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Cities: Skylines: Green Cities - title

In a Nutshell

WHAT I LIKE

  • Can finally manage sewage dumped in still water
  • Can finally place roads and zones while an overlay is open
  • Introduces residential and office specializations
  • Much more reasonable win conditions for scenarios

WHAT I DON'T LIKE

  • Only really helpful for massive cities
  • Makes an already-easy game even easier
  • Scenarios are less interesting
  • Still no AoE tree-planting tool
  • Inclusion of modder packs implies that Colossal Order may be running out of ideas?

Overall Impression : C-
Not as helpful or challenging as it should be

Note: This is a review of expansion content only.
Please click here for my review of the base game.

Cities: Skylines: Green Cities - cover

Developer:
Colossal Order

Publisher:
Paradox Interactive

Platforms:
PC (via Steam)

MSRP: $13USD

Original release date:
19 October 2017

Genre:
city simulation, management

ESRB Rating: N/A,
Cities Skylines base game rated E (for Everybody)

Player(s):
single player

Official site:
www.paradoxplaza.com/

Didn't we just have another Cities Skylines expansion this spring or summer? Yep, we sure did. Mass Transit released only five months earlier (May 18th)! Heck, there was also another, tiny DLC pack released later in the summer as well. I didn't pick up the Concerts DLC. At $7 (more than half the price of a full DLC), I just didn't feel like it was a very good value if all it does is add the ability to make an outdoor concert venue. If the Concerts DLC had been a full-fledged expansion that focused on planning and managing city events, that might actually have been pretty cool. I actually would have been totally on board with a full expansion focused around building arenas, stadiums, convention centers, festival spaces, and so forth; then managing the traffic going into and out of them; and inviting concerts, sporting events, music festivals, trade shows, and maybe even political rallies or the Olympic games to your city. Unfortunately, the scope of Concerts is about the same as the Match Day DLC, which Colossal Order were kind enough to give away for free. Maybe I'll pick up Concerts if it goes on sale for $3 or $4.

Mass Transit, on the other hand, was a full expansion, and might very well have been the best expansion for Skylines to date. While the previous expansions were focused on adding additional flavor and customization to your city, Mass Transit actually took a stab at providing more utilitarian solutions to one of the most endemic problems that your burgeoning cities will inevitably face: traffic congestion. It was pretty successful at that mission.

Cities: Skylines: Green Cities - pollution
Green Cities aims to solve any pollution problems your larger cities may be suffering from.

Green Cities tries to follow suit. Except instead of helping to solve your traffic woes, it offers new tools for addressing the second most significant and intractable problem your cities will ever have: pollution.

I never really had a problem with pollution to begin with

I'll admit that I never really had much of a problem with pollution in my Cities: Skylines cities to begin with. Thus, I haven't really found Green Cities to be as useful as it seems to think it should be. I usually only had a few blocks of default industry in my cities. I usually focus on lumber and farming once they become unlocked, and then go strictly with offices once those are unlocked. And even then, I rarely play a single city long enough to get it up into the millions of population. Maybe at that point, pollution is a critical issue, but for me air pollution has rarely been a problem.

Smaller cities can see some benefit from the inclusion of things like the recycling center, which is available as early as the first milestone. It can apparently replace landfills in very small cities and seems to have less of a ground pollution footprint. I'm a bit annoyed that it doesn't seem to have any visual indicator of how full the building is. It would have been nice to have animations of the building filling up with junk and processing it, but whatever. The "Recycling" policy is still its own thing (and is unlocked a couple milestones later), and I'll admit I'm not sure how (or if) the recycling center building and the recycling policy interact with one another. I guess the recycling center actually acts as garbage storage and converts some trash into consumable goods, whereas the policy only reduces the amount of garbage that the city generates. There's also an "Plastic Recycling" policy that simply improves the efficiency of the recycling center.

Cities: Skylines: Green Cities - recycling center
Recycling centers are available very early as a substitute for landfills.

Water pollution, on the other hand, is always a pretty big deal. Maps that have flowing water such as rivers are usually not a problem, but anytime I have to dump sewage into a lake (or even the ocean), it quickly becomes a cesspool. Up until now, there was virtually nothing that you could do about that. The terraforming patches did add support for canals and outflow pipes, which could be used to sweep some water pollution out to the ocean. But if you were dumping into a lake, you were kind of screwed. The terraforming pack, by the way, was probably the second best DLC to date (after Mass Transit), and it was free!

Now, there's some late-game facilities that can help keep your lakes not-completely-disgusting. There's a sewage pipe that filters pollution before dumping it, and there's a water cleaning structure. I think the cleaner only works with flowing water though, as it seemed to have no effect when I tried putting it in the middle of a lake.

Cities: Skylines: Green Cities - sewage
Sewage can be cleaned up more completely now.

These are nice tools to have, but in the past, I always just accepted that lakes were going to be toilets, that I'd be stuck using water towers for all my water, and I just moved on. The ability to at least partially clean up a lake later in the game isn't really a game-changer for me.

These new facilities are basically just more efficient upgrades over existing infrastructure. The recycling center is the most unique, as it combines the effects of a landfill and the incinerator, minus the pollution. The filtered waste drain is just a less-polluting version of the normal drain pipe, but with half the capacity. There's also some new power plants, but they don't have much new or unique functionality. They don't have any placement restrictions or anything like that; they just generate less pollution. The one new item is a water-based power plant, which could be a good space-saver for island or archipelago cities.

Hippie specializations

The only additions that really feel "new" are the new specialization zones. Your districts can now be given new specializations for residential, commercial, and office zones. Commercial zones can now be specialized as organic, local produce. I would have assumed that such retailers would require that you have lots of farming industry zoned in order to have a source for that local produce, but apparently, these commercial zones generate their own produce to sell (thus eliminating the need for industry). As far as I can tell, having nearby farms does not improve these zones at all, and not having any farms at all doesn't seem to hurt.

Cities: Skylines: Green Cities - residential and commercial specializations
Residences and commercial districts can be specialized to be more self-sufficient.

Residential zones can now also be made self-sufficient. Such residences will have rooftop solar panels and gardens that reduce their energy demands and garbage generation, but at the cost of lower tax revenue.

Cities: Skylines: Green Cities - pool and gym
Community pools and gymnasiums
are both buildings I'd wished for.

New IT Cluster office specializations go the opposite direction, consuming more electricity and generating more tax income. Both these zones tend to generate very tall skyscraper buildings. If you like having a fancy skylines, then these zones will probably appeal to you. I'd have preferred that there be a split between "low density" and "high density" offices, but whatever.

Of course, there's also new parks, leisure buildings, and other service buildings. Pools and gymnasiums have been added -- both of which were items from my first wishlist, so that's nice. Both buildings help improve the health of citizens in the neighborhood, but I'm not sure if they provide any leisure or not. There's also some alternate schools. I'm not sure if they do anything different than the regular schools though, other than that I think they are more eco-friendly.

Cities: Skylines: Green Cities - electric vehicles
Electric cars and buses generate
less noise and pollution.

This expansion also introduces electric cars, which pollute less and generate less noise. In fact, the entire noise pollution mechanic has been overhauled so that it is actually emitted by vehicles rather than being generated by the roads, and different types of vehicles generate different amounts of noise. This might require some adjustments to your city layouts and zoning, and it may improve the usefulness of old policies like the "Heavy Truck Ban". You can set policies requiring your citizens to switch to electric cars, and you can even replace your own bus fleets with eco-buses if you feel so inclined.

I can use overlays now!

The biggest strength of this expansion is the new UI improvements. Much like Mass Transit, Green Cities has some very welcome tweaks to the game's UI and overlays. The most notable is the ability to place roads and zones while UI overlays (such as natural resources, elevation, and pollution) are open. Previously, opening the zoning or road-building tools would close any overlays that were open, and opening an overlay would close any build tools that you had selected. If you were trying to place some farms on fertile land, you'd have to remember where that land was because you'd get kicked out of the overlay as soon as you selected the road or zoning tool. That's been a nagging complaint since day one, and I'm glad to see it finally addressed.

But then again, those UI improvements are probably all part of a patch, and so you get them whether you bought the Green Cities expansion or not. Hooray for free-ridership!

Cities: Skylines: Green Cities - building with overlays
Overlays now stay open when you are zoning or building roads.

It would have been nice to have also been given some more terraforming and decorative tools. For example, I'd really like to have a tool that plants trees in an area of effect -- a "forest tool" -- rather than having to plant each decorative tree individually. It would also be nice to be able to more easily create sheer cliffs.

Less impactful and challenging than it seems

Cities: Skylines: Green Cities - cross walk
It would be nice to be able
to place cross-walks.

In addition to not being impressed with the new content offered by this expansion, I'm also disappointed by the lack of fixes for other problems that I've had for a while. In addition to the aforementioned lack of an AoE tree-planting tool, I'm also frustrated that tram depots still don't act as stops or allow the trams to turn around. And I'm still annoyed that cargo harbors still have obnoxious routing paths that prevent them from being useful on certain maps, and which prevents me from building bridge-less island economies. There's also still no way to manually create cross walks, and no one-way three-land roads, and no way to create merging lanes. And so on...

There is apparently a road-editor now in the asset editor, so maybe I'll have to take a look at that and see if I can address my own complaints.

In the end, I feel a bit underwhelmed by Green Cities. Without any sort of massive overhaul of the pollution mechanics (making it more of a problem earlier in a city's development), pollution still feels trivial to deal with. As such, I'm not getting much use out of the new features. I sure as heck am still using the Mass Transit features all the time! Green Cities just doesn't have the sense of utility that Mass Transit has, and it doesn't have any extra challenge like what Natural Disasters added. It's just a bunch of tools that make an already-easy game even easier.

To that end, I am finding myself trying out more of the game's scenarios. I usually avoided them, as I preferred the sandbox city-building mode. But the lack of any new challenge is, admittedly, starting to make those sandbox cities feel a bit stale. The new expansion does include some new scenarios, and thankfully, most of them have much more reasonable victory conditions. Natural Disasters had some annoying scenarios that required surviving a gauntlet of disasters, after which you simply had to expand to an unreasonably high population size in an otherwise uneventful grind. There's nothing here as ridiculous as Natural Disaster's archipelago tsunami scenario that required you to expand the city to 250 thousand population -- seriously, how do you even have enough physical space for that many people on those tiny, little islands?!. Green Cities' scenarios are thankfully less of a grind to actually complete. The downside is that they're also a lot less interesting (and challenging) than the Natural Disasters scenarios, as the city usually just requires some simple, common-sense infrastructure improvements.

Cities: Skylines: Green Cities - scenario victory conditions
Scenarios are much less of a grind to complete, but are also less interesting overall.

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