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Cities: Skylines: Campus- title

In a Nutshell

WHAT I LIKE

  • Sprawling college campuses that grow with your city
  • Faculties boost other city services
  • Legacy university buildings have a unique role
  • Addresses long-standing issues with over-educated workers
  • Maintaining university prestige
  • Gridiron football stadium and basketball arena!

WHAT I DON'T LIKE

  • Apparently, Colossal Order has given up on scenarios
  • Much narrower scope
  • Match Day soccer stadiums don't act as varsity sports
  • Yellow school buses aren't actually school buses
  • New buildings might be too big

Overall Impression : C+
Narrow focus, but fixes some broader problems

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

Cities: Skylines: Campus- cover

Developer:
Colossal Order

Publisher:
Paradox Interactive

Platforms:
PC (via Steam)

MSRP: $13 USD

Original release date:
21 May 2019

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/

Hot off of releasing a video in which I criticized Colossal Order's design philosophy for its Cities: Skylines expansions, a new expansion was released. This expansion fulfilled my fears by being similarly narrow in scope compared to the previous expansions. Campus might even be more narrow than previous expansions. Every city will need parks and industries, so you'll have plenty of opportunity to use those expansion features in every city you build. Not every city will need a sprawling university complex, so a given city might not ever need to include any of the Campus content.

I had recently criticized the expansion design philosophy for Cities: Skylines.

Fortunately, there's more options here than a full-blown research university. Colossal Order has added several types of university areas that are more suitable to modestly-sized cities. Sure you may not need that full-blown research university, but maybe your smaller town could use a trade school or liberal arts school?

Even so, the scope here is very narrow! Colossal Order seems to have recognized this, as they are selling the expansion for a couple dollars less than previous expansions.

School is back in session, even for your industries!

Since Mass Transit, new expansions have struggled to find ways to make broader impacts on the game as a whole. They mostly stayed in their lanes. Campus follows suit by not adding anything that isn't related to education, however, those overhauls to education do have some further-reaching ripple effects.

Over-educated citizens used to refuse to take lower-level industrial jobs.

One of the problems that players have had to deal with since the initial launch of the game has been over-educated workers. Once you have schools in your city, it's only a matter of time before virtually everyone has a high level of education -- even children. This would leave all those educated citizens unwilling to take low-education, low-paying jobs in your factories and farms and would starve those industries of eligible workers. Demand for high-end commercial and office zones would skyrocket, and all your educated citizens would take those jobs. This would force those lower level industries to all but shut down once your city grows large enough.

Citizens' education level is now bounded by the level of schooling that they've attended. Prior to Campus, simply having a university in your city would provide everybody attending school (at any level) with a high level of education. Now, this has finally been fixed such that only those citizens who attend higher levels of schooling will receive the higher levels of education. This means that if a student goes to elementary school, but doesn't attend high school (either because they get a job first, or there isn't enough capacity in your high schools), then that citizen will be capped at a low level of education and will remain eligible for those low-level factory jobs.

New policies make industries pay higher wages
to over-educated workers.

The very first expansion, After Dark, added the "School's Out" policy that caused kids in the relevant district(s) to go directly into the workforce rather than attending school. This helped with the problem, but I was never quite happy with the idea of setting up what is essentially a deliberate caste system in my cities. It's one thing if economic systems and urban decay stratify regions of my city based on income inequality, but I always felt uncomfortable having to force income and education inequality onto my little simulated people.

Even though that "School's Out" policy is still present, there is now a new policy that causes industries in the district to accept higher-educated citizens (and presumably pay them a wage appropriate to their education level), thereby nullifying the problem.

Community colleges

Not all local students attend university, and not all university students are local.

Also, since your university areas can have students from out-of-town, it seems that they do not draw their entire student body from your city's population. This means that your own population may not be serviced by the university area(s). Even though your university area may have a capacity much higher than your population of college-age citizens, your university service capacity may still be considered insufficient.

I'm not entirely sure how the game determines whether a particular college-eligible student will attend a given university area. Maybe there's a cap on how many local students a university will accept? Maybe its a function of distance from the university? Considering that the university services students from out of town, you'd think that having to commute across town wouldn't be that big of a deterrent.

In any case, however this mechanic actually works, it seems to leave a significant role for your legacy university buildings. They still have utility. This helps to separate Campus from the previous two expansions in a positive way. As far as I could tell, the park areas of Parklife could completely replace the legacy ploppable parks from the vanilla game. Similarly, as far as I could tell, the ploppable industry area buildings of Industries could completely replace the legacy industrial zones. In both cases, the legacy infrastructure was basically rendered obsolete.

Legacy university ploppables basically fill the role of a "community college" by exclusively educating local students.

That doesn't seem to be true for Campus. Legacy university ploppables still serve the valuable role of exclusively educating local students! In that sense, they act more like "community colleges" than full-blown universities. If your university areas are not accepting enough of your local students (for whatever reason), then you'll have to build legacy "community colleges" in order to make up the difference.

Football, not soccer!

And what university would be complete without some varsity sports? Campus offers several new college sports arenas including a swimming center, track and field, basketball arena, baseball diamond, and gridiron football stadium. In fact, you will very likely need some varsity sports in order to get your university over the hump into the highest recognition level or two, as you'll simply run out of other buildings that increase the school's attractiveness.

Success in varsity sports increases the appeal of your university.

Each of these sports arenas can be placed in your city as a professional sports arena that will operate identically to the Match Day stadiums. If you place the arena in a university area, however, then the arena becomes part of that stadium's varsity sports program. All the same Match Day mechanics stay in play, but you get a few more options for managing the sport as part of your university. Success in varsity sports will not only provide happiness to your city, but it will also increase the appeal of your school.

In addition to the Match Day policies that you can set on the arena itself, you can also tweak some settings in the university area's management widget. You can increase the funding for coaching staffs and cheerleaders, which can both contribute to the success of your varsity sports teams. These settings apply universally to all that university's varsity sports, so you can't, for example, preferentially fund expensive coaches for your gridiron football and basketball teams, at the expense of the swimming, track, and baseball teams (as often happens in real life big universities -- in the United States, anyway).

Varsity stadiums function identically to Match Day stadiums.

Sadly, the Match Day soccer stadiums cannot be converted into varsity sports stadiums. So no, you cannot play collegiate soccer in Cities: Skylines. This follows a frustrating trend with Skylines expansions not making legacy content forward-compatible with new expansion mechanics.

Even though this expansion somewhat addresses my complaints with Parklife and Industries by playing relatively nicely with the legacy university buildings and making them forwards-compatible, it does not extend that niceness by making Match Day stadiums forwards-compatible, even though it re-uses the exact same mechanics for its new varsity stadiums. This, however, is a relatively minor flaw compared to the more egregious compatibility problems with Parklife's lack of legacy park integration or Industry's lack of legacy zonable industry integration.

Still not a tycoon game

Paradoxically, Campus simultaneously has the most narrow scope of the past three expansions (dealing almost exclusively with major universities), but it also has the most broad-reaching effects. If you're not building cities large enough or dense enough to require a major university, then Campus won't have much in the way of content for you, other than the libraries. But at the same time, the "Industry 4.0" policy can keep your industries running even in a city that is almost entirely well-educated. The various faculty buildings can also improve the performance of certain services, which can be used to further specialize your city.

Faculty buildings can boost the effectiveness of city services.

The campuses are a little bit more complex to manage than the parks of Parklife or industrial parks of Industries. These university areas can de-level if you don't maintain the requirements for the current level, which is something that I wish were true of Parklife and Industries. But managing the universities is still exceedingly simple. There's only three metrics to improve, and almost every building that you place improves two of the three. The third is pseudo-random based on how much funding you give the university. It's not like you have to manage which majors are taught at your school, or how many students you can accept into each major. You don't have to link specific research projects to specific laboratory facilities. Even though there's a cafeteria and a gym, you don't actually have to provide food or wellness to your students, as both those buildings simply increase your student capacity. The whole thing basically comes down to just a process of "plop more buildings to simultaneously increase student capacity and attractiveness", then just sit back and wait for the research projects to randomly roll in.

As with the previous two expansions, I don't expect a full-blown tycoon game in the middle of my city management sim. That being said, if they're going to release an expansion, then I'd like for it to be a bit more substantive.

School buses are not dedicated to transporting kids to school. They are just regular buses.

Campus gives you a new set of tools to express yourself and beautify your city, and I'm happy to see the "modular building" approach of SimCity (2013) (that game's only good idea) slowly leaking into Skylines. There's just not much here to do. This expansion, like so many other Skylines expansions, is very "take it or leave it".

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