Wot I Think: Cities Skylines – Snowfall

I have been inside a sauna and I believe the health benefits are dubious at best. Snowfall, the latest expansion for Cities: Skylines [official site], disagrees with me. It reckons that saunas are both recreational and restorative, a mix of a clinic and a park. Build one and your citizens will send a flood of smiles bursting out of your city like souls ascending to heaven. I don’t understand why this is. When I sat in a sauna EVERYTHING WAS HOT and the AIR ITSELF WAS HOT and don’t even get me started on the door or the floor or what it was like to even move an inch.

However, this concludes the design disagreements that I have with Snowfall, which I think is a rather lovely and charming addition to Skylines. Let me explain why.

First of all, winter has been turned up to eleven. It’s not so much that winter is coming, more that winter is here right now and it’s left the freezer wide open, made itself a dry martini and is sitting in your favourite armchair, ready to party, shedding snowflakes like dandruff. Snowfall comes with three permanently frozen new maps to play, places where the temperature happily hangs around -20 celsius even during the day. It took me a few minutes before I noticed the subtle new temperature gauge, slipped into the bottom of the UI, quietly hinting that my city needed more electricity and heating.

Heating? Ah yes, it turns out that keeping warm while the flurries fall requires a lot of energy and is a serious drain on your resources, at least until you find a way to pump heat directly into people’s homes. “You can do that?” I hear you ask, incredulous. Why yes indeed, with the new patented HeatPipes, to which your normal underground piping can be upgraded, exactly the way you’d upgrade your roads. Heat requires its own particular flavour of infrastructure and throbs out of the new Boiler Station and Geothermal Plant, with dense downtown areas naturally ending up warmer than rural homesteads where, no kidding, old people can slip on the ice and hurt themselves.

Of course, as mayor, burgomeister, prefect or equivalent, it’s your job to keep your citizens as safe as possible, which includes clearing your streets. These can clog fast when the snow falls and, while ardent motorists can still use all their Baltic brute to push their way through, a depot deploying plows is a good idea. Combine these with a snow dump, which is essentially a gigantic landfill for snowman biomass, and traffic can continue moving at appreciable speeds. If you want to be really helpful about it, you could even lend a hand with city ordinances that promote studded tyres, much as you’ve already made it law for buildings to be thoroughly insulated. Wait, you have done that, haven’t you?

Naturally, all of these things are more fixed considerations in chilly climates than they are in those with variable weather, something that makes Scandinavian settlements a little more challenging to run. Either way, they’re relatively subtle additions that certainly have an impact, but won’t ruin your cities or drastically affect your other priorities. In my complete cluelessness, I was able to fairly effectively run a city on a winter map without proper heating or road clearance for many hours before I realised how unhappy the inhabitants were. How unhappy and cold.

If you’re not quite so interested in legislating your polar people, you can still bring all the fun of Finland to them via a host of new, winter-themed entertainments that suit their tundra. For citizens who just can’t get enough of the cold, there are ice parks, ski slopes, alpine lodges and so much more for them to visit, enjoy and take bescarfed, hot-chocolate-sipping selfies in. There are ski slopes to be raised, Father Christmas waiting to be unlocked and curling rinks to be vigorously, vigorously, *vigorously* rubbed. To balance out the existential horror of the frigid blackness, Snowfall brings Skylines its biggest dosing of fun yet, to the point that I think this might be a little unbalanced. There’s maybe a bit too much fun in here and I would’ve liked more substance and variation. As I said before, winter has come. In a very unsubtle fashion.

And then there’s the trams. If you know Colossal Order, you know they probably did these with one collective hand tied behind their collective back. If you don’t mind squeezing out some of your traffic (and who but the craziest mayor doesn’t?), then you can rake tramlines down one lane of most of your roads, dropping stops like they were yesterday’s fashion and giving your commuters merry, chiming chariots.

Like buses, tram routes can be precisely defined, dragged and dropped, even micromanaged, though they still do a perfectly good job if you prefer a broad and hands-off approach. Just remember to connect the tram lines to a depot somewhere, so the serpentine things can ooze out like a snake from a pipe, before sliding off to swallow some willing passengers.

I’m not yet sure how effective they are versus the other and more established modes of transport, which I’ll need more time to tell, but I already feel like they’re better than buses. Naturally, they’re costlier as they require you to modify roads, but I think the tradeoff is worth it.

If I seem glib and gleeful here, that’s the mood that Snowfall has put me in. It’s appropriately light, pretty and fluffy. It doesn’t represent any sort of dramatic paradigm shift for Skylines, but it adds a light dusting of additional considerations, should you want to handle a winter wonderland. Of course, not every mod piece of custom content that you’ve meticulously selected is necessarily going to function with this new expansion and I should add that I switched them all off before I started on this new, dry run. The biggest drawback to Snowfall, much like After Dark, is that it will probably find a way to clash with one or two of your favourite custom additions. But if you’re a modder, I guess you already live life on the edge.

Otherwise, it’s a charming and worthwhile expansion for what is already an excellent city-builder. I have nothing but warmth for it in my heart.

Oh, and there’s also a curious new theme creator, free to everyone, which allows you to tinker with the world themes, environmental effects and so forth. If you really want, you can make a world where the moon is really big. Hashtag bigmoon. Do it.

Cities Skylines Snowfall is out today for Windows, Mac and Linux. Skylines was one of our favourite games last year, even though our succession diary ended horribly.

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28 Comments

  1. Catchcart says:

    I think the sauna promotion might have something to do with the developer being Finnish :-)

    • Al Bobo says:

      Yes. We finns can appreciate the gentle embrace of warm air of sauna. It cleanses both body and mind so that, when you step out of sauna, you feel refreshed and relaxed.
      That sauna -bashing writer must have been in a sauna that was too hot (80 degrees celsius is perfect, 100 degrees is a bit too hot, but tolerable) and the air humidity was probably too low.
      Oh, and the new addition to the game is nice.

      • Rich says:

        100°C “a bit too hot”! Were you born on the sun?

        • Al Bobo says:

          It may sound alot, but air isn’t as good heat conductor as water and when you stay still in sauna, your body creates a buffer zone of cooler air around your body. If you move your body or blow air on your skin, it will feel much hotter, because the buffer zone is broken.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          100F he means, that’s about 38C. A summer day in a hot country essentially.

          • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

            No he doesn’t, Finland is not in the US.

            80C is normal sauna temperature.

    • Chiron says:

      I expect there to be pop-up Surströmming restaurants showing up then

      • klops says:

        Isn’t that a Swedish thing?

        • Fnord73 says:

          Knowing Finland: Is there a vodka-destillery in there?

        • Xerophyte says:

          It is, yes. The Finns stand alone among the peoples of the north in that they don’t have any form of national fermented fish dish. Weirdos.

          Swedes are also quite fond of saunas though, you’ll find one in pretty much any gym or bathhouse, and several housing coops (including mine) have a communal one for residents. We’re not quite as nutty about them as the Finns, but most people enjoy a good soak every now and then. As was mentioned above, 100 degrees isn’t that bad, but it depends on how much water vapor you add and where you sit. Throwing water on the heater will increase the heat conduction of the air by quite a bit, and the upper levels of the sauna tend to be a lot hotter than the lower ones. You can’t just look at a temperature scale here.

          Also note that one does not eat fermented fish in the sauna. That would be disgusting. There are also no restaurants specializing in fermented fish, in general it is strongly recommended that one does not eat surströmming indoors.

          • gunny1993 says:

            Eating fermented fish is disgusting full stop, i’m sure people only eat it because they either hate themselves, or feel like they have to or else be thrown out of country.

            Kind of like fish and chips in England, ohh yes please I want a delicate meat covered in layers of fat and then salted out of existence.

  2. Gap Gen says:

    I hope geothermal plants are the new answer to the After Dark problem of “oh, solar plants only work at night now” that isn’t “all available water on the map is covered by wind turbines”.

    I also think I might need a better PC to combat the “your city is now 80k people and cars are having to stop to check their road atlases in the middle of the highway because your 9-year-old CPU can’t think that fast” problem. Not that that’s gonna happen for at least another year or so.

  3. Phantasma says:

    Are you sure trams come free with the update? The patch notes would indicate otherwise.

    Which puts me in an awkward position. I’m still feeling very positive towards Skylines, but After Dark was a bit underwhelming and Snowfall doesn’t interest me at all… except for the trams. And i really don’t know if this one feature warrants a purchase at full price.
    I would buy a traffic centric addon in a heartbeat though.

  4. shocked says:

    Perhaps important to note that all other maps are not affected by snow; it’s not an additional option. There are only three snow maps.

    I really liked C:S, but the DLCs were quite disappointing.

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      teije says:

      That’s a good clarification, I was hoping they had added seasons. Probably will still pick this up though, will match the fluffy white stuff outside my window.

    • badmothergamer says:

      “I really liked C:S, but the DLCs were quite disappointing.”

      While I agree this should be clarified. The reason the DLCs are disappointing is because 90% of what would have been included in the DLC was released in a free patch instead. Everyone was excited for After Dark for the day/night cycle, but instead they made that part of the free patch. All you ended up getting by actually purchasing After Dark were some buildings and a few policies. This is why half the Steam reviews for After Dark can be summed up with “This really isn’t worth $15 but I bought it anyway to support the publisher”.

      • shocked says:

        My reason for judging AfterDark as a disappointing DLC is actually that it introduced more problems into the game instead of fixing the old ones or enhancing the game with new meaningful systems.

        We got a day/night-budget, but if for example the night budget for schools is lowered (because we don’t need schools at night) the Cims level down their house over night, because the service is lost to them. And that happens with other services, too. The whole thing doesn’t make sense.

        You can build a prison, but it’s basically useless. Tourism is more or less broken, since you got 200 tourists in a 200k city. With the new commercial zones (tourism and leisure) you can build a city only with hotels and no shops at all and the Cims are still happy and don’t complain.

        And in the base game there were still lots of things to fix: Hospitals are always empty unless you poison the Cims yourself, Crime rates are way too low, the most distant Hearses drive over the whole map to get their coffins… and on and on the list goes.

        I really enjoyed the base game, but AfterDark showed that the underlying simulation is very shallow and it somehow made the game worse (although the night looks great).

        • ludde says:

          Also, the game is incredibly easy. I really miss the challenge Sim City 4 and its predecessors offered me in my youth.

          • rexx.sabotage says:

            GOOD NEWS: You can still enjoy SC4.

            C:S is definitely stupid easy though, it’s systems are game-y and oversimplified to evident borkification. It’s pretty to look at and entertaining but, hardly any kind of simulation. However, if we’re going to talk about city-themed build-em-ups; (the much maligned and woefully unappreciated) SimCity Societies has way more going on in the actual fun department (when it’s not CTDing)

          • ludde says:

            Yes, the old Sim City games still exist, but at some point you want something new.

  5. TheGGamerGuy says:

    I hope there will be some sort of “Disaster DLC” soon.

    • ryryryan says:

      Just ask me to look after your city for an hour, that’s all the Disaster DLC you’ll need.

  6. myfirstme says:

    That’s a really disappointing review. I’d expect from RPS to know a bit what’s going on and the author seems to be happily ignorant. If you have a look at the CS Reddit forum today you’d see threads like:

    The Snowfall DLC should’ve been a part of a larger DLC consisting of ALL dynamic weather
    Snowfall is nice but don’t forget that After Dark is STILL BROKEN

    The Paradox forum is more critical still.

    So there are problems with this DLC and game, namely to a lot of old features still broken, despite promises to fix them. And Snowfall itself is limited and disappointing, no dynamic seasons, snow only on special maps, no real new game play features and what they sell as such (e.g. snowplows) is just re-skinned old features (garbage).

    Add to that the over-reliance on mods to fix the broken and limited game play. They don’t fix issues, they let modders do it (like the Rush hour mod to get different day-night behaviour of cims). It’s great that modders do it, but it’s a shame that so much relies on mods and CO themselves do so little to actually fix things and develop in depth improvements.

  7. Comco says:

    at least until you find a way to pump heat directly into people’s homes. “You can do that?” I hear you ask, incredulous. Why yes indeed, with the new patented HeatPipes

    You [i]do[/i] realise that this is actually a thing, right? :) I’m just a clueless Aussie with no idea what a real winter is (snow? What’s that?) but even I know that many countries in Europe use such infrastructure. It’s known in some places as ‘district heating’ – Wikipedia explains it thusly –

    Over 90% of apartment blocks, more than half of all terraced houses, and the bulk of public buildings and business premises are connected to a district heating network…

    And yes, surprise surprise, they use it in Finland. :)

  8. specialsymbol says:

    The thing is – if you’ve only been to a british sauna, I agree. This is not a place of joy. It’s probably also not healthy.

    For a proper sauna, try Finland, Germany or Austria. Those know how to do it.