Released in 2015, Cities: Skylines has to be one of the most content-rich city builder/sims on the market. There are a staggering 24 expansions and creator packs, not to mention free content updates and a very large and dedicated Steam workshop community. You name the niche or theme, and there is probably Skylines content to support it. Now, the options just got a little more overwhelming with the release of the paid DLC Campus.
The Campus approach seems to be a hybrid of European and American models of higher education, with three types of colleges available: a “trade school,” a University, and a Liberal Arts College. Each college has a wide range of prefab buildings, from cafeterias to dorms, campus theatres, lecture halls and specialty facilities, like Police training schools. The American obsession with collegiate sports is well represented by stadiums, ballparks, aquatic centers, soccer fields and much more. Although much of the architecture is a little bland, every building type does a good job of capturing the essence, form and function and it’s pretty easy to create a thriving academic community within the larger city.
Of course, as with all Cities: Skylines buildings and thematic elements, the impact of the structure is much more than aesthetic and there are lots of new challenges. Building your college’s reputation attracts better students and, of course, as your little academic paradise unfolds, new building types unlock and the cycle continues. Likewise, there are many complications around sports, from hiring quality coaches to recruiting players and increasing fan support. Played in the sandbox mode, all the under-the-hood stuff largely goes away but players who are chasing after challenges and achievements will have a lot to keep them busy. For anyone unwilling to enroll in the Campus, there is a bit of free DLC available to everyone, including a new and ornate library building.
Cities: Skylines looked fantastic when it launched in 2015 and it still looks quite decent nearly five years later, though all those moving parts can bring an underpowered processor to its knees. It’s pretty doubtful that new players will jump on board just for Campus, so by now Skylines veterans have come to terms with the game’s UI and construction mechanics and are simply looking to make their already bustling cities that much closer to reality.
Even at its most complex, Cities: Skylines underplays the economic sim/drudgery of operating and expanding a metropolis in favor of bigger picture stats. Most of all, there’s the pleasure and relaxing creativity that come from puttering around and watching one’s city functioning well and imagining its tiny citizens happy with their little lives. And now, with Campus, those people can better themselves through education. The expansion isn’t mind-blowing but it does toss a substantial amount of new content on an already impressive pile.