“Cities Skylines: After Dark” is the first expansion pack for Paradox Entertainment’s popular city building simulation. This review is based on the PC digital download. As an expansion pack, this title requires a copy of the original title and therefore will only appeal to fans of the original game. The core game allows players to plan and manage a city from bare earth to thriving metropolis, or anything in between. The difficulty of reviewing this type of expansion, is that the content is so thoroughly integrated that it is difficult to separate the new content from the core gameplay experience. The original title is worthwhile for fans of the genre, but this review will focus on the new content and assumes some familiarity with the original.
The most notable addition that this expansion brings is that cities are no longer trapped in perpetual daylight. A day/night cycle gives city builders the opportunity to witness their creations under the lights. Like the original title, the graphics are appealing, and the lighting effects look impressive. However, the developers decided to release the day/night cycle as a free update; so the value of this new expansion lies primarily in new buildings and gameplay tweaks designed to take advantage of it.
In terms of value, the content is decent for the price; but in terms of utility, the expansion doesn’t add anything essential to the core experience. Many of the new structures revolve around creating commercial zones that are specialized for leisure and tourism. In practice, most of the simulation takes place under the hood, so there is little difference in experience between the specialized commercial zones, and the traditional city-simulation RCI zones that are already in the base game. The pack adds a lot of new options, which allows the player to tweak the game in numerous ways. However, the new content is evolutionary more often than it is game-changing. It provides more of the same, rather than a fundamentally new experience.
This expansion is recommended with these caveats in mind. Those who play city simulators for the aesthetics already have most of this expansions appeal in the free update. For those who don’t enjoy the spreadsheet balancing aspects of simulation games, it is probably safe to give this expansion a pass. Hardcore simulation fans, however, will find a lot of new options that will allow them to min/max to their hearts content.