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Cities Skylines: Plazas & Promenades - title

In a Nutshell

WHAT I LIKE

  • Pedestrian areas are great for tourism and leisure districts
  • Higher-capacity schools
  • Highways with dedicated bus lanes
  • More decorative objects

WHAT I DON'T LIKE

  • Pedestrian areas aren't more compact than regular districts
  • Pedestrian areas cannot overlap with other paintable areas
  • Decorative structures have no function
  • Cannot freely place crosswalks
  • No parking lots or garages
  • No public beaches or boardwalks

Overall Impression : C-
Cities work mostly the same, just with less cars

Cities Skylines: Plazas & Promenades - cover

Developer:
Colossal Order

Publisher:
Paradox Interactive

Platforms:
PC < (via Steam, Epic Store, or Microsoft Store),
XBox One (XBox Live digital download).
PlayStation 4 (PSN digital download),
(< indicates platform I played for review)

MSRP: $15 USD

Original release date:
14 September, 2022

Genre:
city simulation, management

Player(s):
single player

Play time:
indefinite hours

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

Official site:
www.paradoxinteractive.com/games/cities-skylines/add-ons/cities-skylines-plazas-promenades

Looks like we're back to seeing 2 Cities: Skylines expansions being released in the same calendar year. Airports released in January, and now in September, Plazas & Promenades hit digital storefronts. I wonder if this will continue now that most businesses (and presumably Colossal Order) are back to business as usual following the COVID pandemic? Or maybe Colossal Order is migrating towards releasing even smaller, more module micro-expansions such as the recently-released Financial Districts DLC (which I'll review later)? Or will we finally see an announcement on the rumored sequel to Cities: Skylines soon?

Based on previews, I was expecting this expansion to completely change the way that I build my cities by giving me more freedom to pack structures into compact spaces and to more seamlessly integrate parks with business districts, leisure and tourism districts, or neighborhoods. I immediately started thinking of multiple ways that I could potentially use these 2 ideas to create new city layouts and concepts. Unfortunately, I set my expectations too high, and pedestrian areas ended up not being quite as game-changing as I thought and hoped they might. The big problem is that Plazas & Promenades is just another iteration of the paintable area concept that has been the focus of almost every expansion since Parklife. Paintable areas is a good mechanic for things like parks and university campuses, but it can be extremely limiting for an application as broad as neighborhoods or entire districts.

Plazas & Promenades allows the construction of more walkable neighborhoods and districts.

Roads minus the cars

First and foremost is the simple fact that the new pedestrian roads look and act more like regular roads than like pedestrian paths. They are the same size as roads, being either 2 or 4 tiles wide, and are laid out almost exactly the same. None of these pedestrian roads are 1 tile wide. And, of course, the legacy pedestrian paths have not been updated to allow buildings to be zoned along them. The end result is that these "Pedestrian Zones" don't take up any less space, and aren't any more compact than any other district. Though, the high-density, "wall-to-wall" residential buildings do have the same capacity as the normal, high-density residential skyscrapers (20-26 households), despite being a fraction of the size. So I guess it's "more compact" vertically? More people being crammed into smaller spaces? If so, it doesn't seem to have any impact on the citizen's happiness or satisfaction ratings.

Using Pedestrian roads outside of Pedestrian Areas is a liability, since zoned buildings may build on them.

Even though pedestrian roads can be placed anywhere, buildings can only be placed or zoned along them if they are in a dedicated Pedestrian Area. So if I want to create a single walkway or alleyway and zone some homes or shops along it, I have to paint the entire area as a Pedestrian Area. Well, at least, that is the case if you want the buildings to be functional. The game actually will let the player zone and place buildings along pedestrian roads outside of pedestrian areas, but doing so will result in the building flashing a "Not in Pedestrian Zone" warning, and the building won't operate.

This wouldn't be so bad if not for the fact that the Pedestrian Area is mutually exclusive with all other paintable "areas" in the game, including parks, industries, universities, and airports. The inability to overlap Pedestrian Areas with parks, universities, or other areas, single-handedly destroys many of the plans I had for new cities!

I could not place these attractions along pedestrian roads without converting my city park into a Pedestrian Area.

For example, one of the new maps includes a series of World War II bunkers and trenches along one of its coastlines. I wanted to turn this into a tourist attraction by painting it as a city park and creating a walking tour alongside the bunkers and trenches. I also wanted to place some military-themed museums and structures within the park for tourists to visit. I expected that I could place these ploppable museums alongside pedestrian roads within my park so that everyone who visits the museum would have to pay admission to the park at the single point of entry. I could place the pedestrian roads, but because the area was already painted as a "city park", I could not also paint it as a "Pedestrian Area", and so I wasn't allowed to plop the museums alongside the pedestrian roads. The only possible compromises would be to either:

  1. convert the whole area into a Pedestrian Area, but then not be able to charge any admission and generate revenue, or
  2. keep the park area, but path regular roads leading up to the museums only and just hoping that museum visitors would go through the main gate and pay admission, instead of just driving to the museum.

This "military history park" ended up being nowhere near as successful as I had hoped it would be, and I was very disappointed.

Bunker Beach Historic Monument did not end up being as successful as I had hoped it would be.

A leisurely stroll

Even though Pedestrian areas cannot overlap with other "areas", they can overlap with paintable "districts" (because "districts" and "areas" are two different mechanics). So even though Pedestrian Areas can't do double-duty as Parklife parks, they actually do work very well in conjunction with After Dark's leisure and tourism districts. Most tourists aren't going to have cars anyway, because they will have come into town via bus, train, or plane. Cramming my tourism and leisure districts together within a Pedestrian Area limits my tourists' dependence on taxis and public transit and allows them to walk from their hotel to nearby attractions without any pesky crosswalks or traffic lights getting in their way. This can be great for something like a water-side entertainment district, or for creating something along the lines of Broadway, Hollywood, the National Mall, or the Las Vegas Strip (even though all of those real-life places actually do have vehicular traffic).

Tourism and leisure districts are a great application for the pedestrian areas!

Getting to those districts can also be easier for citizens thanks to the inclusion of new express bus lanes on highways. Congestion is still a real problem in this game due to some issues with vehicle pathfinding that causes cars to all crowd into the same 1 or 2 lanes, even though there's another 1 or 2 travel lanes that are completely empty. Usually they crowd into the right lane(s). The highway bus lanes, however, are in the left lane. This is a big help because it shifts bus congestion out of those right lanes. And if you are able to build on/off ramps for those buses that also enter and exit on the left of the highway, it will make the buses much more likely to stay in their lanes, and will have the added bonus of shifting the bus traffic off of the ramps that all the other vehicles are using.

Buses now have dedicated express lanes on highways!

Of course, it was already possible to make pedestrian-friendly entertainment districts prior to Plazas & Promenades by using elevated pedestrian bridges for bypassing busy roads and running pedestrian paths in alleyways behind or between buildings. This expansion just makes that kind of district look much cleaner and operate more efficiently.

In fact, since waterfront shopping and entertainment districts seem like such an obvious use case for this pedestrian mechanic, I am surprised to not see an explicit boardwalk feature that allows shops and certain other buildings to be able to be built on stilts going out over the water. And where there's a boardwalk, I would expect to also see a public beach be accessible below. But sadly, Colossal Order has still not included the public beaches that I've been asking for since this game's very first expansion.

There was a new content creator pack called Seaside Resorts that released around the same time as Plazas & Promenades, which added a bunch of new beach-front buildings and piers. But it also doesn't have any kind of ploppable or zonable public beach. But if combined with some of the assets from the Mid-Century Modern content creator pack (and some mod assets), I was able to at least decorate some of my beaches with umbrellas and other stuff to make it look like people actually go to the beach. Unfortunately, nobody every actually uses any of these decorative objects, so the beaches are still always pathetically deserted. Still waiting for official support for beaches from Colossal Order...

I can decorate a beach with content creator pack and mod assets, but citizens still don't use it like a beach.

I would have also expected that, with a focus on creating pedestrian-only regions of the city, there would be more of a need for things like parking lots and garages for citizens to park their cars in order to get out and walk. There's a "service" building that connects a Pedestrian Area to the outside city (similar to the main entrance of Parklife parks or the "main building" of a Industries area). These service buildings allow for things like garbage pick up and mail delivery, since those vehicles are not permitted onto pedestrian-only roads (though emergency vehicles and hearses are able to access pedestrian roads). I would have expected these Pedestrian Area access buildings to take the form of large parking garages, but no. There are a few covered car port ploppables in the aforementioned Mid-Century Modern content creator pack, but Colossal Order has still not added any native, ploppable parking lots, garages, or park 'n' ride structures. That's something that I had to go to mods to find.

Service buildings act as a gateway to a Pedestrian Area (LEFT),
but without mods, there's no proper parking lots, garages, or park 'n' ride assets (RIGHT).

Also, it would have been nice if this expansion would allow players to more freely place crosswalks away from intersections to help make our cities even more pedestrian-friendly. Linking a pedestrian road to a regular vehicular road will (thankfully) create a crosswalk (and possibly a traffic light too), which is nice, but still not as flexible as I'd like.

If I'm trying to limit the frequency of road intersections in order to speed up the flow of traffic, I end up with citizens and tourists having to walk a mile to the nearest intersection to cross the street. Elevated or sunken pedestrian walkways are one option, but they can take up a lot of space, break zoning, and simply aren't always practical. It's already possible to create makeshift crosswalks by just changing the type of road at the place where you want the crosswalk to be. But that's not always pretty, and it would have been nice to have native support for plopping crosswalks in a road, so that hacks like this wouldn't be necessary.

More freedom in placing crosswalks would be nice, so I don't have to keep hacking these makeshift crosswalks.

Not a game-changer

It's frustrating to have these wishlist items for so long, and have all these expansions that would be thematically appropriate for adding them, only for Colossal Order to ignore them entirely time and time again. It's deflating that the scope of things that I want from this game almost never lines up with the scope of things that Colossal Order wants to put in the game. But whatever. It's their game. Maybe I'll get my wishes in Cities: Skylines 2?

Overall, I think Plazas & Promenades is yet another mediocre expansion. I think, in the long run, the only way that it's going to affect my future city plans is that I'll use Pedestrian Areas to make walkable tourism and leisure districts. But that's about it. Even when I was testing this expansion, I often found myself ignoring Pedestrian Areas, and having to go out of my way to remember to force myself to make zones that are suitable for these areas. Instead, it's the Parklife and Industries areas that get use in every city that I build. Usually, areas that I might want to be Pedestrian Areas end up being better suited as Parklife parks anyway.

Retractable bollards allow emergency responders and hearses to enter Pedestrian roads when necessary.

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