Video Game Review: SimCity

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Platform: PC    

Score: 7.0 out of 10

SimCity is the first new Maxis SimCity game in 10 years, so there were some high expectations. For those 5 of you who don’t know what SimCity is, it is a city management simulation. Where “you” are the mayor of a newly founded city and you can make that city into any kind of city you want it to be. From a sprawling metropolis to an industry heavy, high pollute dump. You place police stations, fire stations, hospitals, everything except the factories or commercial buildings or homes for the Sims themselves. You can raise and lower taxes, zone for residential, industry, and commercial, and do all the things that go on in city hall.

Maxis also took those expectations and decided to make some radical changes to what SimCity has been in the past. They choose to make the game “always online”, meaning that in order to even start the game you have to have a constant internet connection. More about that later in the article. The idea behind this new change is multiplayer. Yes multiplayer; or I should really say multi-city. Each city is located in a region that also has between 1 to 15 other cities as well as 1 to 5 Great Works. These other cities can be controlled by multiple players or just one player. The Great Work are areas where all the cities contribute one giant structure. It could be an International Airport, Space Center, Solar Array, and more. With the city size given to the player, it makes it necessary to play with other players or start another city in their region. The player will either have too many jobs or too many residences living in their city. Starting another city allows Sims to commute to the city with the extra jobs. That’s a good idea in theory but being forced into that situation is not.

future-simcity     Another one of the major changes from the previous SimCity games is that roads contain power, water and sewage. Before the player would have to place power lines and water pipes. A smart player would place them along roads like in real life. Not a worry in SimCity (5). Also when building police stations and other civil buildings, the player has no choice but place them along a road. No more fire stations in the middle of nowhere with no way to get to a fire. When more fire trucks or ambulances are needed, instead of building a completely new building, the player is able to expand the existing building by added more garages, waiting rooms, etc. Police stations, fire stations, and health care aren’t the only buildings the player can expand; the garbage dump can also be expanded but added a service road and placing dumping zones along it. Many other buildings can also be expanded in the same way. The player will quickly realize, soon after starting the game, how small the area given to them to build their city really is. That makes expansion of buildings completely. Most players are complaining about the small city space. This also play into zoning, there isn’t low, medium, or high density zoning options. Density is controlled by the type of road built that the zone is placed along. The roads can also be upgraded from low to medium to high density roads without bulldozing them and rebuilding.

Soap box moment: When SimCity was announced, the fans were told that it would be “always 83f9e99f07e90545161a2e845aa92882fb2a8c8e.jpg__620x350_q85_crop_upscaleonline”. That caused some people to be upset. I wasn’t worried at the time because we had no idea what that meant. I was the things something like what Steam does. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead it’s more like MMO where nothing is saved on the PC. Players’ cities only exist on EA’s servers. That also means that EA could wipe everyone’s cities with a server reset. Another problem that the “always online” and playing on servers is that there is going down time, especially at launch.  Normally for MMOs and other “always online” games the servers are fixed in a couple days. But SimCity is still having problems over a week later. According to Maxis, they had no idea that so many people would want to play and play as long as they do. REALLY!? I don’t understand how game companies are surprised that people want to play their game and more than 5 minutes. As most people on the internet bring up is the Diablo 3 launch as well as any MMO launch. Diablo 3 was the last single player game that had “always online” and it did have connection issues at launch, but the game was playable within days. One example of an “always online” game launching great, that not many people remember, is Star Wars: The Old Republic. That was the smoothest major MMO launch in history. So it can be done correctly and by EA.

SimCity is an ambitious game. I congratulate Maxis for trying something new. It just turns out that many people don’t want to play SimCity with online trappings. It’s still a fun game but not one that many people are going to stick with for long. Maybe some of these issues that myself and other people have can be addressed in expansions; because hey it’s EA and Maxis, there are going to be expansions. From what Maxis has said about the online and performance considerations, maybe not. My hope is, this doesn’t discourage Maxis into thinking that people don’t want to play SimCity games anymore. This just isn’t the game we, as fans, wanted. Hopefully their next attempt turns out better for them. My final verdict on whether to play it or not is…wait. Wait until the online issues are finally resolved and also the game is on sale. It’s still worth playing, just not right now and not at the price that their asking for.