Now here’s a game that brought controversy with it’s launch. From the very beginning, people were pissed off (and rightly so) that they couldn’t get into the game or would get kicked out as the servers lost contact. Others would claim a moral high ground calling these server demands DRM and declaring corporate greed as the reason others couldn’t play and they refused to buy it. And while I still think such an attitude over a multiplayer game is kinda… dumb… the game was a real mess.
But time has passed, and as the dust settled taking the major bugs at launch with it, I have decided it was time to play. After putting the game down, I’m not to sure the game itself is worth the cash you will have to drop to play. Read on to hear more.
Story: If you bought SimCity looking for a story, you VERY much came to the wrong place. SimCity is a city-management simulator, so outside of you either founding a new or taking over an abandoned city when you begin, there is no story in this game what-so-ever…. well, almost none. There is a weak plot about the latter in the tutorial city the game makes you play when you first start it up about how the city (who’s name doesn’t matter as it isn’t even in the real game) had a mayor so god-awful, he was run out of town, but that literally is all you will get. This is just not what this game is about.
Graphics: The game is a very pretty little title. From the opening video to the vibrant starting menu, to the brightly colored maps and city you are about to build, there is literally nothing ugly about this game and it’s clear a lot of care went into the finer details that will meet your eyes while playing.
However, this is still a game about city building, so there really isn’t too much it can throw your way to that will really wow you. Sadly, this genre really suffers from the same grounds as racing and sport games. You can really impress only so far with style because there is only so much you can do with simulated real things. We all know what cities look like so creativity you really can’t do much for it.
And what creativity doesn’t do, the raw power isn’t going to pick up the slack for here. Don’t get me wrong, the game looks great, provided you don’t zoom too close. Doing so, and you will notice all the moving cars, people, and much of the living detail doesn’t scale with the view much, leaving very blurry images of the people you are supposed to be able to follow. But then the audience for SimCity games was never the type to worry about the best and most detailed graphics. In fact one of the strengths of the franchise has always been that any machine can play it without looking terrible. And to that end the graphics fit very well. Pretty enough to be eye-catching, but restrained in power enough that any gaming machine made within the last 5 years (as well as most laptops within the last few) should have no issues running it.
Sound: I can not say a lot for the music in this title. The best description I can come up with is “elevator music.” It is designed to be in the background and give a relaxing vibe, but it stands out about as much as a cowboy hat at a country western concert… it doesn’t at all. Nor is it a constant in this game. You will hear it in the menus for the most part and in the region view (where you can have a look at and even offer assistance (free or for a fee) to your neighbors). You might even hear a little bit when your city is quiet, but most of this game will have you hearing the hustle and bustle of your city over any music what-so-ever.
And those ambient sounds will be almost all you hear in the sound effect department, but that is FAR from a bad thing. These are very well made and frankly invoke the feeling exactly as they are supposed to. Very well crafted and fitting the experience perfectly.
My only complaint in this game is the Simglish your citizens speak. I don’t mind it when you are hearing it in the background (like when you look at a rock concert going on in one of your stadiums or the like) since it fits, but the sims address you directly from time to time, and really for the amount of space it would take to store and the fact that these “messages” are pre-written (and you will see some repeat a few times), I do not understand why they couldn’t just have someone read the lines. This is a SimCity game, and they don’t need to worry about getting well known voices for parts everyone will see as generic anyway, but they could have taken that extra step to make the audio that much better.
Gameplay: Anyone who has played previous games in the franchise will feel at home pretty quickly in this game, but at the same time, you will notice a few differences right off the bat. When you start the game, you will have to make a choice whether to start your own or to join someone else’s already in progress. SimCity is multiplayer only, but it is not an MMO. As a result, each region is in fact it’s own isolated game capable of holding 2-16 players depending entirely on the map selected for it. If you choose to join a game, you will be transported to the region section to select an unclaimed place to build your city, but you have a few more choices to make if you are starting fresh.
Doing this will open up the options to pick the map, a name for your region as well as the ability to make it private. If you only want your friends and people you invite to play with you, this is a viable option. If you want to play alone, you could do it this way as well, but this really does defeat the point of the game.
Once you pick your city, you will begin to play a SimCity game as you have always known it. You will build streets, zone areas for people to use, and plop down the utilities/agencies your city will need to survive. Each of these utilities will use up part of your budget which you will get in taxes from your residence and the businesses that setup shop in your boarders. However, this time, you have a highway you are connected to which in turn gives you direct neighbors within your region. This is important as sims will travel between the cities as tourists, workers, or even looking for a place to live. On top of that, it will dictate who you can directly sell to and buy from on your map…. at least until the community of your region decides to build a transit system between you all.
And this is where the game begins to show it’s weakness. Your cities this time are significantly smaller then they were in the past, and you will run out of space fairly quickly, requiring you to basically agonize over where anything new you need will go since you will basically have to run over someone to put it there and cost you tax dollars. And in addition, density will increase in all three zones gradually, making such choices harder and harder. This was by design, however, since when the mayors communicate via the region board, they can organize to overcome their individual limits, specializing in aspects so that the whole region can run better…. which is the problem. Gamers who do not know each other are a lot less likely to work together without an obvious goal with even more blatant steps. If you are joining a game at random or have random people play, be ready for a game full of little cities with little to do with each other and ultimately becoming boring/frustrating as you really can not do much but wait for a crisis to fix.
Bugs: SimCity is currently famous for these, but most of the huge ones seen at launch have gone away by now. In fact outside of really really REALLY stupid sims (as in their happiness was going up when I unleashed a crimewave directly on them and when zombies invaded the city (yes… that happened)) I didn’t really notice any real bugs.
Overall: Getting SimCity at launch taught me a lesson in patients. Playing the game now taught me that co-op games of this nature really require you to have a group of friends who want to play too right there with you to really live up to what they can be. This game has serious potential, but it falls flat if you are going it alone. When the game comes down in price, I could probably recommend it a lot easier as it would be a lot easier to get a group invested at once.
And if you want to build cities alone, do not buy this game. There are plenty of choices better suited to your desires, many of which will be a lot cheaper to boot.
out of 10