Natural Disasters is the latest DLC for city-builder darling Cities: Skylines, adding plenty of catastrophic events that threaten to destroy your badly planned town. Meteors are undoubtedly the highlight, creating massive explosions and leaving behind gloriously destructive craters, while tsunamis, although very rare, are the most visually striking of the disasters. There’s nothing more threatening than putting the finishing touches on a new roundabout and then seeing a massive wave looming over your town.
Unfortunately, though, the other disasters leave a lot more to be desired. Thunderstorms cause no damage whatsoever, forest fires rarely harm your city regardless of how widespread they are, earthquakes feel unfinished and amateurish, and sinkholes don’t look great either. Still, despite how cheap some of them may feel, the tension that Natural Disasters adds to Cities: Skylines is undoubtable. Frustrated players can simply turn disasters off, but with the added dimension of fear that it adds to the game, why would you?
Of course, with all of these disasters come new buildings and measures to protect your city from destruction. An early warning system alerts you to impending disasters and their size, while you can also build radars, sensors, and warning buoys to help you detect disasters earlier. Disaster Response Units save civilians and rebuild destroyed buildings, helicopter depots allow the police, medics, and firefighters to access more areas, and emergency shelters can be built to protect your civilians. You can even build memorials to disasters or a Doomsday Vault.
Although it’s another thing to juggle as well as the welfare of your citizens and the economy, it’s pretty satisfying to execute a well organised response to a disaster. What’s more is that you can call upon disasters at will if you’re getting a bit bored and want to see how your city can react.
Natural Disasters also adds a few scenarios to play through, adding a lot of longevity to Cities: Skylines. Each scenario gives you a pre-built city to start from and a goal to hit, such as reaching a certain population or having a certain amount of people using public transport. Of course, the catch is that disasters occur pretty frequently to try and derail, making some of the scenarios tough to tackle -- the most difficult being one in which you have to build up a city at the base of a dam ready to crumble as soon as a tsunami hits it.
There are downsides to Natural Disasters, though. The game does get quite choppy when certain disasters occur, and what’s more, your civilians make their way to shelters with the urgency of a pensioner at a supermarket checkout, leading to unnecessary casualties.
There’s also the matter of the £12 price tag. Although it offers more bang for your buck than last year’s Snowfall expansion thanks to the scenarios it adds, it’s still a lot of money for a few buildings and some disasters. As with Snowfall, it’s likely that you’ll already know if you want Natural Disasters or not -- it’s an excellent expansion for Cities: Skylines players, but unlikely to tempt non-believers.