SimCity is a difficult title to review as it is very hard to know when you’ve played enough to review the title properly. The game never really ends so in some ways it’s like an MMO so I’ve played around 30-40 hours now and feel I know the game enough to give it a fair review.
The Elephant in the Room
Let’s not even go any further until we discuss the always online connection and the fact that it simply didn’t work for the first few days.
I only started playing on Saturday morning by which time the majority of the connectivity problems had been rectified by EA already and while I know many people, including Darryn, are still experiencing problems I haven’t had a single issue in all my playtime.
The game requires an online connection as a lot of the computing and workings of the regions are calculated off site using this wonderful cloud technology all of you think is so awesome. I don’t like the cloud, I think it’s insane to outsource computing power out of your hands but I’m losing this battle.
EA fluffed the release in catastrophic fashion and it will take a long time for anyone to forget about this, also if you refuse to play games that require an always on connection then your gaming life is going to take a turn for the worse. We all hate it but it is here to stay.
So let’s get into the meat of the game shall we. When you first boot up you will be asked to join a region. I’m in Europe East 3 and this is important as if you want to join friends you need to be on the same server. So check with your friends before starting up to make sure you are going to play together.
Then you are put through a pretty mind numbing tutorial. It’s important though as it will touch on the depth of the game and without these basic ideas you will struggle once you start your own city.
A quick tip, whenever you change servers the game will want to play the tutorial again. When this happens start the tutorial then quit back to the main menu and you can continue to then start cities.
A New City
So you’ve completed the tutorial, unless you failed.. then you need to turn off the computer and throw it in the pool..
So starting a new city, you need to pick a style of region first. Each region contains multiple spaces for cities along with a number of great works you can collaborate on. I chose a 16 city region with 4 great works as I’d like to create the all dominating Lazygameropilopilos and take over the world.
Once you have your region you are give the choice of making it public or private and whether you are going to sandbox or not. If you make it a sandbox then cheats are enabled and leader boards and achievements are turned off.
I’m not one for cheats so I’ve made mine public.
Once you have a spot you are given 50 000 simoleons and an empty spot of land. First thing you need to do is create a connection to the highway that runs through the region so that your city can receive and send sims and goods around the region.
Once you have that you need to place your basics which are water and power and then zone some areas for the residents, commercial areas and industry. And then you begin.
The Detail… The Devil
I won’t bore you with telling you how SimCity works, you all know how it does already and if you don’t you can read my basic tip guide which will tell you everything you need to know.
The devil in SimCity is very much in the detail, there are tons of different data levels and overlays you can look at that will tell you exactly how happy, rich, sick, educated or pretty much everything else your sims are.
What is truly amazing is that every single Sim in SimCity is independent, you can zoom in and select a single Sim to see who they are, what they want out of life and how they go about their lives. This goes for any vehicle or building as well. The entire city is a living breathing thing and you can micro manage to your hearts content.
When you zoom in the graphics to become pretty rudimentary but I can’t really tell as my laptop isn’t a gaming PC. But you can see a screenshot of my early game above. There are sims walking around and if you sit and watch you can follow those cars to their place of work or if they are going shopping.
Also you need to keep an eye on things like fire coverage and the like as fires and crime will spread organically if you are not careful. Take a look at what’s happening to my commercial sector since I don’t have a fire station in my city and I’m not yet connected to a fellow city which can send help.
As you can see the fire is simply spreading from building to building. I tested this for a while and as you would expect without a single fire truck the fire simply never ends.
But How Does It Work?
But SimCity is about a lot more than simply zoning areas and growing a city, especially this new SimCity. This SimCity is about collaboration and specialisation. You will never be able to complete a great work or even level up your city hall to full power without multiple cities in a region.
You can also not specialise in Coal, Oil, gambling and electronics in one city as you simply don’t have the space available.
It was a big decision by SimCity to limit the space and older players will very quickly become irate with the game as there simply isn’t enough space to make huge sprawling cities like we used to. But what first appears to be a negative quickly becomes a positive as you realise you need to very carefully plan and tweak your cities to grow as you would like.
The first problem you are going to find is that you simply can’t zone enough residential, but what you can do is create a new city which is basically a commuter city and your sims will automatically commute from your leafy city to the dirt and grime of your industrial haven.
Once your city grows you can also unlock things such as theatres, stadiums and expo centres which can then host events. You choose what type of event from a list and then start preparing for it. So for example you can host a Rock Concert which could bring in 150 000 simoleons profit but it will cost you 55 000 to host.
If you have the right mass transit setup you can then use these sorts of events to boost your budget while pouring money into education or mining investment. I have a city that is running at a massive loss on it’s standard budget and yet is raking in a fortune just on holding events.
It’s the little things like this that make SimCity so incredibly addictive and well thought out.
Okay maybe Quests is a bit of a misleading headline here, they are hardly quests but to keep the game flowing and interesting your Sims will randomly ask you to do certain things and you can then choose to do them or not.
Things such as build a recycling plant for the hippy or a firestation have a fireworks show.
Some of them reward you with a ton of money and are really easy and at other times they ask you for the impossible so don’t just say yes to everything that comes along.
Also as a side note, recycling plants are great for getting alloys and plastics for trade which brings in a fair amount of cash. Maybe the hippies are onto something.
A quick word on disasters, they still exist and are still just as annoying (or awesome) as they were before. The tornado doesn’t do that much damage but the freaking monster destroyed a ton of my city and thankfully just missed my two very expensive mines.
I won’t ruin them for you but yes zombies exist.
But Does It Have Problems?
So far I’ve told you all the good things about SimCity but it isn’t without problems. The engine that powers the incredible data can go wrong. I tried to take a screenshot of some of the problems but it looks like when you take a screenshot it removes the thought bubbles.
Take a look at the screenshot above, the place I am pointing to kept on asking for a port and was getting more and more upset that I didn’t deliver… it’s right freaking there? I can only guess this was something to do with the servers being overloaded as it is happening less and less but still often enough to be annoying.
The roads are still an issue, you will often find that you can’t connect roads for some obscure reason which destroys your beautifully laid out city now that you have a stupid kink just to make the traffic flow.
There is also no terraforming, I don’t understand why this was left out as having half of my area ruined thanks to a stupid mountain doesn’t make the game more fun it simply takes away the enjoyment. I understand they want us to work with what we have but how about offering terraforming with a penalty. So any oil or ore in the mountain is lost when we terraform. Or make terraforming really expensive.
And the last big issue I have is the lack of a subway or mono rail system. These are standard modes of transport in most large cities in this world, why they decided against it baffles me.
Also if like Darryn you decide to build your power plant in the middle of the zone you are going to have problems. This is honestly Darryn’s Gotham City and this is more a problem with his brain than SimCity
Hello 90% of people who scroll straight to the score, at least read this part okay?
SimCity reminds you why you fell in love with the idea in the first place. If you loved SimCity you will absolutely adore this. It’s not perfect but what is in this world?
SimCity was reviewed by Gavin Mannion on a PC