SimCity – Review
Follow Genre: Simulation
Developer: Maxis
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: PC

SimCity – Review

Site Score
6.8
Good: Great for lan-parties, an ever-changing city adds a welcome layer of realism.
Bad: Regions are too small, creativity gets butchered at almost every turn, online play doesn't work as intended.
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0
(0 votes)
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There’s been quite the fuss about SimCity. Server problems plagued the game’s first two weeks and netted it an awful lot of negative reviews.

We’re a bit late to the, err, game. So luckily for us, we got to experience SimCity as was originally intended.

Story:

SimCity has as deep a story as it’ll likely ever get for simulation games. In this case you’re a mayor who gets to choose between multiple plots of land in order to create Sim-world’s latest bustling metropolis.

Throughout the game counselors will give you some advice on how to properly govern your city and keep your people happy in the process, but aside from that you’re free to do as you please.

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Graphics:

Right of the bat you’ll notice there’s a lot more detail this time around. There’s plenty of variety when it comes to houses, industry and shops and thanks to the ability to zoom in pretty close and follow individual Sims, you get the feeling you’re constructing an actual living and breathing city.

So SimCity successfully entered the current generation, but truth be told, it only barely managed to accomplish that feat. Even at highest settings textures can have a certain shoddy look about them and when taking a closer look, it’s clear that objects like trees are all low quality.

Obviously this was done to prevent heavy server load, as you’re constantly connected to EA’s servers. Yet at the same time, the game feels as if the engine is constantly croaking under its own weight.

Make no mistake, SimCity might not be the prettiest game of them all, but it may very well be one of the most taxing games you’ve hurled towards your PC’s processor in quite a long time.

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Sound:

Gentle tunes accompany you while you’re leisurely dividing your city into zones.

What’s new to this iteration of the series, are the sounds that give each building their unique jingle. It’s a case of sound and music helping a hand when keeping track of a game that grows ever more complex.

Having sirens wail when selecting a police station, or hearing the sound of children playing when clicking the nearest school adds a nice audible bonus.

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Gameplay:

Let’s start stating the obvious: things are quite different in SimCity, this time around. When choosing a region, veterans of the franchise will immediately notice how small the different environments are. Compared to SimCity 4, any single map seems tiny.

There’s a point to all of this though.

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SimCity evidently turned into a social game. You’re not supposed to play on your own anymore. Instead a wise player will band together with others, opting to fill an entire region with several specialized cities, designed to support one another.

The idea is that you’re able to -for instance- build a city that thrives on tourism, but that lacks the necessary industrial areas to support the lower casts. A nearby city, preferably controlled by another player, could then opt for a more industrious approach, offering work to commuters from your own metropolis.

There’s only one catch; online there’s no such thing as proper cooperation. Anonymous players nearly never communicate with one another, making it terribly hard to depend on others for necessities like water or electricity.

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Even if you do manage to start trading, you get absolutely no control over the price of your commodities. There’s also no telling when someone’s going to pull the plug on rented services, consequently leaving depending cities -literally when importing electricity- in the dark.

You could play on your own of course, leading several cities as if you were an omnipresent mayor, but in the end it just isn’t how the game is meant to be played.  The only time this system shines is when played together with close friends. As a matter of fact, this could very well turn out one of the best strategy games for smaller lan-parties.

When talking actual gameplay, SimCity will immediately feel like an old friend to fans of the series.

Everything you’d expect there to be is still present. Building a city still starts by paving a single road and subsequently assigning areas for residents, commercial businesses and factories.

There’s quite a lot of different statistics to consider. For instance: you don’t want to let your people live right next to an industrial area. They’ll quickly complain about noise and air pollution.

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Then there’s an entire list of things like public transport, safety, healthcare and fire prevention to consider. Everything building takes up precious space and you’ll inevitably end up tearing down entire districts, just so you’ll be able to design your city that tiny bit more efficiently.

One word of advice: don’t try to be too creative when laying down the foundations -a.k.a. roads and avenues- for your city. If you don’t either build in circles -yes, roads can bend from now on- or in decent-size rectangles, you’ll end up getting into trouble when trying to fit more advanced buildings.

Your Sims need enough space themselves to keep renovating their simple homes until they turn into massive skyscrapers. Now, having to think twice before taking decisions, is common practice for these kinds of games. What’s not all right, though, is when there are one or two surefire ways of excelling, while any form of breaking off of the norm ends up being punished by an unmanageable city.

How we know? Let’s just say that our triangular town ended up in trouble very early on, forcing us to switch to a more sensible layout.

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Conclusion:

We’ve had to wait ten whole years for a new SimCity. That’s a very long time in the game industry and this is reflected in the way the game handles its very own gameplay. SimCity feels like an answer to the social-gaming boom we witnessed a few years back. Anno 2013 it just feels dated.

Add to that the fact that your city will fail if you try to be a bit creative when designing it, and there’s no mistaking fans didn’t receive what they longed for all this time.

TL;DR: even after the launch problems have perished, this still remains a mediocre entry in a franchise that once stood proudly at the very top.

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1 Comment

  1. ThaMofo
    ThaMofo
    April 2, 2013, 10:33 pm

    Even though it seems like it could have turned out better – I’m still quite curious about this one.

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