hubs, both for your residents and your industry. Trains, monorail and buses can all share the same station for quick exchanges and transfers, with the necessary boost in traffic and city growth, of course. This will not radically change your thinking or strategy, but it does look nice and realistic, and in some cases, it might help with the traffic. However, do remember that your citizens, first and foremost, love to walk, and if you give them nice pathways between zones and adjacent areas, they will gladly paddle using their ATP engines. Cycling comes as a second preferred alternative, and you should make use of that, too.
Ferries allow you to shuffle cars and buses across rivers the same way you'd do with road bridges. Not really efficient, but it is kind of nice, especially if you don't want to build huge tunnels or bridges across the bodies of water. Rail traffic is still separate. Cable cars are another novelty, and they can help with elevated terrain that is too steep for regular roads or tracks. They also look posh.
The most obvious addition are blimps - they do create a whole lot of associations, from the Hindenburg disaster to the use of Kirov airships in Red Alert. Essentially, they are unto air what ferries are unto water. Somewhat slow and maybe not quite as efficient as you'd like, but they look spectacular and double as mobile propaganda billboards.
Roads, roads, roads
One of the less noticeable improvements is the four-lane highway, which should help somewhat with intercity connections and reducing traffic jams in between busy neighborhoods. You can now also build asymmetric roads, with two lanes going one way, and the third the opposite, but I have yet to find a legitimate reason to use this arrangement. Still, it's nice and cool, and it does not hurt having the extra variety.
You do gain some on the administrative side - you have a more fine-grained control of what your people and vehicles do and where they go, Cotton Eye Joe, right, extra information views, and it is easier to bulldoze underground without having to worry about ground-level structures and roads.
The rest of it seems to be more or less the same, including the elevation system, which allows to create multiple vertical layers of roads and tracks, although there are only three underground settings. On and off ramps behave as they did in the past, and there does not seem to be any great change in the AI behavior. Emergency vehicles get priority and such, but it's still mostly a feel-good change, as you measure the success of your city in years and decades of progress.
New cities rise!
I decided to start fresh and create a complete new city region, with some wicked, innovative road infrastructure layouts - we will discuss those in a separate guide. The improvements in the overall gameplay are immediately noticeable. It just feels smoother and more refined, and the plethora of new services gives you a good feeling. Like a whole new game really. True, you still invest most of your effort making sure the basic road and rail networks work without problems, but placing the new structures and transit types is really fun. You consciously choose to make your cities prettier, leaving room for hubs and monorail stations and blimp depots. It all adds to the ambiance and the feeling of orderly chaos.
If you do it smartly, then the new venues do help relieve some of the traffic pressure off your junctions and roundabouts. It isn't much, but sometimes, it doesn't take much between a frustrating bottleneck and well-oiled automotive orchestra. We talked about this, but even a single extra car per day you cannot clear through a section of the road amounts to 30 cars, a rather alarming convoy of stalled traffic, at the end of the month. If you're smart, your buses will probably handle 50% of all the public transit, and the remainder will be spread among all other modes. More importantly, this means your road traffic will also be 10-20% less due to all these other vehicles, so you can grow the city with less fear of overcrowding as you hit the high population figures.
But above all, it looks beautiful. Busy, crazy, and if you play organically, you will appreciate the difficulty in maintaining aesthetics against raw functionality. Roads are a bit sterile, but throw in rail tracks, monorail colonnades, and blimp stops, and suddenly, it's a real, living, breathing, pulsating city. A true simulation of urban madness. And in this regard, much like Snowfall and After Dark, you get a genuine revival of fun and excitement. It's so much more than a handful of new props.
Mass Transit is an excellent addition to an already excellent game, adding fresh new possibilities to the sweet concept or urban simulation. It does not detract from the original in any way, and you gain a lot of new stuff that makes it worth replaying old scenarios all over again. The extra transport services alone are more than enough to justify this beefy DLC, but there are also other, less noticeable improvements all over the place, which make Cities: Skylines ever better.
I am very pleased, and I like the trend in the quality and cheerful colorfulness of the game's DLC. Normally, I'm opposed to payment salami tactics, but I have nothing against expansions packs, as long as they bring generous and genuine novelty into the game. So far, I've been three times lucky, with After Dark, Snowfall and now Mass Transit doing a splendid job. Cities: Skylines keeps evolving, and it really is a great title. If you like the genre, look no further. Extremely recommended.