Cities: Skylines - Green Cities Review

There's a town I've built in Cities: Skylines that I'm particularly fond of. One might call it quaint or a "hick town." But that doesn't stop it from being full of charm, nor does it reduce the surprising amount of garbage and sewage. But wait, what if I could find a way to make it more charming, sleeker, and less dirty? Enter Green Cities, the latest expansion pack for Paradox Interactive's Cities: Skylines

When I thought of what Green Cities might offer, I pictured all sorts of sleek, high-tech buildings. And those are here, don't get me wrong, but none of them are going to be obvious until you've made a bigger city. What you'll notice right away are tweaks made to gameplay mechanics more than anything else. The noise pollution system, for example, has been overhauled. Previously, street noise depended on road size, which always felt simplistic in a game featuring real-time traffic. Now, it's determined by the type and number of vehicles they harbor. Being a mayor who has much bigger roads than I need, this immediately became a significant benefit when I loaded up my little town. Then you have the option to specialize your districts so that houses are built (or more likely rebuilt) in an eco-friendly way, or decree that all shops within a given district will serve organic food and charge electric cars. The ultimate effects of these changes are minor, predictably amounting to higher expenses and lower pollution output. 

Even in my small town, I was surprised by the amount of building options I had. Within 500 extra residents was access to a giant tower that harnesses the sun's light for power. Amazingly, I could already build a geothermal plant or pretentious, alternative schools, the latter of which I have no idea what they do better. I still wanted to keep my town small, however, but I learned that this came at a significant aesthetic cost. For no apparent reason, all of the eco-friendly houses have dry, gray dirt in their yards, clashing dramatically with the tropical bright greens of the natural grass fields surrounding my city. This becomes much less pronounced in larger cities, where such houses become beautiful, grass-laden skyscrapers (ironic, eh?), and to be fair, the homes themselves look sleek even at their smallest. Green Cities also comes with an expanded repertoire of facilities to address health concerns, such as a community pool and gymnasium. 

Like the rest of the expansion packs, Green Cities is most impactful on large metropolitan areas. Aside from residences looking dramatically different, I found that enforcing the local produce ordinance has a benefit of making my skyscrapers more future-y. Then you have the monuments, most of which are unlocked at lower population points but are only now feasible with a larger tax base. Gardens shaped like Aztec pyramids? Floating restaurants? A giant disc that sucks up poop from the lake and turns it into something less gross? Yes, yes, and definitely yes. I need my lake poop-free, thank you. But do you see the limitation here? Sure, it's different than before, but not radically so. To encourage the use of these different buildings and modifications, the pollution system really should have been made harsher and more challenging. And maybe it's just that I live in an oil-industry-dominated world, but would it really be this cheap and smooth to transition to a city that supports all this? Finally, most of these new toys serve as alternative methods to deal with issues you already had the tools to address. Fore example, that lake poop could've been avoided by building the base game's water treatment plant. 

The Green Cities expansion pack contains a lot of nice buildings and a very welcome change to the traffic system, but it doesn't introduce anything to necessitate what it offers. That being said, it's being sold at a reasonable price, and the changes it offers are fun to tinker with in their own right. And by not taking any risks with altering the pollution mechanics, you can feel free to boot up any old city you have without everyone becoming sick and the air filling up with vaporized sludge. Plus, it's kind of awesome to have a new library of slick buildings and tourist attractions (the climate research station being a personal favorite). It does what it promises, and I will say that if you see it on sale, you really might as well pick it up.