After Dark is the first paid expansion for Colossal Order's city simulation hit, Cities: Skylines. The original game smashed expectations, arguably knocking SimCity off its perch as the best city simulation game and cementing Cities: Skylines under the spotlight. Paradox Interactive stated they wouldn't release any paid content unless they felt it drastically added to the game (there's been free content already), so After Dark will be setting the standard for all paid content to follow.
Ultimately, the expansion pack feels very small in size, but provides great gameplay additions that the hardcore fans will love. Read on to find out what really goes down After Dark.
Paradox has always been great when it comes to updating their core game with expansions, and After Dark is no different. Those who haven't purchased the expansion will still get the new day and night cycles (and their respective budgets), increased crime at night, and higher property values along the coastline. This means the expansion is strictly for those who want to experience the new building, road, and district types, rather than those who just want a day and night cycle.
The largest impact to the overall gameplay itself is the introduction of separate budgets for both day and night time, which is itself a strong indicator that these are two entirely different beasts. Commercial zones designated as leisure districts will thrive during the night and attract plenty of citizens, but they also come bundled with an increased crime rate. This can be countered by raising the police nighttime budget, though the police will also be busy transporting prisoners to the new prison building type included in After Dark. Without a prison, repeat offenders are back on the streets at a faster pace, ready to commit more crime and stress out the police budget. It's all about balancing different aspects of the city, and the new day/night cycle brings plenty of new options for that aspect.
Bus lanes and bike paths are a great and welcome addition to the game, and allow players to better integrate public transportation systems in their city in a visually appealing way. Players will also have the ability to create night-only bus routes, which can make a drastic impact on how many people turn out to the night-time hot spots around the city. Taxis also make their first appearance, allowing citizens to get to and from places public transportation routes might not cover at all hours of the day.
The expansion pack also introduces a new focus on tourism, an element that also played a large role in SimCity. New special buildings like the casino will require players designate over 5,000 tiles of designated leisure and tourism space before they can place it, which pushes gamers to adopt the leisure areas and prepare themselves for the pros and cons those elements bring. Beach properties absolutely thrive in the daytime, but predictably attract nothing at night.
The night-time visuals are perhaps the greatest change the cycle brings to the table. Watching the city change during a long sunset brings a nice 'wow' factor for those paying attention to the visuals, and as neon lights perforate the darkening streets, the cities feel like they're alive in a brand new way. Bowling alleys and clubs are open for business and night-only bus routes bring the masses to the entertainment districts as the suburbs sleep - it's a wonderful sight. Of course, building in the darkness isn't always the easiest, so there's an option to disable night-time darkness if you're busy trying to expand the city during the latter half of the day.
Ultimately, After Dark doesn't rock the boat when it comes to game-changing expansions. In fact, it comes quietly - the new features are nice additions to the gameplay, but this flavor pack doesn't dramatically change how players will interact with Cities: Skylines. It introduces some great elements that compliment the free update, but only hardcore fans of the simulation genre will want to pay $15 to access the new features.
Cities: Skylines After Dark is available now on PC, Macintosh and Linux. Game Rant was provided with a Steam code for this review.