Winter Wonderland or Fiery Apocalypse

Cities Skylines continues to wow the city building world with stunning graphics, addicting gameplay and immense freedom to create the city of your dreams. Created by Colossal Order from Paradox Interactive, the game has been dub the new king of the city building genre by the community and major reviewers such as IGN, Destructroid and The Escapist. Today I’m here to talk about two very popular expansion packs. One involves the wonders of snow while the other involves the destruction of a city. Officially called Snowfall and Natural Disasters, these packs add new mechanics, new buildings, new functions, and overall a new feel of your cities.

Caught in The Eye of The Storm

Lightning Storm
Lightning shall strike the wicket

We start with the Natural Disaster pack as being able to summon the destructive powers of mother nature to destroy your city has been a city building staple since the beginning.  It’s one of many things that made Sim City so popular. Indeed, when your sims start complaining about healthcare and education while your business try to construct a 5-level highway interchange, it’s nice to simply silence them with a twister ripping through the neighborhoods or a meteorite strike at the local hospital or summoning a giant monster to rampage through a street of protesters. (I‘m a nice person in real life) I personally like the summoning of the giant monster. in the early days of Sim City the monster was oh course Godzilla or some mutant lizard version of him while on the SNES if was Bowser which was a nice Easter egg.

in the real world we are all horrified when these disasters occur but in Sim City causing these disasters was an absolute joy. Cities Skylines’ Natural Disasters DLC in that regard, carries a similar tone. You can summon disasters at will or wait for them to occur randomly. The pack comes with the usual favorites like lightning storms, forest fires, earthquakes, twisters, meteorite strikes, and tsunami. Sadly, there’s no alien attack or giant monster summoning but a good selection none the less.

Cretor Mountain
Meteorite Strikes mountain

Each disaster when selected has a charging phase that allows you to accurately target specific locations for example a hospital, a school, a neighborhood, or a dam (I swear I’m a nice person in real life and don’t hate people this degree). Once charged and targeted, the new emergency broadcasting system will announce the approaching disaster allow citizens to take cover and seek shelter. When the disaster strikes, we’re given a cinematic spectacle of our precious city getting destroy with us the omnipotent overseers sporting a sinister smile and laughing with evil glee (ok so maybe I do enjoy this a little more than most but it’s still fun to watch). Regardless, the game does a superb job of visually showing the chaos these disasters cause. Twisters pick up cars, people, and buildings, meteorites hit ground with a nuclear level explosion that craters the earth and spreading wildfires for miles. Even the lightning storm look epic with the heavens unleashing a spectacular concert of lightning and thunder that can set fire to buildings, power lines, and forest. The flooding and tsunami disaster are my favorite however.

Direct Hit
Dam has been hit by meteorite

Flooding could actually be done without buying the disaster DLC simply by terraforming a nearby body of water. This will always cause some flooding in your city whether on purpose or unintentional. You could deep in the creation of new beach front property or extending some land for a lake district only to realize that nearby a neighborhood is suddenly 5ft deep in water. Floods are slow and surprisingly devastating as prolong flooding will change the land and cause buildings to become abandon or collapse. Also, the water doesn’t recede quickly and can  become struck in one place if the terrain doesn’t allow it to flow.

With the disaster pack, floods now have their bigger brother the tsunami to join in on the chaos. Tsunamis are by far the most dramatic disaster to trigger and overall steals the show in terms of presence, lasting devastation, and truly unstoppable might. Like floods tsunamis are slow moving disasters can to seen coming towards your city from off shore. The wave looks epic and when it reaches shore it rises up to consume all causing massive flooding across the  entire district until all its energy has dissipated. The devastation left behind is brutal. Entire neighborhoods wiped out and roads littered with debris. As horrible as it is to compare, the devastation look very similar to the real-world aftermath of a tsunami. This comparison hold true for all the disasters with the exception of the meteorite strike as the resulting ash from the impact would blacking the skies and bring forth a sudden winter for serial months of not years. Regardless these disasters and the devastation they cause is spectator.

There is however another side to this pack in which you can save and protect. The DLC also comes with disaster counter measure like emergency broadcast radio towers, lightning rods, wave detection buoys, advance meteor detention satellites, and a disaster relief center. There are also city bunkers where citizens can evacuate to when a disaster occur that will guarantee their safety. These counter measure however are not cheap and don’t guarantee absolute security from disasters but with them in place you can at least guarantee a majority of your population will be spared.

This becomes crucial when playing the new scenario modes where you are giving a limited amount of time to grow your city while being bombarded by a number of disasters. This for me however this is where the DLC falls apart. For starters the goals for these scenarios are too ambitious, reach 65,000 population in 350 game weeks or around 4 hours while protecting your city from flooding as the dam above it is constantly being threaten by meteorite strikes. Another scenario is to achieve over 200,000 commutes in public transport while under the threat of meteors and forest fires.

Scenario Losed
Tsunami wins

These goals are too extreme. Growing a populace in Skylines has always being a difficult task as it’s very vary on what actually needs to be doing to grow the population. not to mention that the devastation these disasters leave behind can really cut your income down to zero in just a few minutes. This is another instant where if the goals were instead cut in half things would be much more doable. Instead of 65,000 population or 250,000 it’s 35,000 and 125,000 population in 350 game weeks or about 10 years. The other problem with these scenarios is that players can’t really enjoy watching the devastation unfold as any interruptions in services or the ability for your cims to get to work will cause massive drops in the cities overall economy. This loss in economy will eat up your money faster than a twister eats up a neighborhood of houses. If you run out of money in any of the scenarios , it’s game over everything time despite the game actually giving you a bailout loan when your city goes into debt. You can release your cims early the moment the disasters over and simply bulldoze the wreckage away to allow new construction to happen more quickly however doing so could result even more loss of life and more importantly an even greater lost in money as Cims may be trap within the wreckage.

In the case of flooding where the waters can still be flooding your streets even after the dam has been rebuilt or in the case of the tsunami disaster, where you could hit twice in the course of ten minutes. It becomes impossible to protect your city while maintain a stable economy. A solution to this could be to put forth a disaster relief fund similar to the real world where a lump sum of money is giving to you to aid and rebuilding your populace and economy. $200,000 is a good start which seems like a lot but actually is a good blanket to be given especially when having to replace something very expensive like a dam which can cost from $80,000 to $200,000. The relief center does allow you to rebuild service buildings such as police station, health clinics, and schools at a minimal cost and there are policies that you can select to speed up the recovery process however as with all the policies in Skylines, these options can get expensive really quick which at the beginning of a scenario when you only have $80,000 to play with and an incoming profit of just $500 these policies are just out of the question.

The balance between wanting to cause chaos and wanting to prevent it is not well thoughts out and can really only be enjoy if your city has millions of dollars to spends and you have a robust disaster relief program. Still for the casual user and those who want to lay waste to their populace, this is not a bad expansion. Just know you will be doing a lot of trial and error to complete the scenarios.

Walking in a Wonder Winter land

It's Cold Outside
Cities Skylines city in the snow

On the flip side of things, we have the Snowfall DLC which transforms your cities in winter paradise of snow, ice, and fidget temperatures. Overall the reviews of this DLC have been not good often referred to as “a waste of time” “a pointless means to get trams”  and I admit Colossal Order should have put the Trams or light rail in their Mass Transit DLC since that’s the propose of a light rail network. Another big complaint is that the snow only works on the snow theme maps it provides meaning your previously saved cities can’t now have snow in December. Still, this DLC is far from pointless or a waste of time.

Winter is a surprisingly unique season that happens on this planet we call earth. Incredibly 46% of the world’s population have never seen snow or experience temperatures below 30⁰ it’s also alarming how cold can have a huge impact on a region from bring entire states and countries to a standstill, to causing entire species to migrate yearly to warmer climates.

UNCA campus covered in snow

Still there is something inherently beautiful about watching the first snowfall of the season. There is also inherent beauty when walking outside and viewing the snow’s rather the artistic covering of trees, cars, houses and roads. Even the sky itself has a different looks after a snowfall with very bright blues mid day and a golden glow during sunrise and sunset. Night time can be a bit eerie due to the reflective properties of snow. Midnight can appear to the eyes to have a more dusk look with the ground brightly lit and crystal clear skies. Lastly there is the eerie stillness that comes due to again snow’s unique properties as it insulates everything it cover allowing you to hear things you couldn’t hear before like a distance creek or the fluttering of bird wings above. All these things are captured within this DLC making these more of an aesthetics add on rather than a functional one. Yes, fundamentally all this DLC does is turns your cities in snow cover cities however it does so while capturing the aesthetics of a winter wonderland.

When the snowfall it feels eloquently beautiful and majestic to watch. The houses and buildings are covered in this artistic blanket that simplifies their overall shapes. The road can become icy slowing traffic. Temperature can drop into the negatives and when it does, the visuals psychologically make the player feel cold which is an achievement in itself. I love games that can make you feel a curtain way just from the visual alone. The Last Guardian did a great job of conveying a sense of scale and frailness. GTV 5 maybe the most realistic portrait of an urban environment. Skylines’ Snowfall DLC does an incredible job of conveying the winter season.

Cold Chilly Night
Cold Chilly Night

Like the Natural Disaster pack, Snowfall offers new mechanics, new buildings, and new ways of playing. Firstly, the dealing of icy roads is handle with snowplows, snow collection dumps, and the policies to allow studded tires and more ice resistance roadways. Another addon is the ability to give your Cims warmth with the help of either geothermal heating or stream boiling  stations. Both will pump a steady supply of warming heat to the neighborhood via heated pipes which are another addon from the pack. There is also a sauna and spa facility, a ton of snow themed parks and rec lots, and new policies to either allow your citizens the use of electric heating or stream power. Stream power will cut power consumption down considerably doing cold temperatures. Sadly, there is no blizzard disaster or the ability to cause an avalanche on a mountain slope. Also, missing are snow scenarios to challenge your winter building abilities.

Cozy campfire in the snow
Cozy campfire in the snow

Overall this to me is a more complete addon than Natural Disasters and while it is still a bumber it only applies to winter theme maps; the Skyline community has created serial maps to download that allow you to still enjoy it. Aspen River from creator MrMiyagi is a great map that adds mountain ranges, a majestic river, and a very rich forest back drop giving the whole map a very northern territory feel. Winterlust by creator hadece is another great mountainous map to download and build on.

Once you have a map, city building remains the same although is harder to see the effects of pollution due to the ground having an all-white color scheme. if there is any challenge to city building in the snow it’s finance. Colder temperatures mean more Cims will be using more power to keep their homes warm which mean more demand on your power stations. If possible upgrade the pipe system to provide heating as soon as possible to lower the electric bill.

It is worth noting that you can combine the two DLC so you could have winter twisters, bone chilling tsunamis, and fiery meteorite strikes. It’s also worth noting that the Cities Radio station from the CSM Mod is a fantastic station to listen to while building in the snow. It’s mix of old school R&B, Rock N Roll, and battle theme orchestra works surprisingly well with the scenery especially the Rock N Roll. It may be cold outside but that doesn’t mean we can’t rock it loud and proud.

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