Review of SimCity from EA

Review of SimCity from EA

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The infamous server issues that plagued SimCity on its launch will probably never be forgotten. Even to this day if the SimCity servers decide to go offline for a bit you won’t be able to play your game. I appreciate the new online features in SimCity are heavily reliant on being always online but you can’t help but think an offline mode wouldn’t have hurt too much. Even as I write this (September 2013) a good while after release I occasionally find a server is offline temporarily and I am unable to play my city.

Despite that once you get into a game, SimCity has clearly come a long way. Staples of the franchise are still present like creating residential, commercial and industrial zones that develop over time rather than you building individual buildings. Depending on the needs of your population you will need to play a balancing act between the 3 zones to ensure your city develops correctly and turns a profit.

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On top of the three zones you will be charged with building power, waste disposal, transport and education services to name just a few. Something that certainly helps you reach higher level buildings, and therefore a more advanced city, is that power and water are now transported along roads. Provided you connect a service to a road, which you have to, every other building connected to that road will be supplied. This certainly cuts down on the tedious, and often temperamental, construction of pipes and the like.

You can spend quite some time waiting for the cash to upgrade roads but luckily there is an easy to use upgrade feature. The only thing you can’t do is upgrade from a “normal” road to an avenue – which is stupid. You would need to flatten zones and redesign areas to upgrade from one to the other which basically means you won’t bother and you’ll just build avenues to start with, which can then be upgraded. It’s more expensive but the only real way to build a city if you plan on developing it past the 30 minute mark.

As you build these services your city will become more advanced and so too will the needs and requirements of your citizens. These are pointed out by little speech bubbles above certain people’s houses that may be simple requests or may provide a reward if you meat an objective. The mini-objectives help keep the game as fresh as possible, even late into the game. Usually they are not too complicated but almost act as a guide as to what you should build or do next. The only thing that gets left out of these mini-objective is education.

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That is until you start with a small school at which point your Sims can’t get enough of it! This may be mentioned in the tutorial but unfortunately my game would not allow me to select “next” during a step in my tutorial and I had to restart the game, at which point the tutorial disappeared. Even if it had been available again I probably would have skipped it rather than risking getting halfway through only for my game to bug out again.

So this left my first city an uneducated directionless mess. Not a good move at all. Education is certainly the key to a successful city, reducing crime, illness and just about every negative effect your citizens can have. This in turn massively reduces the amount of fire stations, police stations and hospitals you will need; which are not cheap buildings at all.

So my second city was all happiness and sunshine with great facilities and quite a few of the more advances buildings. Zones where balanced and money was coming in well. And then I realized I’d filled the map. Each map on SimCity is made up of a varying amount smaller areas. The different areas can be owned by different players who may help one another by trading goods and sharing resources. Or you can own all of the areas yourself to create one giant interconnected map.

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The problem is it doesn’t work. I was just getting into my game when I realized I’d finished. Sure there where things left I could do to advance my city but absolutely no options to expand. The setup of a game like SimCity is certainly where the greatest challenge lies but once you’re comfortably up and running there needs to be more to do. Frankly at that point I didn’t feel much like starting all over again with a blank slate. I’m sure at some point I would have but I’d like the option to build my city further.

So bad are the map size restrictions that it’s actually quite difficult to fit in all the zones and buildings you want. You will soon reach the limit and have nothing left to do. It also puts a limit on how financially successful your city will be because more Sims equals more spending which equals more profit. But not if there’s no space for them.

Luckily during your brief experience with your city you will be using probably one of the best UI’s available. It’s so easy to use that nobody should have difficulty finding their way around it. As a nice by-product it looks good too blending seamlessly with SimCity’s new “model village” visual style. One thing you certainly can’t complain about is how SimCity looks. Scrolling the map by moving the mouse to the edge of the screen blurs movement (similar to R.U.S.E or Air Land Battle) but never looses functionality.

Time on SimCity is made up of many shorter games building up a city and then abandoning it for another. Although creating a city is user friendly, and looks fantastic, it can’t avoid feeling futile when you know before long you will need to leave it – just because you ran out of space. Despite the increased server stability the completely unnecessary always online requirement can still disable your game, and gamers with unreliable internet connections can’t even consider SimCity. SimCity is a great game that hinders user experience with its own unnecessary features. I think I might have a go on Anno 2070…

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