Cities: Skylines has come a long way since its original release, but as the low hanging fruit of weather and disasters have been picked off in previous expansion, Colossal Order’s latest DLC sees them digging deep into the foundations of the game’s traffic and transport network.
The paid DLC brings with it a bunch of new public transport systems, with monorails, blimps, ferries and cable cars adding to the mix. They’re perhaps a more eccentric set of additions to what’s already in the game, which at launch covered by far the most common forms of travel, but there’s an undeniable charm to having a monorail network that hangs over the road network to evoke the likes of Seattle and Springfield. Blimps, cable cars and ferries are a little more novel, but there’s a nice degree of differentiation for blimps and ferries, which have you creating sky and water lanes for these to travel down.
Simply put, it’s great to have new options like this, and it’s also fantastic to have better ways to bind these transport options together. The monorail in particular has a number of hub stations that can combine monorail, trains, metro and busses in a few different ways, and there’s now big end terminals for your rail network. While not comprehensive or covering every possible permutation, there’s perhaps now the potential for the modding community to take these and adapt them further to suit more situations and needs.
Sadly some of the options end up being a tad clunky. Just finding what you want in the public transport section can be tricky – Blimps, for example – hide under the same section as planes – and trying to pick apart a complex transport network can be visually very busy. In particular, I feel that retrofitting a monorail system into an existing road network is a real pain to do. Upgrading pieces of road to feature monorail track is easy enough, but the stations are huge, especially those that serve multiple forms of transport, and those that straddle the road require you to rip it up and plant it afresh.
As always, Mass Transit also comes alongside a free update, this time bringing a lot of welcome improvements to managing traffic and improving your roads. Where the addition of new public transport options is obviously welcome, it’s these changes that will actually have the biggest impact on playing the game.
Junctions can now be modified with traffic lights and stop, helping you to shape the flow of traffic. Perhaps you want to prioritise the traffic on a roundabout, forcing cars to stop before merging, or you want to just plonk down some traffic lights so everyone has to take their turn. It’s sadly not a comprehensive set of options – I’d have loved to see a ‘give way’ sign, bespoke roundabouts and so on – but it has to straddle the divide between letting you manage an entire city and giving you the flexibility to deal with the traffic problems.
Helping you decipher what’s going right and wrong is the new traffic routes section of the info panels, which makes for a vast improvement over the basic traffic heat map. Click on a patch of road and the info panel’s grayscale view will see lines of travel spreading out in both directions, showing you where traffic is heading and where it’s coming from. Additionally, you can click on a single vehicle and see where that’s heading, or filter the view to only show particular transport types. It can really help to open what was previously a closed box of mystery.
However, even with that tool, it can still be difficult to pick out the cause and effect of a particularly snarled up traffic jam and how your changes are affecting it, especially with the vagaries of traffic levels throughout the game’s day-night cycle. A handful of scenarios join the game within the paid expansion, with one particular city beset by an awful road layout that helps nobody, tasking you with getting the overall traffic flow up to acceptable levels within 200 weeks. It’s a rather daunting task, and even as you add new routes to criss-cross the motorway, and join up or improve the layout of the sprawling districts, it’s tricky to get to grips with what changes actually have a positive effect. With enough study, you can figure it out, but it takes time.
There’s also the usual laundry list of smaller changes, such as letting you toggle whether or not train stations allow for inter-city travel, a passenger view for public transport lines, so you can see passenger counts, and so on. My favourite improvement comes with the road laying tools, adding more guiding lines and dots to help you see exactly where you want to place a road to maximise the number of buildings in a space. It’s ideal for creating boring American-style grid cities.
On the whole Mass Transit is a more than welcome set of additions and improvements to Cities: Skylines, but there’s just that nagging feeling that it could have gone a little bit further in some areas and a couple of options could be a little smoother to use. There’s a number of excellent changes being made for free, to the point that the actual paid DLC feels a touch more superficial. Of course, every Simpsons fan out there will want to build a genuine, bonafide, electrified, six-car monorail, and, now you can.