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Cities: Skylines: Parklife - title

In a Nutshell


  • Utilizes otherwise wasted space
  • Environment is more relevant
  • Placing buildings away from roads
  • Parks utilize modular design
  • Lots of decorative options and opportunities for player expression
  • Tourism actually does something


  • Still no beaches or ski resorts
  • Legacy parks aren't "park areas"
  • Park leveling "mini game" is shallow
  • Can't zoom in close enough
  • No new scenarios?

Overall Impression : B-
Parks are fun and expressive, but not a strict upgrade

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

Cities: Skylines: Parklife - cover

Colossal Order

Paradox Interactive

PC (via Steam)


Original release date:
24 May 2018

city simulation, management

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

single player

Official site:

Parklife is perhaps the single Cities: Skylines expansion that I have most looked forward to. That is because the focus of the expansion seems to be pulled almost verbatim from my own "Great Outdoors" wishlist. I'm not going to take credit for having designed this expansion for Colossal Order, because I posted that wishlist in February, and the game is releasing in May, so unless Colossal Order is supernaturally efficient at creating expansions, there simply wasn't enough time for them to design and implement Parklife after reading that wishlist. It seems like someone in Skylines design is thinking along the same wavelength as me. But who knows? Maybe somebody did see my wishlist and incorporate some elements of my ideas into the development in progress? It's certainly one heck of a coincidence!

Cities: Skylines - amusement park mods
Much of Parklife's content seems inspired by mods.

In any case, it should seem pretty obvious that I'm pleased to see this expansion incorporate so many of my own ideas and suggestions. While Parklife still isn't going to offer the same degree of freedom and creativity that you can get from mods, having these more free-form park-creation and decorative tools should be a welcome addition for anybody who enjoys adding a little more personal flavor to their city. And honestly, is there anyone playing a city-builder who doesn't enjoy making their city look pretty?

A walk in the park

One of the strengths of Cities: Skylines has always been the way that the game utilizes its space and the natural environment. The mechanical limitations of the terraforming tools means that you rarely (if ever) have the money and terrain available to make wholesale changes to the geography of the map. Even if you have a billion dollars saved up in your city's coffers, the fact that every cubic meter of dirt that you excavate has to go somewhere, and every cubic meter of dirt that you dump has to come from somewhere, means that you can only do so much to modify the map. Starting out with a limited budget, small pool of unlocked buildings, and a relatively small plot of land means that young cities often have to work around environmental and natural obstacles, which made those obstacles part of the character of your city. Well now you can actually formally use those obstacles.

Cities: Skylines - resource options
I now have a more meaningful choice of how to utilize this resource-rich mountain.

Parklife allows you to leverage these features of your landscape as part of your city-beautification plans. That mountain that is too big to level, and too steep to realistically build on, can now be turned into a massive park, complete with hiking trails, lookout points, and so forth. If that mountain also happens to have ore or oil resources under it, then now I suddenly have some meaningful choices to make on how to effectively utilize the resources. What used to be a near-obvious matter of "build some mines" actually has some viable alternatives.

Sure, you were always able to place walking paths in places like that, but the game (and the citizens of your city) never really recognized it as a place they can go for leisure and entertainment. If they didn't have to go to work on the other side of that mountain, they simply wouldn't walk those trails. No matter how beautiful you would make it, that mountain-side hiking trail was always little more than useless dead space.

Cities: Skylines - nature preserve
Areas that used to be dead space that was impractical for construction can now be utilized.

That's no longer the case. Every last square meter of your city can now be turned into useful park space if you feel so inclined.

Legacy parks are not "parks"?

Well, almost every square meter. The paintable parks are hampered by Skylines somewhat awkward district-painting mechanics. Park areas are not technically districts -- they occupy their own layer and can overlap with other districts. They use the same district-painting mechanic, however, and are subject to the same problems and annoyances. District-painting has just never been particularly precise, nor has it ever been easy to make certain types of shapes with it. Unlike a game like Cities XL (which lets you fill any empty space of any size and shape with "decorative landscaping"), Parklife pretty much only works for large, broad park areas. This mechanic is intended for use with large, Central Park-like facilities, not your friendly neighborhood dog park or alleyway between office complexes.

Frustratingly, the legacy ploppable parks and plazas aren't well integrated into the new systems, nor are any of the other leisure buildings like the restaurant pier or landmarks. Perhaps this has something to do with accommodating vanilla players or the compatibility of save files, but it really sucks that the classic playgrounds and dog parks that were already in the game cannot be freely placed within painted park areas. They still need to be connected to roads (rather than paths), and so you can't place the legacy prefab Large Playground as the centerpiece of a large park that uses a network of interconnected footpaths, nor can I place Snowfall's Sleigh Ride inside of a walled-off winter city's amusement park. Of course, it only took a day or two for there to be a mod for that. You also can't place ploppables or zones at the end of a road or path (only along its sides), which is something that has always annoyed me with Skylines.

Legacy ploppable parks don't attach to park area paths, and the painting tool can be imprecise.

Parklife tries to make up for this (somewhat) by offering props as ploppable objects such as park benches, carousels, fountains, statues, out houses, and so forth. These are objects that used to only be available in the asset editor, but now you can freely place them in your park areas.

As you might expect, plopping every single, individual decorative prop adds a lot of overhead to park-creation. Trying to create custom plazas with the included ground tiles, placing rows of hedges or flower beds, and placing trees and foliage one unit at a time are all much more cumbersome than they need to be. Having some of the fill tools from Cities XL for placing ground textures, an area-of-effect tree-planting brush, and a line tool (similar to fences and walls) for placing hedge rows, would go a long way toward alleviating some of this tedious busy-work. The fact that the camera isn't capable of zooming in close enough to get a good look at what you're placing certainly doesn't help.

Cities: Skylines - park decorations
You can make some really pretty parks. If only the camera could get close enough to get a good look at them.

Nevertheless, I'm finding myself spending way more time than I probably should spend on customizing and decorating my parks. I always liked placing winding footpaths and bicycle paths in open spaces of my cities, but now I'm also turning those spaces into parks and filling them with benches, lamp posts, playgrounds, camp sites, and so forth. I'm even spending inordinate amounts of time and effort on turning those small, open spaces between shops or offices into pretty little plazas or courtyards, complete with food trucks, fountains, and tables. Sadly, none of this stuff ever actually seems to get used. The food truck props (for example) don't actually sell food or provide employment, nor do people ever walk up to use them in any way.

Not a tycoon game

Parks can level up to increase their attractiveness and income. Leveling up is based on cumulative visitors, and by a measure of their "entertainment value". Entertainment is determined by the amount and variety of features within the park, whether that be exhibits in the zoo, rides in the amusement park, or decorations and landmarks in a park. I was expecting to see some kind of "natural beauty" overlay, but as far as I can tell, there's no such thing. So the quality of a park or nature preserve seems to be purely a function of what you put in it. Decorative landscaping props (such as rock formations and trees) do contribute, but maps are lacking any truly unique or spectacular landscape features. There's no water falls, or ponds, or lakes, or geysers, or hot springs, or tar pits, or rock arches, or anything like that. There's just some large rock formations and some caves (which, as far as I can tell, citizens can't even go into).

Parks level up based on cumulative visitors and variety of buildings, rather than by being robust or functional.

Each level unlocks two or three new structures that you can put in that park, and you pretty much have to put all two or three of them in the park in order to upgrade its "Entertainment" score to the threshold of the next level. Then you just sit back and wait for enough visitors to show up. You can mix-and-match components from different park types (putting nature preserve camp grounds in your zoo, for instance), but only if you've already unlocked those components by upgrading that type of park within the same city.

Just as I couldn't expect Match Day to have any sort of robust team-management comparable to a game like FIFA or Madden, I wasn't really expecting Parklife's parks to play out like Roller Coaster Tycoon. That being said, if Colossal Order was going to attach a mini-game to upgrading your parks, I do wish that the advancement of the parks would be more dependent on having a robust, varied, and functional set of attractions, facilities, services, and so on.

Maybe having multiple tiers for certain types of facilities could have helped, so that improving the quality of restroom facilities, food services, information booths / visitor centers, and the navigability of your paths could have all contributed towards the advancement of the park. For example, level 1 parks could have only been given access low-cost, low-upkeep, and low-quality facilities like porta-potties / outhouses, food trucks, simple information booths or signs, and unpaved foot paths. Then at higher levels, you would unlock higher-cost, higher-upkeep, higher-quality restrooms with plumbing (requiring a connection to your water network), cafes and restaurants, visitor centers, and paths that are paved, decorated, and lit. These facilities would serve as upgrades to the lower-level infrastructure, rather than simply being new buildings that you add to the park area.

Cities: Skylines - scenarios
Not a single new scenario?

To go alongside the nearly structure-less mechanics for leveling your parks, there is the surprising fact that this Parklife is the first expansion (since the introduction of scenarios) that does not include a single new scenario. No scenario asking you to beautify a downtrodden metropolis. No scenario to make a hemorrhaging zoo or amusement park profitable. No scenario to take a vast stretch of rugged wilderness, and turn it into a national park to make Teddy Roosevelt proud. Nothing.

Touring your cities, new and old

If you want a self-imposed challenge, I guess what you can do (instead of a scenario) is go back to your old city save files and convert all your dead space and walking paths into proper park areas. Doing so can grant several rewards, such as increased land value and citizen satisfaction. Trees also now properly act to block noise pollution, which can further help alleviate problems with older, large cities. I feel like this is the second or third time that we've been told that trees will reduce noise pollution. Wasn't that supposed to be a feature of Green Cities?

Cities: Skylines - mountain hike
Citizens and tourists will take walking tours.

Once you have pretty new parks (whether in an old city or a newly-built one), you can charge an entry fee. It's not going to generate a ton of money, but it can help in the unlikely event that you have any cities that are struggling to pay off bonds or keep their services fully funded.

You can also set up sightseeing tours for tourists to follow. Special tour buses can be used to guide people to points of interest, and these can be seamlessly integrated with walking paths and hiking trails to make sure that tourists can visit all the most interesting and beautiful nooks and crannies of your city. Just be careful that you don't make a walking path or nature hike that is too long, as the people of Skylines don't seem to have the stamina to walk around all day. There's no back-country backpacking in this game.

It can actually be very rewarding to see your tourist attractions suddenly bristling with activity, implying that the little simulated people of the game think that your city is just as beautiful as you imagine it to be. It will also be literally rewarding, as tourism will earn additional revenue for your city.

Cities: Skylines - long hiking path
This hike up to the mountain look-out point was apparently too long for my lazy tourists.

More flavorful, personalized cities

I've been seeing a recurring pattern with Skylines expansions, in which the expansion always seems to be missing some sort of seemingly-obvious thematic content that leaves me wanting for more. After Dark's focus was nightclubs, but it also featured new tourism mechanics, the day/night cycle, and a series of coastal entertainment buildings, but it didn't include the ability to zone public beaches. Oh, and the fact that schools and other city services continue to operate at night means that those fancy day/night budget sliders feel completely pointless. Then Snowfall came out and included winter themes, but no actual seasonal cycle, and no proper ski resorts, and hardly any of the expansion's new features were at all relevant to non-winter cities.

Natural Disasters was probably the most "complete" and well-rounded expansion, but still lacked any winter-specific disasters to go along with Snowfall. Then Mass Transit brought the long-overdue ferry transit options, but didn't revise harbors or add any water-based emergency services (such as a coast guard), so you still need a network of bridges for freight and emergency services to function. Lastly, Green Cities was focused around pollution management, but pollution has never really been that big a problem in Skylines, and Green Cities didn't do anything to make the player really need to use those new pollution-managing features. It's "local produce" commercial zone also completely dropped the ball by not requiring that produce actually be produced by local agricultural zones.

Parklife follows a long-standing trend with Skylines expansions neglecting seemingly-obvious features.

Parklife similarly, seems to have large gaps in its thematic content. Those beaches and ski resorts that have been missing since After Dark and Snowfall are still missing. I also kind of feel like a water-guzzling water park should be included. Sports parks (to entertain young kids), golf courses (to entertain old rich people), and other park types are also absent, but I can live without those, and I guess they have to leave something for modders. Not making legacy parks function within the context of the new zonable parks just seems completely lazy and is an overall confounding decision. And the lack of more natural points of interest on the maps really undercuts the new nature reserves. Honestly, I feel like Green Cities and Parklife should have just been packaged together into a single $20 expansion, since they came out only about 6 months apart, and their themes of greener and cleaner cities seems to overlap so much. And, ew, all this free-form content in Parklife is probably going to be a control and U.I. nightmare if this expansion ever gets ported to consoles...

I don't want to come off sounding too negative. Parklife isn't "bad"; it just doesn't feel entirely "complete". I still would rank Parklife up there with Mass Transit and Natural Disasters as one of the better Skylines expansions.

In terms of expressiveness and creativity, Parklife blows the other Skylines expansions out of the water. This expansion opens up whole new types of cities for you to build. Most of the Parklife features are cheap to build and are unlocked fairly early (only 3 milestones in), and advanced park buildings unlock as the respective parks gain levels (instead of the normal population thresholds that unlocks everything else). You can build small resort towns, national park villages, wildlife sanctuaries, and so on. Since you can put any buildings inside your park areas, you can also convert almost any tourism or leisure site from any previous expansion into a fancy new park as well. Even though they're not properly part of the "park" mechanic, and don't actually function realistically, those ski resorts in Snowfall can finally be turned into proper tourist attractions!

Cities: Skylines - ski resort
Go back and give your old city save files a fresh coat of paint!

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