Review: Cities Skylines Industries Gives Factories and Farms a Flawed Facelift

By Sam Quirke, 16 days ago
For all of its meticulous detail, Cities Skylines' urban zoning areas can sometimes feel a bit plain. Nowhere is this more evident than in its industrial zones, which have always been anonymous piles of pollution, lacking much character even if players switch the raw materials from generic goods to forestry, or farming. The latest DLC to hit console editions, Industries, gives these zones them a welcome makeover — managing to make these spaces more appealing to the eye while also exposing a meticulous city builder to the horrible temptations of raw material exploitation.

Digging for resources makes an ore-ible mess.Digging for resources makes an ore-ible mess.

On the surface, the Industries update is mostly just a matter of repainting the generic yellow "industry" zones into something a little more dynamic. Sure, in the base game, players can choose to "specialise" their industry area into forestry, farming, oil or ore drilling, which always slightly re-skinned the area to match the chosen specialisation. But like the Parklife DLC before it — which you can read all about in our review — Industries takes the aesthetic upgrade one step further by allowing players to create specialised industry districts and fill them with unique buildings, more of which will unlock as the district grows in value and size.

This makes keeping Industry zones around much more appealing — the old style zones were so boring and covered in a pollution mist that it was always tempting to scrap raw materials work altogether in favour of offices. Forestry now offers groves of various species, logging and pulping factories; farming has options for orchards and crops and enclosures for different types of animals. It's only a short list of options for each specialisation — and unfortunately there's nothing anyone can do to make the ore industry look interesting — but it at least makes screenshots look a little less ugly and makes the city more alive and organic.

Forestry, in particular, looks so much more appealing in IndustriesForestry, in particular, looks so much more appealing in Industries

The trouble many players will find with their carefully orchestrated cities is having to base industrial district shapes on the availability of resources; here is where the temptation to bulldoze perfect right-angled streets because one of them is built over an oil deposit. Soon a meticulously planned urban area can become a sprawl of disjointed housing and commercial districts, peppered with oil pumps or rock-smashers and the occasional highland cow farm. The relative rarity of large swaths of resources makes Cities much more chaotic and opportunistic than before, and while it might make the game more frustrating for purists, it does bring this fairly fantastical Cities game a little closer to the stubborn reality of the land underneath us. It also forces grid-based players to get more creative with their traffic solutions if they want to make the most of the Industries functionality.

One of the more interesting aspects of the update is the addition of multiple resources per specialisation that must be chained together to make the most of the raw goods. Oil can be used for fuel, but it can also be used for plastics; ore might be useful on its own but it can also be used for glass. Two different industry specializations might even be able to combine raw goods to create another product. All of this means that in order to keep the new specialized zones profitable, a steady supply chain of the relevant goods needs to be available. Players might have to make sure that they're building warehouses to store certain raw materials and distribute them further along the factory chain when they are needed. It's simple stuff — it's not exactly Factorio — but it does add a little welcome depth to the proceedings.

Players can choose the visual style of certain industry plots, from cows to pigs to sheep.Players can choose the visual style of certain industry plots, from cows to pigs to sheep.

The main problem with Industries is the same problem found in Parklife, especially on console where there isn't a giant library of mods tweaking the experience. Simply put, there's not enough of a drastic change or content library to justify the full price of the update. The problems are most noticeable if a player is adding Industries functionality into an existing large city. Past a certain size, cities can be so massive and so impressively profitable that the process of getting an Industry area to level up to max (level 5) is really just a matter of waiting around for the employment numbers and units sold tickers to hit a milestone. It's really something that should be integrated into the very beginning of a player's city, but with so many players out there meticulously evolving a huge metropolis over months and years, there's not as much incentive to take Industries particularly seriously.

This problem could have easily been fixed with a few curated scenarios, allowing players to learn the skills of the trade and take on increasingly difficult challenges that would test the mettle of any resource magnate. Sadly, there haven't been any new scenarios since the Green Cities update. It's particularly frustrating as Industries seems to be the perfect gameplay setup for a challenging scenario or two, particularly making the most of finite resources in a limited land size or time frame. Instead, players are forced to create their own sense of challenge — and with so many other ways to make life a little trickier in Cities, it's just not easy to see how often players will specifically engage with the new content and make the most of its intricacies.

The achievements are just as straight-forwardly uninteresting, though they are at least manageable. Players will have to unlock all unique buildings in the Industries sets, which means building every Industry specialisation district up to Level 5 over time. This one act will cover most of the remaining achievements in the pack, which are mostly just related to levelling up industry areas. Players will also have to set up a new Mail courier, but players will find this quickly unlocks over time once the courier is added to their city.

This game was featured in our Best Xbox One Simulation Games Available in 2019 article. Why not check it out to see what else made the cut?

Summary

Industries is a fairly typical Cities Skylines update for those that have been following along. While the newly introduced mechanics add a level of complexity without being overwhelming and give boring looking areas a fun facelift, there's very little incentive for a long-term player to pick apart their existing metropolis in order to drill up a little oil — when the only reward is a marginal increase in profits. Still, it does wonders for the existing Industry areas in terms of aesthetics by giving them an array of industry-specific unique buildings. Ultimately, this pack can make a player's city look the part of a modern capital trying to tread a difficult ethical line between industry and eco-friendly practices; it's just a shame that there isn't more of a progression and reward incentive for all players to properly interact with it.
3 / 5
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent 10 hours tearing up their well-groomed city in search of precious black gold, earning all of the DLC's achievements in the process. An Xbox One code was provided by the publisher for this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Sam Quirke
Written by Sam Quirke
Sam has been a Newshound since 2016 and is now the Editor for both TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies. He loves gaming on all devices and in all genres. He remains a stubborn Assassin's Creed and Pokémon fan.