A Cities: Skylines Christmas with Natural Disasters, Part 1

When trying to come up with a game to play for a holiday feature, Cities: Skylines seemed a natural choice. With February's Snowfall DLC, my city can be blanketed with frost and dusted by blizzards. With a few custom assets, some of my city's houses will have Christmas lights. There's a player-created map called Christmas Island and a theme called The North Pole.

Best of all, since Skylines let you rename things, I can pick a citizen, rename him Santa, rename his house The North Pole, and rename his workplace Santa's Workshop. And, with the Natural Disasters DLC installed and cranked as high as it will go, I can see if I can protect my new Santa from dying as the result of earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and meteor strikes! It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, provided Christmas explodes a lot.

My rules are to only use a single square of map: it would be easy to mitigate disaster by buying additional map tiles and leaving them empty, increasing the chances of disasters hitting unpopulated areas. I'm not using any money cheats, and I'll play until my city reaches a population of 20,000 residents, otherwise known as a Capital City, or until Santa is killed in a natural disaster. (If Santa dies of natural causes, I'll replace him with an heir.) 

I begin my game. Before long, houses begin springing up, and before longer, I spot one of the modded homes with holiday decorations. Living within are a family of five, so I name one adult Santa Claus and one Mrs. Claus, before noticing both of the adults are men. So, I change Mrs. Claus to Mr. Claus.

My chosen Santa is 33, uneducated, and works at a factory called Garments Unlimited, which I quickly rename to Santa's Workshop. I watch him drive to and from work in a red sports car—I guess Santa is doing OK for himself—then set about my task: protecting him from natural disasters at all costs. I build an emergency shelter right next door to his house, and lay out an evacuation route that will ensure a bus will pick him and his family up (at the expense of everyone else in the city) and bring him to the nearby shelter when disaster strikes. 

Roughly fifteen seconds after I've got the shelter in place, the town's first disaster occurs. I'm notified that a sinkhole is "about to happen." It's alarming, really. I'd been thinking about fires and storms and earthquakes, but a sinkhole? That could swallow up Santa, his family, and his house in one gulp.

Thankfully, it only swallows up some commercial properties about eight blocks away. Three buildings succumb, and 22 people are killed. None of them are magical toy-delivering elves, however, just non-enchanted normals. Whew!

As I continue building my city, I check in on Santa periodically, at one point finding him sitting outside a convenience store looking at his phone. See, Santa is just like us.

Sadly, I've paid so much attention to Santa's happiness and preservation by building parks, a doctor's office, a fire station, and police station all within a block of him, that his home levels up. That means it no longer has Christmas lights all over it, which feels quite a bit less festive. On the plus side, I build the massive Disaster Response Unit right behind his house. I also make a tiny district just for Santa's home, so I can assign it—and thus him—rescue chopper priority. With all these protective services surrounding St. Nick, I feel confident that I'm poised to whisk him to safety when something goes wrong.

There's one thing I can't protect against, however: Santa is getting older due to the curse of time. Years have passed while I've been growing my city, and he's already 65 and retired from the Workshop. I choose Piper, his eldest child, to serve as Santa Jr.

Another disaster strikes. This time it's an earthquake. Again, it's a good distance away from Santa's house, but it causes several fires throughout the city, a few buildings collapse, and a great chasm scars the earth. A few minutes later, observant mayor that I am, I notice that every single house in town has raw sewage backing up into it: the quake broke the pipes leading to the river where I festively dump the town's collective poop water. It's a quick fix. The earthquake, by the way, destroyed 12 buildings and killed 35 people.

Just as I've got everyone's toilets working properly again, a house catches fire. It's right outside the Disaster Response Unit building, directly across the street from Santa's house. The fire department is still putting out fires from the earthquake, and I don't want to take chances, so I activate the emergency shelter. Santa himself is visiting a convenience store at the time so he misses the bus, but at least this gives me a chance to see how his children react in a crisis.

Piper, Santa's heir, reacts by moving completely out of town. I quickly assign Santa's son Charles as the new heir by changing his name to Santa Jr. 2, but I notice he stays home during the emergency, rather than walking thirty feet to the shelter. That won't do. I rename him Idiot Santa Failure Jr., and instead tap Santa's other son, 20-year-old Raymond, the duties of heir, since he is wise enough to head to the shelter. 

So far, I'm feeling pretty confident. Santa is aging, but safe, and I've got a backup with a good head on his shoulders. My town is steadily growing and I'm doing well with my buget. I feel like I've reached 'not a creature is stirring' levels of comfort in my city.

That's when the meteor hits.

Ho-ho-oh-no. Tomorrow, in Part 2, we'll dig through the rubble to see just how bad things suddenly got for Santa City.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.