Cities: Skylines Snowfall Review

Grab your shovel.

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The latest expansion to Cities: Skylines--a world building sim in the style of classic Sim City games--brings all of the unique challenges of winter weather to the desktops of virtual mayors. Nearly every conceivable snow-related issue has been packed in here except for irate residents furious about snowplows blocking in their driveways. As a real mayor in a Canadian city who deals with this sort of thing for a good four months every year, I’m not complaining.

With all that said, there are some limitations here. The biggest issue for me is that Snowfall is pretty much an all-or-nothing proposition. Virtually all of the new winter features are confined to the three new maps: Snowy Coast, Icy Islands, and Frosty Rivers. Each map is all winter, all the time, with so much icy precipitation that you might as well be stuck inside a snow globe. That certainly underlines the wintry focus of this add-on, but it also makes everything a tad simplistic. Progression through the seasons would have been a nice touch, as would the option to play around with the intensity of the winter weather. As it is, you’re either tackling Old Man Winter 24/7 or you’re off to the original game in a map with green grass and sunshine.

Keep the public happy when the snow falls by building a snowmobile track.
Keep the public happy when the snow falls by building a snowmobile track.

Even with its single-minded design, Snowfall offers a fresh spin on Cities: Skylines. The look of the game is very different. The snowfall is idyllic, and it adds a lot of atmosphere to cities as it falls during the near-constant storms. It gives the game a facelift even though repetition remains something of an annoyance whenever you want to take an up-close-and-personal look at your burgeoning metropolis from street level.

Gameplay has been tweaked in a handful of notable ways to emphasize the colder weather, too. The most prominent example of this is the new gauge at the bottom of the screen that tracks some pretty frigid temps, far below the point of freezing. Snow quickly accumulates on the streets, necessitating the construction of plows that patrol the roads and a place where all that excess white stuff can be piled. And, of course, the icy conditions also make it vital to heat homes and businesses. Standard water/sewer pipes must now be upgraded with heating pipes that carry warmth to citizens from boiler stations and geothermal power plants.

Adding in the possibility of a winter disaster, like a city-crippling blizzard or a freezing-rain storm that brought down power for an extended period of time, would have made heating homes and businesses a lot tougher. An opportunity missed.

Both features add complexity to city planning, but not much in the way of difficulty. I endured life without snow removal for a while at the start of my first game as I couldn’t find it in the interface (it’s obscured in the roads menu instead of tucked in where it should be alongside other public works features like the landfill site), and the impact on my streets wasn't noticeable. Maybe some cars were slipping and sliding, but if so, nobody complained about it. I didn’t pick up on any problems with transit, people getting to and from work, or even old people slipping and falling on the snow and ice that was clearly building up on the roads and sidewalks. A snowflake icon even tells you when it’s time to call out the plows.

Setting up a heating system was a snap. I have to admit I was expecting more of a challenge here, especially given how heating demands more electrical use at the start of a map. But the boilers and geothermal systems were unlocked when I hit just 2,000 residents, so that a strain on my electrical grid was never a problem. Adding in the possibility of a winter disaster, like a city-crippling blizzard or a freezing-rain storm that brought down power for an extended period of time, would have made heating homes and businesses a lot tougher. An opportunity missed.

New amenities like the Frozen Fountain beautify the winter wonderland maps of the Snowfall expansion.
New amenities like the Frozen Fountain beautify the winter wonderland maps of the Snowfall expansion.

Snowfall’s winter theme is complemented by a selection of new buildings and parks, as well as the addition of trams to the range of other transit options already on offer. All add kind of a winter carnival atmosphere to Cities in that you can build neighborhood skating rinks, snowmobile tracks, parks centered on frozen water fountains, saunas, ski resorts, and even Santa Claus’s Workshop. Many are hobbled by strange and unnecessary prerequisites, however. Why you need to load up a snow dump to build a ski resort or crank out 20 tram lines to set up Santa Claus and his elves is anybody’s guess. A few new policies are also available for the winter weather, although not much bears on your city-building philosophies. Mandating winter tires and tougher building insulation standards add some flavor without making any serious impact on the bottom line.

With the addition of Snowfall on top of the After Dark expansion released last fall, Cities: Skylines is starting to take shape as an expansive city-building franchise that offers something for any wannabe mayor. One caveat here is that you don’t really get a tremendous amount of content, and that what's present is pretty much relegated in specific maps, leaving the impact of this expansion on the overall game fairly minimal. That said, the winter wonderland atmosphere does freshen up the visuals so even while this expansion is not essential, spending a little time in a virtual snow globe city remains awfully appealing.

Back To Top
The Good
Adds winter weather to Cities Skylines for the first time
New sub-zero challenges like heating homes, plowing snow, and wintry recreation
Snowy maps and blizzard conditions offers a fresh look
The Bad
Limited number of new and enhanced features
Winter features are confined to three maps
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Cities: Skylines

About the Author

Brett put on his virtual mayor’s sash for another eight hours and waded into the icy tundra of Cities: Skylines Snowfall. He received a complimentary copy of the game for this review.
21 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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JimmyCos

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These expansions are more like lazy DLC

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UsernameOneTwo

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Snow of course is a nice addition, but i expected something more from this overpriced DLC. Snow, heating pipes and snow plowing is not enough. It should've been a free update.

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kozzy1234

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Love this game to bits, but this expansion was a bit meh for me. Wierd that this got a higher review score than the second Pillars Of Eternity expansion pack. I like Cities and Pillars the same, but Pillars second DLC was way better than Cities second dlc.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@kozzy1234: Apples and oranges.

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lonewolf1044

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Edited By lonewolf1044

Game still better than what SimCity was offering.

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Gelugon_baat

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No kidding on the lack of seasonal progression - here's a page from the developer's forum thread about this expansion. It would appear that it is difficult to write code for that.

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SaturatedButter

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Edited By SaturatedButter

@Gelugon_baat: While the Collossal Order staff do mention that it would be a lot of work to make cycling seasons, I don't think the point they're making in that thread is that they're not doing it because it's too difficult.

From what I could tell, they don't want to put too much work into building cosmetic-only additions. They want a season to involve real gameplay features that cater to the specific season. As such, they don't want to build city services that need to be built, and turned off and on as seasons go by. They found that to be unrewarding as well as too much work for what players would be getting out of it. Seasons would need to be very long in order to make any season-specific features at all meaningful, and it would be unsatisfying for short game sessions.

What it comes down to is this is a video game and the game functionality of cycling seasons wouldn't actually be much fun. Cosmetic seasons would be a whole lot of graphical work with no satisfying payoff.

Also, I'd like to point out that while people on that page are quite distressed over the winter-only theme, they are actually very pleased with the addition of trams. A feature that is barely mentioned in this review.

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Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

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@saturatedbutter: I wouldn't be surprised at the lack of the mention - the game is not Cities in Motion.

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SaturatedButter

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Aren't the trams the most important addition from this expansion? Why are they barely mentioned in this review?

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Gelugon_baat

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@saturatedbutter: You are being sarcastic, aren't you?

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SaturatedButter

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@Gelugon_baat: No. The tram may not be the biggest addition but it's the thing that's been heavily anticipated. People wanted that way more than any of the snow stuff.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@saturatedbutter: Are you sure about that claim about what the "people" wanted? I am going to assume that these "people" wanted what they want by making threads and queries at the official forums for the game, namely the forums in Paradox's site.

I did a Google search through Paradox's site by using the following keywords: "forum" "snow" -snowfall "cities skylines" -expansion. This is to remove any mention of this expansion, and also to more-or-less obtain results which are forum threads about snow in the game. I got about 8370 results.

Then I did a Google search through Paradox's site again by using the following keywords: "forum" "tram" "cities skylines". I got about 2090 results, including both the mention of "tram" and its plural, "trams".

Do notice the keywords which I used to reduce the number of results in the first search, and the fewer number of keywords which I used in the second in order to raise the number of results. In other words, the searches are already skewed in the favor of getting results about trams. Yet, the first search yielded more anyway.

Granted, not all of the search results pertain to the subject matters of snow and trams in Cities: Skylines - but the disparity is rather stark. Also, I get the impression that people who want trams want Skylines to be more like Cities in Motion.

So I ask again: were you being sarcastic? If you are not, then I have the impression that you may be thinking that what you want is what many other people want, regardless of any evidence.

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SaturatedButter

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@Gelugon_baat: "snow"? Nobody's buying the expansion for snow. Snow is a free cosmetic update for all Cities Skylines players.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@saturatedbutter: Well, you said "snow stuff". You did not say "gameplay elements which are associated with snowfall and its practical consequences".

You will have to be more concise and precise if you don't want other people shifting goal-posts, filling in the blanks for you or diverging off away from whatever you thought was supposed to be the subject matter or ancillary matter.

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SaturatedButter

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@Gelugon_baat: Sorry I lack the robotic nature you possess.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@saturatedbutter: I am not being robotic - you were just being vague. (I am aware that you have also just been sarcastic.)

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SaturatedButter

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@Gelugon_baat:

Saracasm_detector.exe executed.

Return(MildSarcasm)

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Gelugon_baat

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@saturatedbutter: Aren't you being robotic yourself? :\

(Goddamn, there's even a return line.)

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arkhenon

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Ah, I didn't know that the winter attributes were only applied to new maps, all the time. As you stated, adding these capabilities to all maps (maybe with an option) and presenting them with seasonal changes would be amazing, with the addition of blizzards and so on. That would really make you try to create a city that would work normally, while being robust enough to take the challenge of a snowfall.

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Cities: Skylines More Info

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  • First Released Mar 10, 2015
    released
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • + 4 more
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
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    Developed by Colossal Order, Cities: Skylines offers sprawling landscapes and maps with endless sandbox gameplay and new ways to expand your city.
    8.1
    Average Rating132 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Colossal Order, Tantalus Interactive
    Published by:
    Paradox Interactive, Koch Media, Ikaron, Spike Chunsoft, Deep Silver
    Genre(s):
    Management, Strategy
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    Modern
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
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