Parklife Review: A Whole New Way to Play


Nature reserve tents

Parklife, Cities: Skylines’ sixth expansion, launched to much acclaim in summer of 2018. It freshened up the formula, added systems we hadn’t seen before and gave us expansive parks that can define, or redefine, whole parts of the city.

The free patch

Patch 1.10, which released alongside Parklife, was a hefty bug-fixing update. It addressed issues including balance with every prior expansion and the base game. It also improved the UI, made it easy to unearth more data and added new models for tourists, among other things.

Perhaps most significant was that noise got an overhaul. With 1.10, trees now dampen noise, meaning you can put loud buildings like stations closer to residential areas by ringing them with trees. Beautification itself got easier with lots of new trees and rocks added.

The big story in Parklife

Parklife amusement park island

The new parks are the big thing here, as you’d expect. They’re a totally new system that operates quite differently from anything else in the game. You start by drawing a park similar to a district. Once you’ve placed a main gate (ideally near transit connections), you’re away. You can draw paths through the park and place buildings and props wherever you like.

Each building contributes an entertainment value. The higher the value the more people will visit. Hit visitor counts and the park will upgrade up to level 5. Each level unlocks new buildings for the park.

The level of detail you can go into is huge. You’ll find yourself tinkering with bin and sign placement, laying hedges and benches, and choosing between normal tables or ones with chess boards on top. Not because you need to, but because you can.

I found that Parklife really got me interested in the sort of detailing I’d not paid much attention to before. My cities are a far, far, far cry from some of the hyper-realistic stuff that gets posted on the Reddit, but I realised how far a bit of time spent on aesthetics can go.

The new buildings are well designed, with great animations and sound design. Swoop over your zoo or theme park and you’ll hear roars or thronging crowds. It begs you to just sit back and watch.

Park buildings aren’t exclusive their park type, either. Once you’ve unlocked them, you’re free to mix and match. Some of the amusement park buildings work very nicely in a bigger city park, and nature reserve buildings suit zoos, assuming you’re going for a big ethically sound zoo out on the edge of town that is.

Because you’ve carefully placed each building yourself there’s a real sense of ownership over the parks, something that you don’t get from normal zoned buildings.

I don’t want to overstate the level of micromanagement here, though. You’ve got total freedom to lay each park as you like, but other than setting policies and ticket prices there’s not much else to do but enjoy watching it work. It would be hard to call it a ‘minigame’, then. But the playstyle is so different that it kind of feels that way.

City Parks are really handy for awkward spaces in the middle of your cities. You might not want to squeeze a whole new district in there, and leaving it empty can sometimes just look a bit weird. By adding some fences, gates, cafes and benches, you’ve suddenly got a busy and attractive focal point from nothing. And one that will make money, too.

Although income shouldn’t be overstated, either. They do make money, but they won’t be big income generators. But that doesn’t really matter - money is easy to come by in Cities.

When I wrote about Snowfall, I talked about how it was a shame that seasons weren’t integrated into non-winter maps. That goes the other way, too. A fifth park type - a ski or winter sports resort - would have been incredible. It would have given everyone a reason to make a new winter city, and probably sold a bunch of copies of the older DLC, offsetting the costs of making it (maybe).

What else is new?

Amusement park island Parklife

Parks are the headline and most of the new stuff is gated within them, but there are other additions. The six new unique buildings are a mixed bag. The huge Colossalus, Sea Fortress and Old Market Street are tricky to use, because their size and styling mean they tend to dominate what’s around them. The latter would work great in a European-themed old town though.

Sightseeing buses are new, as are walking tours. Both give your tourists extra things to do, although I never succeeded in making the former profitable.But it’s nice to have extra systems and visual variety.

There’s also a new Monument: the impressive Castle of Lord Chirpwick. Once built, all unique buildings in the city get a healthy 25% boost to their attractiveness, supercharging your tourism without being too unbalanced.

A stack of new policies arrive as well, including ones to control the fireworks display each park will put on above its main gate at night and let you improve animal welfare at the zoo.

New found freedom

Nature reserve campsite

Without Parklife it’s possible, of course, to design park areas - especially nature reserve type areas. What Parklife does is give you vast numbers of props, buildings and paths - as well as a gameplay reason for creating them.

Once they’re built, everything you lay within them, from cafes to rollercoasters, is attractive to visitors and especially to tourists.

Being able to place them along paths is a revelation, too. Park buildings snap to footpaths of any kind, while props - like tents and canoes - can be placed anywhere. This gives us a kind of freedom that wasn’t available before. For me, it changed the feel of the game in an entirely positive way.

Freedom cuts both ways, of course. It’s possible to totally screw up your new parks. Just as I screwed up my first few cities, my first few parks were pretty ugly. Once I’d got a park to level 5 and unlocked everything, I had a better idea of how everything should fit together - and got better at planning future ones.

Parklife: is it worth buying?

Amusement park off the coast

It’s difficult to find fault with the pack. Everything feels well executed. I’d have liked some love for the winter maps but that’s a wider criticism rather than a problem with Parklife specifically.

As I write this, the seventh expansion - Industries - is about to arrive. It’s a testament to the success of the park drawing and upgrading that the new industrial areas look like they’re based on the same system.

I think what makes Parklife so special is that the parks I design, whether they’re beautiful nature reserves or wild amusement parks, often end up defining whole regions. In lots of cases, they’re among the things I’m most proud of in the city. They give incentives for beautifying an area and they contribute to the city’s attractiveness and pull in tourists.

As you’ll probably see from other articles I write, I really prize variety whenever Colossal Order have added it to the game. And Parklife adds that in spades. The parks are distinct and characterful and bring things to life.

For all those reasons, I think Parklife is an essential expansion, and always features at or near the top of my list of recommendations.

Thanks so much for reading! If you end up buying Parklife and would like to support the site, you can use these affiliate links: Humble Bundle. Thanks again!

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