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Cities Skylines: Sunset Harbor - title

In a Nutshell

WHAT I LIKE

  • Fills in a gap in Industries expansion
  • Can draw fishing routes outside of city borders
  • Converting underground metro lines to overground metro lines
  • Desert biome!

WHAT I DON'T LIKE

  • Fishing Industry is shallow
  • No enhancements to existing harbors
  • Can't draw non-fishing routes outside of city borders
  • Baby-sitting garbage transfer facilities
  • Still no public beaches?!
  • No coast guard
  • Glitch sometimes prevents me from opening Policies menu
  • No new scenarios

Overall Impression : D
Odds and ends, and nothing special

Cities Skylines: Sunset Harbor - cover

Developer:
Colossal Order

Publisher:
Paradox Interactive

Platforms:
PC (via Steam)

MSRP: $15 USD

Original release date:
26 March 2020

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/cities-skylines---sunset-harbor/CSCS00ESK0000076.html

I was starting to wonder if maybe Colossal Order was done with Cities: Skylines, or they had moved on to development of a full sequel. After releasing two expansions per year since the game's launch in 2015, we've now gone almost a year between expansions. The last one was the Campus expansion last May. Now here we are with a new Sunset Harbor expansion.

The announcement for this expansion (a mere week before its release) got my hopes up in a similar fashion to the Snowfall expansion. I thought that Sunset Harbor would add a slew of features that I had been longing for in the game for a long time. Sadly, Sunset Harbor disappointed me in much the same way that Snowfall's lack of a seasonal cycle and poor implementation of ski resorts did. Sunset Harbor lacks almost all of the things that I had hoped for, and it continues a trend of Skylines expansions that add new mechanics or content without revising or enhancing existing mechanics or content to utilize the new ideas.

Much like past expansions, Sunset Harbor neglects a lot of seemingly-obvious content.

When I saw the title of the expansion, I thought for sure that this would be the expansion that would finally introduce public beaches! No such luck. There's no public beach area. Sunset Harbor (despite having "harbor" in its title) does not introduce modular passenger and freight harbor areas, or upgrade harbors into a leveled industry like Industries did with agriculture, forestry, ore, and oil. I still can't daisy-chain my harbors to send shipping routes up rivers or canals, despite the fact that the existing passenger ferries and the new fishing industry can. It similarly doesn't convert tourism and leisure into leveled industry or commercial areas.

As always seems to be the case with Skylines expansions, I'm torn between whether I should review the expansion from the perspective of what it actually brings to the table, or from the perspective of failing to meet my own hopes and desires for what the expansion should be.

One of the things that was missing from Industries

Sunset Harbor does, however, check off a couple items from my wishlist. At long last, it has provided a desert biome map! As someone who lives in the American Pacific Southwest, I've long been frustrated by the inability to create a city that looks more like the familiar landscape of my own back yard. Now I finally can. Sadly, it's only one map, but the asset editor that's always been included in the game will allow me to make more if I want to, without having to resort to downloading mods that might destabilize the game.

I've long hoped for a desert biome to be added to the game.

The big feature of this expansion is also a feature that I thought was missing from the Industries expansion. I complained that Industries only added new infrastructure that replaced the existing agriculture, forestry, ore, and oil industries that have always been in the game, and didn't bother to add any new industries. Parklife, by comparison, added a couple new types of parks that hadn't been in the game before, including nature preserves and an amusement park. Personally, I thought that the most obvious option for a new industry to add to Industries would have been a fishing or aquaculture industry. Well, now we have a whole expansion that has added that one idea.

The new fishing industry doesn't follow suit with the Industries expansion industry areas, or the Campus university areas. You don't paint aquaculture areas and then grow them and level them up. There's no complicated production line or logistic element. The different types of fish that you can catch also don't do anything different. There's no fancy factories that consume specific types of fish (like a pizza factory that consumes anchovies), or that combine your fish with other types of fish (like a fish stick factory), or with other industry products to create a more valuable luxury good (like combining fish and seaweed with crops to make sushi).

Aquaculture does not level up or have production lines like other industrial sectors.

Instead, there's a handful of fishing harbors that act as resource-extractors, and then there's exactly two buildings that process or consume them. Your fishing harbors can either sell their fish to a market to be sold directly to consumers, or the raw fish (regardless of type) can be shipped to a factory that processes the fish and distributes them as generic goods to send out to commercial zones. In lieu of either the market or the factory, the fish will be exported to other cities for a small amount of money.

That's it! That's everything that fishing has to offer!

There is one really good idea that comes along with the new fishing mechanic. You have to plot out the routes that fishing boats will take to catch fish (similar to plotting passenger ferry routes in Mass Transit), and the game is kind enough to let you draw those routes outside of the city limits. This is a necessary concession for many maps, as the paths of snaky or looping rivers or tributaries might prevent boats from being able to make a return trip back to the harbor if they were following a waterway that leaves current city limits.

Fishing routes can be drawn outside of city limits, to access hard-to-reach fish.

Unfortunately, in classic Cities: Skylines fashion, this smart and valuable new functionality is not extended or back-ported to other mechanics that could have benefited from it. Despite the fact that passenger ferry routes also follow the course of shorelines or rivers that might leave city limits before looping back into city limits, Sunset Harbor does not allow you to plot these routes outside of city limits. This severely limits the availability and utility of passenger ferries on certain maps in which you may not own all the plots of land necessary to connect different parts of the city by river or sea.

Passenger ferry routes, highways, and rail cannot be placed outside of city limits.

The same applies to cargo and passenger harbors, which also still cannot be daisy-chained or routed to allow shipping routes to go up rivers or into bays. Why are cargo harbor routes still not in the game?! It also would have been nice to be able to build highways or rail lines in order to connect them up to routes that are outside of the city limits. No luck. The only routes that you can run outside of city limits are fishing routes.

We still can't route shipping lanes up rivers or into bays! Why?!

Wasting time

Moving from something that should have been included in Industries, let's talk about another new mechanic that probably would have helped to round-out the lacklaster Green Cities expansion a little bit: waste processing and transfer infrastructure.

Garbage can be temporarily stored closer to residents.

There are new intermediate garbage-processing buildings that basically temporarily store garbage until it can be moved to a landfill, incinerator, or recycling plant. These generate less pollution, and so can be placed closer to populated areas of the city, compared to the original landfills and incinerators. They also potentially make your waste-disposal services more efficient by preventing garbage trucks from having to drive all the way out to a landfill in the middle of nowhere in order to dump their load and return to the city.

I like to send out most of my garbage trucks during the night so that they don't clog up my roads during the busier daytime hours, so this is a nice addition in principle. It allows each individual garbage truck to spend less time driving long distances, and more time picking up garbage during those limited nighttime hours. The problem is that you can't create garbage routes, which means you have no control over where your garbage trucks actually go, and so no guarantee that they will actually operate more efficiently.

The transfer facilities also don't seem to actually transfer the garbage. At least, not automatically. Instead, their small capacity is constantly being filled up, forcing me to manually empty the transfer facility every couple day/night cycles. Maybe I'm missing some detail of how they are supposed to work. I'm considering jut not using them anymore because they've been more trouble than they've been worth.

There's also new inland sewage treatment plants. These allow you to store sewage on land (instead of dumping it in a waterway) and replace water pollution with ground pollution. If you're doing a lot of fishing in your rivers, lakes, and oceans, then these buildings will likely be very valuable to you. But if you already own the Green Cities expansion, then you already have access to the water garbage collectors and eco treatment plants, so you already had ways of dealing with this issue. Those aren't available till later in the game, however, so the inland sewage treatment plant is a good stop-gap measure for growing cities.

You can store sewage inland, instead of dumping it water [LEFT].
But I already had methods for cleaning sewage before dumping it back into water ways [RIGHT]

These inland sewage plants also allow you to effectively take care of sewage in maps that lack large bodies of water, such as the new desert map. They are also very helpful in maps that lack running water, such as maps with lots of enclosed lakes (as opposed to rivers).

More tourists with nowhere to go

I could say that the new transit infrastructure could have been included in Mass Transit, but I feel like that would be a little bit of a low blow, since every Skylines expansion has included new transit infrastructure. Sunset Harbor finally extends metro rail lines so that they can go above ground. This is the one place where the game actually does back-port its functionality, as the overland rail can be seamlessly integrated with your existing, below-ground metro system. There's also a bunch of new transit hubs allowing different transit options to connect to others.

Transitioning from underground to elevated metro should have been in the base game.
(The Park 'n' Ride garage pictured is a custom asset)

You can also build trolley buses, which are just regular buses that draw power from overhead cables. I've seen these things in Europe (in real life), and their key advantage is that they are fully electric, and draw power from the electric grid rather than from burning gasoline or diesel. This makes them more energy efficient and reduces smog and pollution in densely populated cities with lots of buses. However, since smog and air pollution from automobiles are not a modeled in Cities: Skylines, there's really not much reason to use these trolley buses other than for aesthetic reasons. Maybe they generate slightly less noise pollution?

One transit option that I do feel belonged in a previous expansion is the intercity buses. These buses do not have routes within the city, but instead bring tourists into the city from neighboring cities. This this expansion does not feature any new content centered around tourism, the inclusion of these intercity buses feels completely unnecessary and superfluous. If you don't have the After Dark and/or Parklife expansions, then these buses likely don't do a whole lot in your Sunset Harbor cities. These buses would have been much better served to have been included in the Parklife expansion, which focused heavily on tourism. Same goes for the massive new international airport.

The lack of any new tourism content makes the intercity buses feel out-of-place.

If Sunset Harbor had added those public beaches that I've been wanting for so long, or maybe a new water park park area, then some new tourism transit options would feel more meaningful. Alternatively, if the entire expansion had been focused around new ways to bring tourists into the city -- like, say, by revamping the way that harbors work, in general -- then the intercity buses and international airport would not feel so out-of-place.

Solutions to problems that were already solved

I'm happy to see that Colossal Order is still supporting Skylines and committed to adding additional content, but Sunset Harbor is thoroughly disappointing. The extra six months truly did not result in a more robust or comprehensive expansion. Not only does it fail to provide seemingly common sense improvements to existing functionality, but the new content that is included feels shallow and limited compared to what's been offered in the past three expansions that all allowed for a great deal of player expression.

Yeah sure, I thought that just adding the Parklife paintable, leveled area concept to other districts of the city was starting to get stale, but at least those expansions included relatively deep new gameplay and offered the player a lot of aesthetic freedom. I wish Sunset Harbor had gone that route, even if it would have felt repetitive and un-creative.

This might very well be the single weakest expansion in the Cities: Skylines line-up. It doesn't offer any substantive new content, nor do the new transit or waste-management mechanics offer solutions to problems that I didn't already have solutions for. That being said, I'm not going to say "don't buy Sunset Harbor". Cities: Skylines is still great and highly addictive, and new content is always welcome for fans of the game.

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