City Skylines released their first paid expansion last week, After Dark. The main feature of the expansion – adding a night time cycle – is free without buying the expansion, but what makes it more than just pretty lights – new city services, cargo hubs, leisure and tourism specialization is what the expansion is really all about. City Skylines is currently the best contemporary city building sim on the market and After Dark expands on the existing game by filling in its current main weakspot – the boring middle bit.
Beginnings are always exciting and a metropolis is challenging to maintain and have it thrive, but the middle bit in City Skylines was a lot of zoning, building gridded roads and filling in waterpipe supply lines one click at a time. After Dark comes into play beautifully just at the right point in the game when the excitement begins to wear off and provides many options to grow and expand a nightscape with bars, clubs and a brand new taxi service to ferry fun-loving clientele back to their shiny hotel at sunrise.
Included in the box: Expansion pack with level editor
About the developer: Colossal Order Ltd.
Colossal Order Ltd is a Finnish game development company founded in 2009 that has created two public transport sims, Cities in Motion and Cities in Motion 2 and is currently working on this excellent building-sim City Skylines.
About the publisher: Paradox Interactive
Paradox Interactive is a Swedish game publisher specializing in strategy games founded in 1999. Charlie Hall at Polygon has done a feature article on Paradox Interactive providing in-depth information about how it was started and grew into the well-known publisher it is now – read it here.
The Ergohacks Evaluation
City Skylines is a brilliant city building sim and After Dark adds more depth and scope. After Dark makes City Skylines more versatile and increases the number of ways the game can be enjoyed.
It is reasonably accessible to people with diverse abilities and its design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and circumstances, particular with the use of the level editor.
It is a complex game that requires some expertise, knowledge and a certain skill level. It is a city-planning game and to succeed, players require the ability to understand and manipulate systems, how they network, budgets and basic traffic flow.
The controls for Cities Skylines is either keyboard or mouse-based. There are quite a few keys to remember for keyboard controls, but playing with a mouse is mostly point-and-click with drag-and-drop.
The main detractor from City Skylines is the text size of the user interface. It is very small and not adjustable.
The scroll menus is not the most ergonomic or efficient way to display information and when making use of extensive mods, it does become problematic to keep scrolling through long lists with only a few items viewable at a time – a pop-up grid display would be a big improvement.
The menu and user interface is well-designed and provides reasonably good access and for a game that displays a lot of information, the UI design ensures that information overload is minimized.
Environment & People
Colossal Order Ltd and Paradox Interactive are not companies that come to mind when discussing the environment. They are game creators working in the technology industry and not surprisingly, neither is at the forefront of eco-design. Little is available about company policy around environmental impact, responsible business or sustainability, but both companies have a good, longstanding business reputation.
There are multiple environmentally friendly options inside the game, including choices around green energy vs cheap energy, limiting pollution and waste and After Dark adds more sustainable choices with new cycling routes, a new taxi services, improve public transport options – the bus terminal now allows citizens to transfer to other bus lines in the terminal building and dedicated bus lanes can now be added to help transport run more efficiently.
I wish I could build traffic-free residential zones, but all buildings require road access. It is possible to build low traffic residential areas with small roads, lots of public transport, dedicating cycling and walking routes and instate policies that encourage residents to use their cars less and cycle, walk or take the bus instead.
Traffic is always my biggest issue and I have yet to succeed in convincing the masses that driving is a bad idea – I blame my poor bus routes, I am terrible at public transport management – but I have not given up yet and I do think with After Dark it is entirely possible to create city with a whole population of eco-warriors that stop driving everywhere.
After Dark’s price tag is probably the expansion’s weakest point. At almost £11, it’s a bit steep, however the original game is very reasonably priced at £22.99 and when combining the two it evens out the cost.
There has been quite a bit of free updates to the game since its release and it has a very active modding community that creates free shared content, so when upgrading with the expansion, the price tag isn’t just for a drop-down list of items.
City Skylines is a game made for an enthusiastic and thriving modding community and keeping up with the latest developments in the game also has the bonus of providing the opportunity to play an active role in creating new content with the new options After Dark has opened up.
Players: Single Player
No controller support
Language: English, French, German, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese-Brazil, Russian (Interface and subtitles)
PEGI 3+/ESRB E (everyone) rating
Platform: PC (Windows/Steam), Mac
This is an expansion of the game City: Skylines and requires the original game to operate.
OS: Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1 (64-bit) minimum, Windows 7/8 recommended
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo, 3.0GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 6400+, 3.2GHz minimum, Intel Core i5-3470, 3.20GHz or AMD FX-6300, 3.5Ghz recommended
Memory: 4 – 6 GB RAM
Graphics: 512 MB – 2GB card (Does not support Intel Integrated Graphics Cards)
DirectX: Version 9.0 – 11
Hard Drive: 1 GB available space
Cities are fascinating and most big cities feel like an entirely different place when the lights turn on. After Dark captures this phenomenon very well. It wasn’t the thriving tourist industry that had me excited though, it was the little details.
I love the cycling routes and could build a whole city around them if only the game allowed me to zone road-free residential and commercial zones. I giggled when after dark all my cyclists turned on their bicycle lights and as I watched them cycling home from work, past my schools and through large parks, I felt very proud of what I had achieved so far.
Cities Skylines is the best city building sim available and it’s just gotten even better. Highly recommended.
Product: City Skylines: After Dark | Developer: Colossal Order Ltd. | Publisher: Paradox Interactive | Platform: PC (Windows/Linux), Mac | Genre: City building sim/Strategy game | Language: English, French, German, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese-Brazil, Russian | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | Release Date: 24 September 2015 |Content Rating: PEGI 3+, ESRB E(everyone).
The review is based on the City Skylines: After Dark expansion kindly provided by Paradox Interactive. This article contains affiliate links. First published on 1 October 2015.