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Cities: Skylines - game title

After the disappointment that was Cities: Skylines' Snowfall expansion, Colossal Order has tried to renew loyalty in the brand by offering free updates and a whole free DLC. Despite my disappointment with Snowfall, I still love Skylines, and I support its developer Colossal Order. They've shown a great deal of good will towards the consumers by offering their game at a budget price, and by continuing to provide exceptional post-release support, maintenance, and improvements to the core Cities: Skylines gameplay. One of the recent major updates added terraforming tools and the ability to create canals. There's also a free DLC called "Match Day", which adds the ability to build a soccer stadium and maintain your own team.

Its game day in the city!

"Couldn't you already build a soccer stadium?" you may ask. Well, yes you could. But now there's an additional soccer stadium (which is oddly much larger than the original soccer stadium), and you can inspect it in order to customize your team and set a handful of policies regarding them. If you team wins games (which happen annually in the game's calendar), then your city gets a large lump sum of reward money. You can increase the odds of winning by enacting the various policies. They include making public transit free on game day, hiring private security to keep the peace (you know, soccer hooligans), or [the much more expensive] option to enact a youth subsidy that recruits the best players from the community. Ticket prices are also adjustable, and affect both the income you earn from sales and the attendance and support of fans. You'll also need to provide adequate transit to and from the stadium in order to encourage visitors (including tourists) to attend the games.

Cities: Skylines - match day
Your soccer stadium has some limited customization options.

Of course, you won't be getting a full-fledged soccer management game. You won't be managing a roster of players, setting depth charts, recruiting new players, or trading players with other teams. This is a city-building game, not EA Sports! I do wish that the stadium had more secondary color customization option in order to personalize it more. It would also be nice if there were multiple stadium architectures to chose from and multiple sports, but I guess we can leave that to the modders. The stadium that was already in the game is still present, but it does not function like the new stadium. I don't see any reason why they couldn't have moved that stadium into the new "Football" sub-category and make it function the same. Hopefully, it's easy enough to mod, say, a basketball arena that has the same policies attached to it. The Match Day DLC is free, so temper your expectations.

I'm kind of surprised that the devs keep adding stuff that generates more money for the city, since Skylines has always had the problem of money being a bit too easy to come by. Despite its high maintenance costs, and the high cost of some of the policies, the stadiums have never broken the bank for me. New stadiums will likely operate at a net loss at first, as it costs 4,000 money per week (which adds up to over 200,000 per year), and my first stadium generated (at most, if my team won) 160,000 per year from ticket sales and awards. That was without the expensive policies. With a successful enough team, and high ticket prices, it's certainly possible to earn a healthy sum of profit off your stadium, but I feel like you'd have to screw up pretty royally for a stadium to drive you bankrupt. The soccer stadium is also a source of happiness for the city. Whenever your team wins, you'll see a cascade of green smiley faces explode across your city. I don't think there's much (if any) penalty for losing games though. Either way, it does add a nice bit of personality and flair to the city, and makes the city feel a little bit more like your city.

Cities: Skylines - stadiums
New soccer stadium is larger than the old one, which you can still build without the customization options.

The earth itself bends to my will!

There was also a bevy of new features that were added for free via patch 1.4. This patch adds a couple new tools to the interface, and some other items have been rearranged. The most noticeable new tool will be the terraforming tools. This allows the player to raise, lower, or level terrain, as well as create slopes and cliffs. This is something that I'm really surprised wasn't in the game to begin with (without mods), and I'm happy to see it finally be supported.

But nothing in Cities: Skylines comes for free, so terraforming does have some costs associated with it. For starters, it can be expensive. It's really not something that you'll be able to do at a large scale with young or small cities. You'll probably have to grow your city past a few milestones and have net income in the tens of thousands of dollars before you can realistically afford any large-scale terraforming projects. The game also includes conservation of mass. You can't simply materialize dirt out of nowhere or disappear it to nowhere. Instead, there is a bucket that you fill with soil whenever you lower terrain, and you empty it of soil whenever you raise terrain. Any dirt that you move has to go somewhere. If you dig a hole in one part of the city, you'll have to deposit that dirt somewhere else, and if you want to build a mountain, you'll have to dig a hole somewhere else. The bucket comes partially filled to begin with, so you can do some small amounts of terraforming from the start.

Cities: Skylines - terraforming
Terraforming is expensive, and any soil that you move must be dumped somewhere else.

This is an interesting take on terraforming that no other city builder (that I'm aware of) has done before. It can be a little obnoxious and inconvenient, but I actually rather like it because it maintains the game's sense of meaningful geography. The underlying terrain still matters, even though you can now modify it. This was, after all, one of the major failings of Snowfall for me, and it's kind of funny to see a free patch that seems more thoughtful than an entire paid-for expansion. I wouldn't mind having a "displacement" tool added that maintains a constant amount of soil by automatically piling up dirt along the sides of a pit, or automatically collecting dirt from adjacent to a mound. That way, you don't have to keep switching between tools to collect and deposit dirt in the soil bucket. Maybe that's an idea for a modder.

The landscaping tool also contains new decorations, and the trees and paths tools have been moved out of the parks section and into the landscaping tools section. Each map will come pre-seeded with some decorations such as rocks and fallen trees. You can even find broken down piers and shipwrecks! Sadly, you can't place any of these decorations except for the rocks, and I don't think these new decorations get added to existing save games from before the patch.

New decorations include rocks, decrepit piers and buildings, and shipwrecks.

Controlled flooding

Perhaps the most popular feature of this landscaping feature set will be the inclusion of canals and other water-management tools. You don't need to download a mod for canals anymore, as they now have native support. Canals come in three different depths, which is supposed to allow you to control how much water goes through the canal, and could hypothetically allow you to regulate the flow of water. This depth is determined by the depth from the land's surface though, not relative to sea level. So if you want to maintain a consistent depth, you'll have to first use the landscaping level tool, which, as I mentioned above, is a costly and time-consuming process.

I'm really not quite sure if there's any practical purpose for canals though. The only mechanical interaction with flowing water is with water pumping, sewage systems, and hydroelectric plants. Hypothetically, I guess you could use a canal to create a complicated sewage transport system. But it's all just going to end up in the ocean anyway. And since you can only build within the confined limits of the city, you can't extend a sewage drainage canal out to another body of water that isn't already within your city limits. So what's the point? Maybe you could also use canals to regulate the water flow and electricity-generation of a dam? Those are the only two functions that I can see for this feature. You don't need to use canals for irrigation of farms, and (as far as I can tell) they can't be used as shipping lanes for cargo or cruise ships (they aren't wide enough to support a ship anyway). So they can make your city look nice and pretty, but they don't really do much. Whatever, it's a free update, so I don't expect it to include any game-changing functionality. It's nice to have in any case.

Cities: Skylines - canals
Canals have few practical uses, but they can be used to regulate sewage flow.

In addition to the canals, you can also build floodwalls to help control flooding. The game doesn't have any kind of real weather or disaster mechanics, so flooding is only a problem if you mismanage the flow of water through a canal or dam. I wonder if this might be a sign that Colossal Order is planning to add disasters of more extreme weather effects at some point?

Cities: Skylines - road heights
The height of roads can be
adjusted to three different levels.

The last new landscaping tool is quays. These are built along coastlines, and they level off the area near the coast and allow the construction of buildings right up to the edge of the water. This is certainly convenient and useful!

And if you need to build some roads over your canals or quay rivers, there's a new road height adjustment tool that allows you to set the height of each elevation step of a road. This allows you to create elevated roads, bike paths, or pedestrian paths that are lower to the ground, or to create gentler grades for elevated roads. If you're building a road over a canal, you don't need an elevated bridge, so you can use the lowest height to build a road that just sits above the canal. This can also be used for pedestrian paths as well.

Don't have to rely on mods anymore

While the new features don't add anything groundbreaking to the game, it is nice to have native support for these features rather than having to resort to mods. The updates are free (including the "Match Day" DLC), so there's no reason to not have them if you're a Skylines fan. They all add some fresh new ways to customize the look and feel of your city.

Even though I was disappointed by the last expansion, I can't stay mad at Skylines or Colossal Order for long. The developer has continued to provide excellent post-release support, and this already-great game just keeps getting better and better.

Cities: Skylines - terraced neighborhood
Terraforming tools allow for the easy creation of terraced neighborhoods.

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