In a post-2013 SimCity world, Paradox Interactive and Colossal Order have cemented themselves as one of the true spiritual successors to EA's once-legendary city builder thanks to Cities: Skylines. The game managed to attract an extremely wide array of people that felt that the newest SimCity didn't have the impact people thought it would have due to a severely stripped-down and hampered set of mechanics that made building cities more of a chore than anything else. Luckily, Cities: Skylines turned out to be more than up to the task of filling the city-sized void left in the genre. Since its release, developer Colossal Order has released a slew of updates that added a weather system, a winter-themed map and a day/night cycle that showed off your city in an entirely new light, in addition to an ever-growing lexicon of community-made mods, maps, and assets. The newest expansion is called Natural Disasters and seeks to inject a little more excitement into the game. Let's see how it fares.
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First off are the new buildings. With the threat of a natural disaster looming over you at all times, you need to prepare your city in the case a giant meteor wants to check out your city from up close. You're tasked with providing your city with ways to warn the poor denizens of your city to ensure that a hypothetical disaster does as little damage to your city and its people as possible. Some tools at your disposal are special buoys that warn you for an impending tsunami, a weather radar that warns you when there's a particularly heavy storm headed your way, and deep space radars that give you a heads up when a meteor is throwing itself in your general direction. Threats like forest fires need to be kept in check as well, which comes down to you plopping down a few watchtowers so you can get notified if that friendly patch of trees decides to catch fire.
When disaster inevitably strikes, it can strike very hard. A meteor falling down on the map might miss your buildings, a tornado can just brush the outer edges of your cities, but the ones that do hit set your progress back a certain amount depending on how ready you were for the calamity du jour. Tornados can rip apart entire neighborhoods, flinging your citizen's cars across the map and turning your beautifully designed urban areas into useless ruins that need rebuilding. Fires can spread and ruin entire parts of your cities if your services can't get to it fast enough. All of these disasters need to be responded to as quickly as possible as to avoid major casualties. The biggest tool to do just that is the Disaster Response Unit, which will send vehicles to affected areas and will assist in finding and transporting survivors, as well as help clear up the rubble. You will also have access to shelters that'll keep your citizens safe in the case of a natural disaster. All in all, there are six types of natural disasters you'll have to deal with at some point (earthquakes, flash floods, sinkholes, massive thunderstorms, the aforementioned meteors and tornados) and all of them need a slightly different approach to deal with them.
A completely new addition to the game are the scenarios. These scenarios offer a custom map with a different set of victory conditions you'll need to achieve in order to win the scenario. One of the maps provided, for instance, centers around a group of tiny islands you have to use to build your city on. This in and of itself isn't much different from the main game, were it not for the fact that your nice island-based city will continually live with the threat of a tsunami hovering above your citizen's heads like a cold, windy sword of Damocles. Another one has you grow a city while frequent tornados come to rain on your proverbial parade. These scenarios give players more varied games with different goals and modifiers and because the game has Steam Workshop support, you can play a virtually infinite amount of scenarios made by other players once the game has been out for a while.
I would be remiss to not mention the new in-game radio, which comes in four different flavors. You have the Cities: Skylines soundtrack in its own channel, a classical music station, Cities Radio which hosts a rather eclectic variety of music and Gold FM, which has a ton of soul classics playing on repeat. Every station's soundtrack is broken up every now and then by the stereotypical radio ads we all know and love. The writing of these commercials is really funny and witty and highlights how silly most our own commercials are. These radio stations also have a practical purpose outside of entertaining you with jokes and good music; the radio serves as a warning system for impending natural disasters. It's a really nice addition to the game and one hopes that they'll add more stations in the future!
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The major "problem" Natural Disasters has is that the added disasters will probably only be interesting to a specific group of people, namely casual players who only play this game sporadically or for the people that care less about aesthetics and more about mechanics and difficulty. Cities: Skylines has cemented itself as a great city builder, this is true, but what seems to draw the most people in is that the game's engine and mechanics allow people to create really aesthetically pleasing cities, with some players going overboard completely and designing intricate and complex urban layouts. This means that the inclusion of random disasters might not be what you'd want for your artwork of a city. Regardless, this expansion pack adds a ton of meaningful new mechanics to the game and adds a few more responsibilities to your to-do list. Disasters are never convenient and they pose a real threat to the metropolis you're trying to build and needs you to think ahead when you're designing your city and you'll need to learn to react as fast as possible to the forces of nature that are coming to unhelpfully squash your beautiful beacon of civil engineering. The amount of content in this expansion is plentiful, which is a marked improvement over expansion released in the past, and it adds more than enough to keep you busy for quite some time to come.
Cities: Skylines - Natural Disasters was reviewed on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer.
This expansion adds a little more challenge to the game in addition to a bunch of really cool visual effects, but this expansion might not be for you if you don't like to see your cities being completely destroyed by random acts of God.
- Disasters look awesome.
- New buildings that can help you weather the oncoming storms.
- Doesn't add much for players who just want to build a city.