Platform: PC /Genre: Simulation
Developer: Maxis /Publisher: EA
Have you ever wondered how you would fair if you were Mayor of a city for a day? I did, and SimCity allows me to see how I would go. Just a heads up for the future, if you ever hear someone called ‘Nathan Manning’ has been elected as Mayor, leave the city immediately! SimCity provides plenty of tools for players to become Mayor of a city, but the game is not for everyone.
I’m going to address the elephant in the room first, the need for an always online connection to play. I am not sure I can fully endorse or fully scold an always online connection in SimCity. When I was playing SimCity, I never had the urge to jump into a region with a group of random players. Most of my time with SimCity was spent playing by myself in a private region. It was basically single player SimCity, but online. I did try out a region with my friend and I did not see many benefits from it. It is pretty much like playing by yourself, except someone else owns the other cities and you can not control what they do. It is good to be able to buy resources like water and power from someone else’s city, and work together to build ‘great wonders’, but that is about all the benefits there are- and you can do that in single player anyway. As for the negatives, if you lose connection to your Internet or Origin decides to go offline, you get kicked from SimCity and sometimes you lose some of your progress. There are still a few online features that are missing, too. Leaderboards still do not show any information and the region challenge always says it is two weeks away.
As for the actual game, like I said before, not everyone will enjoy it. The basic concept of designing a city is to have an even balance between residential, commercial and industrial places, while balancing land values. For example, a low wealth resident cannot work in a medium or high wealth job. Things can get even more complicated if you decide to specialise in one of the three (residential, commercial or industrial), or specialise in one of six special industries (Mining, Drilling, Trading, Electronics, Culture and Gambling).
For players who love simulation games, and previous SimCity games, you should be right at home. There is plenty of depth in SimCity with loads of graphs and stats to understand and monitor as your city grows. Watching your city turn from a small town into a busy CBD is really rewarding. My wasted hours spent developing New Gotham into a thriving community felt worthwhile when I saw all the civilians travelling around town in their cars and visiting parks and shops. In saying that, SimCity seems to focus more on the business side of cities, rather than the managing side, at times.
SimCity is not a problem free game. For some reason, citizens all choose to use the same roads. I had several roads leading to my highway, yet cars would only use one street and traffic would be at a stand still in the middle of town for ages.
SimCity is a city simulation (hence the name) that aims to provide players with all the tools they need to create and monitor the perfect city. Unfortunately, these tools are not all well explained. You have to play a tutorial when you first enter a server in SimCity (as in every time you enter a new server you are forced to play the tutorial). The tutorial shows you how to zone, how to use utilities, and how use public services like education and health, but nothing else is explained. Instructions on how to use most things are usually just one sentence. The basics are easy to grasp- like zoning for housing, shops, and factories- but there are so many other factors to take in to account that you can quickly become overwhelmed. Furthermore, with small city sizes, one design error can ruin a whole city.
Possibly the most fun things in SimCity are natural disasters, however, they do not occur unless you fulfil their requirements. For example, to unlock a meteor storm you have to “Have 200 tourists arrive on flights at the Municipal Airport in a day”. This takes quite a while and throughout my whole time of playing SimCity I never once unlocked a natural disaster to use.
Aside from gameplay, SimCity features a unique graphical style that, although not being the best around, completes the job of making cities look vibrant and alive. This is thanks to the GlassBox engine, which makes cities look like little model sets. However, there are also several visual options that allow the player to change the look of SimCity. Maybe you want a SimCity that looks like it could be a water-painting or maybe a more cartoon looking SimCity? The options are there for the choosing.
Accompanying the visuals is a soothing, orchestral score. Peaceful tunes play as you build your city, but there only seem to be a few tracks. I ended up just turning them off and listening to the radio while playing. Zoom into your city and you can hear vehicles driving around your city and children playing in parks. One of the most satisfying sounds I have ever heard may just have to be the sound of buildings gaining access to power. It is so amazing, yet so hard to describe.
SimCity is definitely not for everyone. Players who love simulation games and have the patience to wait for money to roll in as their city grows will be able to spend hours upon hours playing SimCity. Returning SimCity players may be annoyed at the small city sizes (I was), but the ability to have 16 cities working together slightly makes up for the loss. On the other hand, players who do not play that many simulation games may find the scope and size of SimCity frustrating and intimidating. Always-Online DRM does not help make SimCity a better game, but apparently it is “necessary” or we would not have SimCity at all. SimCity is by no means a bad game, but as someone who does not know all the ins and outs of city managing, I did not find as much fun in it as I had hoped.
+ A new SimCity game
+ Plenty of tools for simulation fans
+ Unique visual style
– Can be overwhelming for people who do not know how well cities work
– Small maps
– A large range of tools are not explained well or at all