Cities: Skylines


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Complete Review & Description

Snowfall is the second expansion to Cities Skylines, the immensely popular city-builder from Colossal Order and Paradox Interactive. Like the first expansion, After Dark, Snowfall brings new environmental challenges to the game, but whether these prove to be welcome ones, or just plain frustrating, will depend on your mastery of the core game, your play style, and frankly, your level of masochism.
As the title might suggest, Snowfall introduces a winter setting to the game – specifically, three new winter-themed maps that bring with them everlasting snows, blizzards, and fluctuating temperatures that will send your power supply into the red as citizens crank up the heat. Along with many cosmetic changes, Snowfall brings with it new objects, overlays, and city policies to help you deal with these fluctuations.

The three new maps (depicting snowy coastal, river, and island settings) are the only way to get the the full winter experience, so if you’ve got a megalopolis in progress, unfortunately you’ll have to start over with a new city. Alternatively, you could get your hands dirty with the new theme editor, which lets you play with custom textures, colours and weather conditions. (The details of which are, sadly, outside the scope of this review.)
Snowed-in towns look pretty amazing, thanks to the new winter theme that depicts just about every object dusted in snow. Combined with the recent (free) day/night cycle update, it creates a stark sense of isolation when night falls and your snowbound city’s streetlights start to glow faintly in the gloom.
But prettiness aside, the main challenge of Snowfall is to ensure your infrastructure can keep up with the city’s demands for heating, as the mercury dips and rises. There’s a new temperature gauge that tells you just how freezing your city is, and, as you’d expect, this temperature fluctuates with the weather. While the unpredictability of this made for some challenging times, I found myself wishing for some sort of weather forecast to give me a bit of a heads-up, rather than having to react to each energy crisis wave as it came through.

In addition to wreaking havoc with your power grid, Snowfall introduces new city policies to help keep people warm (such as extra insulation, or a ban on using electricity for heat, forcing people to use city-provided heating services). Snow ploughs can be employed to keep your streets clean and free of ice, and the new (much anticipated) all-weather tram system can help get your citizens to work on time.
In these wintry maps, winter is endless, with no spring in sight, which also makes for a bit of a relentless feeling to the expansion. The inclusion of new winter-based parks, like the hockey stadium, and ski lodges do provide some extra happiness on the winter maps, and well, everyone loves a good sauna.
As much as I did enjoy this new strategic element to the game, there was no shortage of frustration as well. In my opinion, the snowfall animation doesn’t combine particularly well with the day/night cycle, often resulting in blizzardy nights where I couldn’t see much at all. Despite the fact that at night the mouse pointer now illuminates everything it touches, I still found myself just sitting around, waiting for either the storm to finish, or the sun to rise. That said, you can easily turn off the day/night cycle, as well as change the mouse lighting intensity, or even, if you don’t like the challenge of the winter surges, turn off dynamic weather until you’re ready for it.

Essentially, Snowfall represents a good challenge for experienced players, but I suspect the additional pressures would be overwhelming for someone just getting their feet wet with the game – especially if you’ve got After Dark or the day/night update installed. If you’re new to the game, or just coming back to it, I’d suggest switching off the expansion features, or to play another map for a while.
That said, Snowfall’s currently selling for $15.99 NZD on Steam right now, which strikes me as incredibly good value, and a good way to say thanks again to the developers who have done, and continue to do, such a great job with this title – especially with their support for modders. For me, Snowfall will definitely be sticking around on my PC, but more as a feature I’ll dip into from time to time, rather than a permanent installation.



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