Snowfall DLC Review: Is It Worth It?


Residential area at night

Snowfall was the second expansion for Cities: Skylines. It released in early 2016 and brought winter, new maps, new buildings and trams to the game. At the same time, Colossal Order released some important free updates to the game, which was added whether or not you buy Snowfall. I talk about the free stuff further down.

What’s new?

Landing at the airport on a Winter map

Most of the Snowfall expansion plays out on the three new Winter maps, which add a new climate category in addition to Boreal, Temperate etc. There’s snow, obviously, a whole new type of transport in trams, and a ton of new winter-centric buildings to play with.

Snow and the cold are the big challenges on the Winter maps. Snow on the roads brings your traffic to a crawl and you’ll need to use the new Snow Dump to send out snow ploughs to drive around the city and collect up snow and keep vehicles moving.

The cold puts extensive demand on your electricity network until you can build a decent district heating system. Because the heating pipes are so expensive, you’ll be gradually extending the network, at the same time as keeping money aside for more power plants to cope with heating demand from houses not yet covered by the heating system.

It’s a form of compromise you don’t normally see in Cities: Skylines and adds some really welcome challenge. I love seeing cities that are the result of decisions I had to make along the way - choices between imperfect options - rather than just the ‘perfect city’ which, to me anyway, can feel a bit characterless. Snowfall gives you a little bit more of that kind of gameplay, especially in the early and mid game.

Fantastic trams

Trams in the city centre

I love trams. Very much. So for me, Snowfall was always likely to be worthwhile just to bring light rail into my cities. They’ve got a great look and have that amazing authentic bell noise as they pass through intersections. Functionally, they’re a really useful addition, neatly filling the gap between buses and metro and train lines. They’re ideal for moving people around busy commercial areas and the ability to add tram-only roads means you can add shortcuts that cars can’t take, making them even more efficient.

New parks, plazas and unique buildings

New parks and plazas in Snowfall

There’s a whole range of new parks and plazas that completely replace a lot of standard ones. Some are straight swaps for the non-winter versions, while others are new. They work the same way but they give you enjoyable variety and tons of cute new animations to watch.

There’s also 11 new unique buildings, including the impressive Ski Resort and Snowboard Arena. Each one draws residents and tourists and the bigger ones can act as focal points for whole districts.

There’s also a new Road Maintenance Depot, which is available on all maps. Add it somewhere central and it will improve your roads, raising speeds. It’s not vital but improves your road network efficiency a bit.

Stunning visuals

Residential area at night

As well as some gameplay challenge, Snowfall adds some incredible scenery. It’s a really beautiful piece of work. Once you’ve dealt with the basics like keeping your cims from freezing to death, sitting back and watching your trams glide down snow-filled avenues is just brilliant. Thick blizzards can almost completely obscure your view. The addition of the northern lights also makes for fantastic screenshots while exploring your city at night.

Heating is a big new mechanic on Winter maps

Geothermal power plants in Snowfall

At first, your cims will use electricity to power their homes, which is inefficient and expensive. Early on, you’ll build what seems like an endless stream of coal power stations to keep the lights on.

Bit by bit, you’ll be able to upgrade water pipes to carry hot water as a district heating system, powered by a Boiler Station or the Geothermal Heating Plant, which is the clean option. Once you roll it out, cims will use the heating instead of drawing on your electricity, greatly reducing the capacity you need.

Where are the mountains?

Ski resort unique building

What feels like a missed opportunity is adding a mountainous Winter map. The three maps that are here are pretty flat. Admittedly cable cars weren’t available until Mass Transit got released, but even so it’s hard to create anything that feels like a proper ski resort. The best I could manage was a sort of ‘winter sports park’.

I know you could terraform a mountain into being, or make a map yourself, but that’s not really the point.

Something I’d have loved to see, so very much, would have been a new class of bike paths for cims to cross-country ski through your city. How incredible would that have been?! Maybe one day.

New city policies

We got a bunch of new policies to help your city cope with the permanent sub-zero weather. You can give studs to people and cars, add insulation to buildings and force people to only use the district heating system and draw no electricity for heat. All the policies are winter-related and aren’t more widely applicable, though.

Snowfall is almost a standalone DLC

Central square Snowfall In terms of crossover, Snowfall doesn’t bring much to the wider Cities: Skylines gameplay experience. Apart from trams, the expansion’s content really plays out exclusively on the three new perma-winter maps. Those maps are fun and add variety and challenge for your next city, but the new content stays there.

It’s a real shame seasons weren’t implemented in other maps. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense on the tropical maps obviously, but the Boreal ones would work great. I can see why the devs didn’t go that way though. How do you determine which of the parks are all-weather - and what happens to the Snowman Park in warmer weather? I think mechanically it would have been messy. That said, I hope they return to that in the future and see what’s possible.

Free stuff

The Christmas Tree unique building

Snowfall’s free update added some great new functionality and management of public transport. You’ll have noticed all of this in your game even without Snowfall. It’s worth talking about this stuff specifically so you can see what additional benefit you gain from buying the DLC.

Rain and fog got added to all maps and adds some nice variety to your days and nights, making the place feel more alive. The temperature gauge is also new but is just a visual thing outside of winter maps. On the Snowfall maps, it tells you how much heating demand there will be from your cims.

Inspired by the Extended Public Transport UI mod, the devs built in the ability to change public transport line colours, names, and see things like % of car trips saved. All very useful.

One bit of functionality that’s still missing is adjusting vehicles numbers for the day and night separately. I know you can do that with the global budget sliders, but it would be nice to have granular control, rather than just turning lines on and off at night.

Snowfall: is it worth buying?

The beautiful new northern lights

Snowfall is probably the hardest of all the expansions to call on this question. On the one hand, it’s an essential pack for tram aficionados like me. It’s also really fun to make a tough northern industrial town or a remote ski city. The added challenge of snow-covered roads and expensive heating is welcome, too. And the snowy cityscapes are just stunning.

If you’ve been hankering after a bit more challenge, then building your next city on a Winter map will probably scratch that itch. And if you’ve been building lots of tropical paradises recently, it’s a nice change of pace. But Snowfall is almost like a standalone DLC. Apart from trams, most of its features exist within the three new maps. Play on any other map and it’s like they aren’t there. Now that the game is so mature and fleshed-out, I’d love it if the devs spent some time doing some integration.

So, if building a snowy city sounds fun, or trams are essential for you, then Snowfall is worth it. Otherwise, I’d prioritise other packs first and maybe come back to this later.

Thanks for reading!

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