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Cities: Skylines: Industries - title

In a Nutshell

WHAT I LIKE

  • More engaging management of industries
  • More control over the aesthetics of your industries
  • Huge industrial ploppables
  • Making buildings historic

WHAT I DON'T LIKE

  • Doesn't integrate legacy industries
  • Doesn't add any new industries
  • Doesn't integrate other commercial or office specializations
  • No new routing or logistical options to deal with excess freight trucks
  • Ore and oil run out too quickly
  • Lack of connections between cities
  • No new scenarios, AGAIN?!
  • Couldn't find custom name list

Overall Impression : C
More a duplication of mechanics than a re-invention

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

Cities: Skylines: Industries - cover

Developer:
Colossal Order

Publisher:
Paradox Interactive

Platforms:
PC (via Steam)

MSRP: $15 USD

Original release date:
23 October 2018

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/

Wow, Colossal Order is really popping out these Cities: Skylines expansions in rapid succession! I feel like this is the third or fourth expansion in the last year alone! ... Hold on, let me check ...

Expansion titleOriginal release
After Dark coverAfter Dark24 September 2015
Snowfall coverSnowfall18 February 2016
Match DayMatch Day*9 June 2016
Natural Disasters coverNatural Disasters29 November 2016
Mass Transit coverMass Transit18 May 2017
ConcertsConcerts*17 August 2017
Green CitiesGreen Cities19 October 2017
ParklifeParklife24 May 2018
IndustriesIndustries23 October 2018
* denotes a mini content pack, rather than full expansion.

... So, yeah; third full expansion in the last 12 months (give or take a few days). Fourth expansion in the last 14 months if you want to count the Concerts content pack. Colossal Order seems to have been following a pattern of two full expansions and a mini content pack each year since the game released. I guess that's one way to keep your game relevant. It has certainly kept me coming back every few months.

Never as robust as I would like

The problem is that the limited development time means that the content that is provided in these expansions rarely ever feels as robust or comprehensive as it should -- at least, not to me. As such, I feel like I'm getting diminishing returns from each new expansion. The amount of content that is already in the game means that each new expansion feels like relatively smaller drop of content into an already-large bucket. Each expansion feels like it gives us less to do, and has that much of a smaller impact on the overall gameplay experience.

Adding to the problem of diminishing returns: every single expansion has had some glaring omission or weakness that bothered me, and none of the later expansions have bothered to go back in and address the weaknesses and limitations of the previous expansion(s). After Dark failed to include zoneable public beaches and didn't really make the day/night cycle feel as meaningful as it should. Snowfall failed to include season cycles to go along with After Dark's day/night cycle, and completely dropped the ball with regard to mechanics like ski resorts. Natural Disasters probably felt like the most "complete" and well-rounded expansion (not to mention the most novel one), but still suffers from its content being random, and it neglected to introduce any winter-specific disasters to go along with Snowfall.

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

Mass Transit brought the long-overdue ferry transit option, but neglected to revise cargo harbors to make cargo ship routes more practical, and didn't have any water-based city services (like a coast guard, for example) that would allow a true island economy to function without a network of bridges for freight and emergency services. Green Cities was maybe the laziest expansion, and it focused on pollution-management, but didn't bother to actually make pollution any more relevant or challenging to begin with. Lastly, Parklife granted a lot of player expression, but failed to incorporate the legacy parks into the new modular park feature and doesn't allow the camera to zoom in close enough to get a good look at your pretty decorations.

This isn't to say that all these expansions are "bad". I've liked them all (except maybe for Snowfall and Green Cities), but none of them have really wow-ed me with their content (except maybe for Natural Disasters). And the modular nature of each expansion means that it has limited-to-no impact on the core game systems, and limited-to-no interaction with the previous expansions.

The latest expansion, Industries follows suit. It promises to re-invent the way that your cities' industry functions, but kind of does it in an almost half-assed way. Much like the expansion before it, Parklife, Industries doesn't really incorporate the old legacy industry zones into the new industry mechanics. The new "Industry Area" paintbrush is virtually the same mechanic as the Park Area paintbrush from the last expansion. It isn't a replacement for the original industrial district specialization, so if feels like it's pretty much duplicating that content rather than re-inventing it.

You paint an area as an "Industrial Park", just like the parks in Parklife.

Industrial redundancy

Just like in Parklife, you paint an area to be your new "Industrial Park". Then you plop down a basic building in order to set the area's type and unlock the other buildings. Then you level up the area and unlock new buildings. Instead of leveling up with attractions and visitors, these industrial parks level up with goods produced and number of workers.

The workers are kind of an odd system as well. I can click on an individual worker on a farm or mine, and the worker is just called "Farmer" or "Miner". If I follow this character around, he never leaves the building. So we have a worker with no name, who never leaves work, doesn't have a home, and never sleeps. On top of that, we can build a new "worker barracks" that marginally increases productivity within the industry area. This is some seriously messed up robber baron bullshit going on here! Are these people actual citizens in my city? Do they commute, and pay taxes, and contribute to the local economy, and send their children to school, and use other city services? What is this abstraction supposed to represent? It looks an awful lot like slavery to me! Or maybe indentured servants? Or undocumented migrant workers? Or maybe authoritarian communism?

Are these industry area workers actual citizens? Or nameless slaves?

Probably not. I'm probably looking way too deeply into it. If I click on the building and open its "workers" panel, it'll show the breakdown of uneducated / educated / etc. workers. So I'm guessing that these are just generic avatars for the people working in the building. It seems like Colossal Order decided not to animate the actual citizen agents toiling in the field, so they just used this generic stock models to show activity at the site, even though they aren't representative of the actual citizens who work there.

In any case, these industrial areas a little bit more complicated than parks, because your industries also require a resource supply chain. Harvesting buildings (such as farms and drills) need to be built over natural resource deposits (such as fertile soil or oil), and they send those resources to intermediate production buildings (such as mills and refineries), which in turn send those intermediate resources (such as flour and petroleum) to yet other buildings that produce finished luxury goods (such as bakeries and plastic factories).

Your existing legacy industry zones, as far as I can tell, do not participate in this production chain at all! Zoned farms do not produce crops of any kind (not even randomly-determined ones). Zoned mines do not produce any ore. Zoned oil wells do not produce any oil. And zoned lumber yards do not produce any lumber or any kind. Even if you place them within the area that you painted as a corresponding industrial area.

Legacy industrial buildings do not seem to contribute to your supply chain at all.

Worse yet, the expansion doesn't even bother to add any new industries. The Industry Areas available in the expansion are the exact same four industries that we've had all along: forestry, agriculture, mining, and drilling. Colossal Order didn't add any new industries, nor did they break mining up into different types of ore (such as iron, copper, aluminum, etc.), nor did they bring any of the other specializations under the industry umbrella. They put in the effort to include underwater mining and oil drilling, but couldn't put in a regular fishing or aquaculture industry? You also can't level up your tourism, leisure, local produce, or IT Cluster districts using this mechanic. Being that I live in Las Vegas, whose core industries are tourism, entertainment, and gambling, this omission feels particularly glaring.

The fact that this expansion just translates the mechanics from the previous expansion, and doesn't bother to add any new industries, makes the content feel very stale right out of the gate. Worse yet, the Parklife expansion that preceded Industries did add new parks! Yes, there was already a zoo ploppable, but the amusement park and nature preserve were completely new additions to the series that had no real analog prior to Parklife's release (well, not anything official from Colossal Order anyway; there were plenty of mods).

The fact that very little of your economy actually changes certainly doesn't help. In fact, these new industry areas feel so tacked on, that you can actually paint an industry area inside a district zoned for a different industrial specialization! Is this by design, or by accident? Either way, what is the point of even having these different zone specializations anymore?!

You can paint an industry area within a competing industry's district.

I complained in Green Cities about how the "Local Produce" commercial specialization didn't require that you be supplied by local agriculture districts. I mean, it's called "local produce", so you would expect that it should come from local farms, right? The inclusion of a new production line and warehouse mechanic seems like it would have enabled more interaction between these two districts. Like, if you build a produce warehouse in or near your local produce commercial district, and then supply that warehouse with locally-produced goods from your local agricultural zones, then your local produce commercial zone should get some benefit. That makes sense, right? But that's not the case, because Colossal Order keeps designing these expansions to be completely modular.

Logistical failures

There's other annoying little omissions as well. The biggest one is the lack of any kind of policy that reduces the rate at which the underlying resources are depleted. I've never seen fertile soil be depleted unless I plant a bunch of trees over the area, but ore and oil are gradually depleted as industries work them. I'm fine with that mechanic, as these sort of entropy mechanics help the game to feel dynamic by adding some challenge and putting pressure on the player to continue to expand to find new resources. That's all well and good. I want that! The problem is that the resources get expended so quickly! And there's nothing you, the player, can do to slow it down other than shutting down or bulldozing your extraction facilities. Some kind of "stewardship" policy (that helps the resources to last longer) would have been very welcome.

Resources drain very quickly, with no way to slow the drain down.

These industries also create a lot of additional truck traffic. The logistics for it are all sorts of messed up, since you can't build dedicated transport infrastructure for most of these materials. You can't build a pipeline to pump oil to your power plants or factories. You can't build mine cart networks to transport ore from mines or quarries to the processing plants or factories. You can't send logs down a river to be collected and processed downstream. Instead, trucks are constantly being dispatched from harvest facilities, warehouses, and processing plants to pick up and drop off the materials, which puts a huge strain on your road networks and highways. The burden on your roads is exacerbated by the drivers' frustrating insistence on always crowding into a single lane and creating gridlock, even if multiple other travel lanes are available. This has been a problem with Skylines since day 1, and has been a problem for me off and on with multiple cities.

So many freight trucks!!!

Cargo trains can help with this, but only if you planned your network out well enough for the industries to reliably use them. It's hard to get cargo trains to work as an ad hoc measure after the fact. Colossal Order also still haven't adjusted cargo ship mechanics so that you can create routes similar to ferries. So valid locations for cargo harbors are very limited, and you can't reliably use barges to ship goods over water (either as imports / exports, or between districts in your city).

I also wish that (if they're just going to rip off their own park mechanic) the industrial areas had some decorative options. They give us a fence that we can put around the area, and we can decorate them with existing plazas, benches, and food trucks, but I wouldn't mind having things like billboards, statues, outdated (nonfunctional) equipment, sheds, vats, truck docks, dumpsters, porta-potties, vending machines, and other such things.

Lastly, the logistical nature of this expansion exacerbates my frustrations with the lack of any real interplay between your various cities. Unlike games like SimCity 4, Cities XL, or even the piece-of-crap 2013 SimCity, your Cities: Skylines cities still exist in a complete vacuum from one another. You can import or export goods from/to some nebulous other cities, but you can't ship goods or resources between the different cities that you create. Because of this, my cities never feel like they are properly specialized. In order to optimize your production chains, every city has to be a jack-of-all-trades that harvests all the natural resources (fertile soil, ore, forestry, and oil) and then process those resources and convert them into finished products. They also have to be the ones who consume those products.

On the one hand, this means that you don't get to build complicated, inter-city logistical networks. It also means that there's very little incentive to go back to your older cities and increase their output. If I try to build an industrial city full of factories, that city's growth does not fuel the growth of my other little mining or drilling towns, unless they are all just districts within a single map. The increasing population of my cities also doesn't require that my other cities need to start pumping out more goods in order to sustain that city's growing population.

The districts mechanic has always allowed us to create "satellite cities",
but I'd like to see proper interaction and trade between cities.

Granted, this level of micro-management could very easily get tedious. Cities XL kind of had the problem of needing to constantly switch between different cities because trade relationships between them would become unsustainable unless you loaded up the other city and expand it to produce more tradeable tokens. So there is a fine line to walk, and it may just be that Colossal Order doesn't want to walk that line out of fear that they'd ruin the experience of their game. The district mechanic does already allow Cities: Skylines players to create satellite cities that specialize in one field or another, so it isn't like this idea is completely absent from the game. I just wish it were a bit more developed.

Minimal miscellaneous content

So if I'm disappointed with the implementation of industries, are there any other new mechanics, features, or content that help make up for it?

Post trucks deliver mail.

Not really. The only other additions are the inclusion of a postal service and toll roads. Still no parking meters, though.

Now you can plop down a Post Office, and little mail trucks will be dispatched across the city to deliver mail. As far as I can tell, this is just a basic city service that provides some amount of satisfaction to the buildings that it visits. It doesn't really do much other than clog up your roads a little bit. It's not like having poor postal coverage will result in citizens failing to pay their mortgages or bills and get evicted from their homes or anything.

Toll booths are a little more substantive, as they give you a source of revenue and can be used to control traffic. I'll admit that I did keep forgetting that they were there. The tab is located under the roads menu, but is on the far right, past the prefab highway interchanges and the maintenance tab, which I never bother to open. Once I did remember that they are there, and I started to use them, I didn't really find them all that interesting. I set one up to try to stop cars from traveling through a national park in order to reach the city from the interstate, and it was modestly successful. It did not, however, stop trucks from shipping industrial goods through the national park. I had to paint a district over the park and enact the "Heavy Traffic Ban" in order to keep out all the mining trucks.

The toll booths are fine. They fill a useful function, and a good city planner will probably find some worthwhile uses for them.

Toll booths can be a pain in the ass to plop, but they are useful for managing traffic flow.

What is annoying about the toll booths, however, is that toll booths are kind of a pain to plop. The booth isn't a building that you place on a road (like a bus stop); it's a prefab ploppable like the prefab highway interchanges (which only comes in two sizes). This means that you can't place a toll booth on an existing road, nor can you "upgrade" an existing segment of road to include a toll booth (like you can with tram/monorail tracks or bicycle/bus lanes). You have to place the toll booth on open terrain. If you do want to place a toll booth on an existing road, you have to tear down two or three sections of that road and then try to line up the toll booth. If you've ever tried plopping a prefab highway interchange over an existing section of highway, then you know this frustration.

There's also a new cargo airport, which is kind of weird, since industrial materials are rarely shipped by plane in real life. The cargo airport has a nifty train connection, just like the cargo shipping hub that was added by After Dark.

Historic buildings maintain their appearance,
even if they level up.

That's pretty much it as far as new content. The only other thing is that you can now click on any building and check a "Historic Building" box in order to force that building to maintain its current appearance, even if it levels up. This is a nice feature for maintaining a specific look to your city. You can use it to preserve a particularly nice skyline, or to cause you Main Street to maintain its original, small-town businesses.

This mechanic does not, however, preserve a building if you change the specialization of the district that contains it. Say you have a movie theater that you want to make historical. Well, if you change that commercial specialization to leisure or tourism, that historic theater is still going to get torn down to make way for a nightclub or hotel. Also, I had an historic building that became abandoned and then never re-opened, even though demand for that zone was high. I'm not sure if this is a bug or just a fluke.

In any case, this "historical building" function is a welcome (and long-overdue) feature.

There's also supposed to be a way to view a list of every object in the game that you've given a custom name to -- whether that be a person, a building, a car, or so on. But I've yet to be able to figure out how to access this list.

Another frustrating thing that Industries repeats from Parklife is the lack of any new scenarios. No scenario to get an industrial area to max level. No scenario to convert legacy industry to new industry areas. No scenario about improving a gridlocked logistical network. Nothing.

Maybe I'll get used to it

I'm really starting to feel like the modular approach to expansions is starting to hurt Cities: Skylines as a product. Parts of the game are starting to feel very disjoint and counter-intuitive, and which occasionally seem to break the underlying simulation in different ways. In many ways, these expansions feel more like "content packs" rather than full-fledged expansions, since they rarely modify the underlying systems or change other parts of the game around the new mechanics.

Players have more aesthetic control over how their industrial areas look.

Overall, I'm very underwhelmed with this expansion. I'm really struggling to find things that I like about it, other than just the fact that I'm enjoying the aesthetics of the new industrial buildings and complexes. As I said earlier, the content is just a remixing of established concepts, and so it feels very stale right off the bat. It also feels very undercooked.

I'd be much happier with Industries if it felt more integrated with the core industrial specialization mechanics, or if these industrial areas had completely replaced the original industry specialization districts, rather than having to paint an industrial area inside my industrial districts. This idea worked fine for parks because parks function fundamentally different compared to other infrastructure and zones in the game. Parks are also geared more towards aesthetics and player expression; whereas industries are an essential part of the underlying simulation and economy. I'll probably get used to it over time, just as I got used to the distinction between the day/night cycle and the calendar days that came with After Dark.

I particularly like the look of the large farm fields!

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Comments (1) -

Gamefreak
Gamefreak
11/24/2018 18:18:12 #

I am surprised you didn't mention how bad the ai is for transporting raw industrial goods to the factories that refine the materials. They end up importing materials from other random towns that take forever to actually get to the facility.

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