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Cities Skylines: Hotels and Retreats - title

In a Nutshell

WHAT I LIKE

  • Good variety of hotel types
  • Plays well with legacy assets
  • Upgrades for legacy infrastructure
  • Balancing profit and popularity of hotels
  • Building roads without zoning cells
  • Some ploppables have alternate models
  • Low price

WHAT I DISLIKE

  • Still no beach assets?!
  • No inherent demand for hotels
  • Limited customization options
  • Would have been better as part of a larger expansion

Overall Impression : B-
One final hurrah! with some long-overdue features

Cities Skylines: Hotels and Retreats - 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: $8 USD

Original release date:
23 May, 2023

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-hotels-and-retreats

Surely this has to be the last DLC that Cities: Skylines is receiving, given that the sequel is due out this fall. This last wave of expansions and content creator packs has scratched a lot of very specific itches that I've had with Cities: Skylines for a long time, and they've had me playing the game a lot lately. I've been building a large city up over 100 thousand population, and also going back to some older save files and either upgrading them to use newer DLC assets, or to replace old mod assets with analogous official DLC assets.

A near seamless fit

What I really like about Hotels & Retreats is how seamlessly they fit into the existing game. Like with Industries, Campus, and Airports, I feel that Hotels & Retreats could easily have fallen into the trap of replacing old assets and rendering them moot or useless. Like, if the DLC had added a "resort area" mechanic using the Parklife area painting mechanic with modular hotels and resorts, it could easily have caused me to stop using the After Dark leisure and tourism district specializations (just like I've basically stopped using farm, forestry, oil, and ore industry specializations because I use the Industries areas instead).

Hotels & Retreats works very well alongside other expansion content!

Instead of feeling like a replacement for the existing tourism districts, the content of Hotels & Retreats is a great supplement. In fact, it feels like it could easily have been part of the After Dark expansion. Or the Parklife expansion. Or the Airports expansion. Or Plazas & Promenades. Or even the previous Financial Districts DLC.

Each hotel has preferences for proximity to a combination of city landmarks, shopping, offices, or nature. How well the hotel's location fits its unique combination of those 4 preferences will determine how popular it is for guests, which in turn will influence how much (if any) profit it makes, and the player can set its pricing accordingly. A business hotel placed in the middle of an IT or financial specialty district, along with some nearby commercial districts, will generate high profit; while a rental cabin will do best if placed in the vicinity of a nature preserve, in the middle of a forest, or along a pristine scenic coastline.

Each individual hotel's profit is aggregated into a total profit margin for the "chain" of hotels, and higher-level hotels are unlocked by increasing the weekly profit of the entire chain. So improperly-placed or poorly-performing hotels can be subsidized by the fully-occupied, perfectly-placed hotels with higher prices and profit margins.

Cheap, unprofitable niche hotels can be subsidized by the more popular and expensive hotels.

Demand and supply

But herein lies one of the weaknesses of having hotels as ploppable infrastructure: there's no inherent demand from the citizenry or tourists for these hotels. In fact, this is kind of an open problem with After Dark as well. While having tourism specialty districts does attract tourists (and their money) to the city, there is no inherent demand for affordable rooms that the player is pressured to meet.

This means that there's no pressure or reason to build a hotel in a particular part of town, or to build more hotels, even if there isn't really a suitable or ideal place to locate them. Basically, the existence of hotels generates tourists, rather than the presence of tourists generating a demand for hotels. Having a hotel in an area will bring in more tourists, who will go to local parks, businesses, or so forth, but there's no real drawback to not having a hotel in a place that gets a lot of tourists and really needs a good hotel. They'll simply commute from other parts of town. Sure it may add to traffic congestion, but probably not by much, since tourists are usually a pretty low percentage of a city's population at any given time, and most traffic jams are usually caused by trucks and service vehicles anyway.

Tourists can leave an event and walk to a nearby hotel rather than commute across town to a tourism district.

So yes, it is marginally helpful to put a few hotels nearby an event facility, such as a Concerts Festival Area, a Match Day football stadium, or a Campus varsity stadium. These events usually attract a sizeable percentage of tourists, and when they end, those tourists will be able to walk to your hotels rather than clog up your roads by driving across town to a hotel in a tourism district.

It also allows the player more flexibility in the organization of your city. You don't have to put all your tourist destinations near a tourism specialty district, nor do you have to build small tourism specialty districts near all your tourist attractions. Instead, you can build one or more hotels in the places where they would be helpful.

So if you have a nature preserve way out on the outskirts of town, far away from most of your development, you can plop down a few rental cabins or a roadside motel, and spare your tourists (and the city's roadways) from as much bus or taxi traffic. It will also spare the nature preserve from the light and noise pollution associated with the After Dark tourism districts. The "nature tourists" who visit the city should prefer those cabins due to both their flavor as a nature resort, and their proximity to the places the tourist wants to go. Further, simply creating a Parklife Nature Preserve automatically creates a region with high "nature" appeal for placing rental cabins and hostels. So you're not necessarily dependent on the structure of the map when it comes to opportunities to use this content.

National Parks create massive demand for rental cabins, hostels, and lodges.

Similarly, you can have a fancy pants hotel tower right in the middle of a financial or IT district, or place shopping hotel tucked between commercial and leisure districts. Neither of these will require you to break up or clutter your city's layout by having to dump tourism specialization districts into the middle of those other districts.

Interestingly, there are 2 different requirements for unlocking new tiers of resorts. One requirement is the total weekly profit, and the other is the average popularity of the hotel chain. So advancing through all the tiers requires either careful planning to ensure that all the hotels you place are both profitable and popular. Or you can spam hotels that are marginally profitable to hit the profit threshold, and then simply shut down some un-popular hotels in order to drive up the average rating for the whole chain long enough to get the unlocks. The system is easier to game that I think Colossal Order probably wanted, but it is interesting to see a little bit of creativity and variety in how unlocks work.

Legacy upgrades

Hotels & Retreats also follows suit with recent DLC by adding additional upgraded assets for players who own previous expansions. The most notable is the addition of a whole new building for each of the Nature Preserve, Amusement Park, and Zoo from Parklife, and a also new Seafood Factory for owners of Industries and Sunset Harbor, which consumes fish and plastics and produces "luxury goods".

The resorts from this expansion combine well with the Parklife and Industries areas (with their new buildings) as well as with the parking lots, sports arenas, and shopping malls of the previous content creator packs. Sadly, there's still no public beach park area, nor proper ski resorts for players who own Snowfall. Nor have we seen golf courses or water parks either, all of which could have perfectly valid, thematic new assets to add for this expansion.

This expansion includes new and upgraded content for older expansion packs.

There's also some new road types, and upgrades to legacy roads. These include new roads that contain tracks for various combinations of alternate transit methods, such as bus lanes, bike lanes, tram tracks, and so forth.

Perhaps the most interesting upgrade for roads is the new ability to lay down roads with zoning disabled on one side, the other, or both sides. This is a great way of controlling and normalizing the size and shapes of zones, especially where roads intersect at odd angles or offset from the normal node spacing. Such intersections would usually result in small blocks of zones that break up the flow of a city block. But now, one road or the other can have its zoning disabled, so that the zones will appear on the intersecting road without interference.

This feature is also great for creating realistic arterials without zoning on either side. Instead, the player can create all the zones and ploppables off of the collector and local roads. This allows traffic to move more freely and unrestricted along the arterials, since nobody will be turning off into adjacent shops or homes, or from those shops or homes back onto the arterial. Previously, this could be done by placing paths or walls along a road to clobber any zoning that is adjacent to it, but now, such paths or walls aren't necessary if you don't want them.

Zoning can now be disabled alongside any segment of road.

Disabling zoning is also great of ruse with roundabouts. Creating a roundabout with a normal road would normally create tiny blocks of zoning along the outside and inside of the circle, which was always an eye sore. This could be avoided by creating the roundabout with highways instead of one-way roads, but that would require growing the city to the appropriate milestone to unlock highways. Now we can do it with any road in any city of any size.

Stuff like this is great because it means that we can create much prettier roundabouts that have things like built-in bus lanes, tram lines, bike lanes, and so forth (a lot of which are new road types added by this expansion or the previous ones) -- which would all have been impossible if we were stuck using highways.

I hope and expect that this feature will be in the sequel as well. It would be an awful tease for Colossal Order to put this in the very last DLC for the first game, a mere months before the sequel releases, and then not include it in the sequel. Surely they won't be doing that...

A ploppable clock counts down to the release of the sequel.

Business or pleasure?

There's also the Chirper Treasure Hunt, with a countdown timer to the launch of Cities Skylines 2, and a few extra plazas. It includes a secret message that, if deciphered, will unlock some bonus content in Cities: Skylines II. It's free, so whatever ... use it or don't. It doesn't add much to the core game.

Honestly, I feel like the World Tour, Financial Districts, Hotels & Retreats, and the other recent content creator packs for sports arenas, shopping malls, and transport hubs could have been merged into one large expansion, which I'll call "Business or Pleasure?", and it would have been a pretty good full-size expansion for Cities: Skylines. It's a shame that it had to be cut up and sold as smaller piecemeal components, which ended up being more expensive than if it had all been packaged together. The different architecture styles of the World Tour packs allows players to build different cultural districts for their cities, which can easily be made into tourist attractions, which will need to be serviced by hotels and resorts. And the financial districts work as an ideal "business" destination for business people, who will also need fancy business hotels to stay at.

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