SimCity Review: Not Built Better - User Reviews - www.GameInformer.com
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SimCity Review: Not Built Better

SimCity is one of those rare titles that invokes a natural curiosity for experimentation, creativity, and pre-meditation. Despite the fact that the game is essentially a city planning simulation, SimCity titles are still able to create an engaging experience that is both playfully fun and cognitively challenging for all ages. The latest release then, SimCity, is a reboot of the classic franchise developed by Maxis Games (creators of the original and subsequent titles). The focus on cooperative multiplayer has lead the game to redefine some of the characteristics that some fans enjoyed, while also repurposing what it takes to build a city.

Something that is immediately noticeable for fans of the classic games, is the fact that much of the process in the city building process is stream-lined. That is to say, zoning now does not cost any money and the construction of roads automatically places alongside it the electrical and water lines.  Another new addition is also the inclusion of data maps (each with their own visual distinction) that lets a player know everything from the direction of your regional wind, to the amount of waste that your city produces. This kind of immediate response to your city not only allows you to correct immediate problems, but to also plan for natural city improvements, such as recycling centers or more hospitals. Natural disasters make a return that can also keep the gameplay fresh and hectic as it requires an intimate knowledge of your cities needs and assets in order to keep your head above water.

               Despite some of these improvements and inclusions however the game includes some major and somewhat baffling differences from the most recent major release, SimCity 4, include the removal of terraforming, the ability to build on slopes, agricultural zoning, subways, and larger plots to build upon. What inevitably happens in SimCity is that your roads define where you can build, and natural terraforming happens when roads are cut into sides of hills, but only so much so that the road can be built. This leads to a baffling amount of space that cannot be used, only steep roads with no purpose other than transportation since nothing can be built on either side. Roads, while improved, have nearly lost a sense of creativity as well because of the limiting space that one has to work within. Curved roads, free form roads, it doesn't matter because in the end to obtain an efficient city, the roads mostly need to be in square block sections. One good addition to the road creating mechanic though, is the inclusion of parallel white lines which show the distance a new road needs to be built in order for a building to be created. However, in the end most cities will begin to look similar in road design because of the developer's choice to limit player space.

               Much more can be said about the roads, such as the ability to upgrade them, thereby increasing the amount of vehicle density they can carry and its subsequent connection to the upgrading limits of your city (i.e. a low density road cannot carry apartments whereas a medium and high density road can). However special roads such as Avenue's must be built in advance and are essentially wastes of space since their main purpose is to allow trolley transportation, something which is highly unnecessary and removes your room to build. On top of this the road construction tool is hard to operate and still inconsistent in making the city efficiently organized. So what brought about the decision to create a smaller building space for players?

This directly ties to the core change in design that the developers had in mind during the creation of this game; Multiplayer. Whereas in the previous games where you solely built a city and took care of all the needs of your people (such as education, work, tourism, industry, residential), the purpose of cooperative multiplayer was built so that cities could become specialized. This meant that under ideal circumstances, friends and strangers could come together with the common purpose of building a healthy region, by catering their specific cities to the greater purpose. One could create an oil-based economy which would create pollution and decrease the happiness, but also provide power to everyone else, whereas another could create schools to improve the businesses for others. Every city then will suffer in one area so that everyone can benefit. This mimics what we would expect in real life, but in the end creates frustration at your inability to create a city that can do it all. While is can create compelling choices, it in no way is a satisfactory endeavor when you wish to expand or to re-organize your city.

This normally however would not be a problem within other games since cooperative components come as an addition to single-player based games. SimCity on the other hand has no single player component and so playing on your consists of a private region that requires you to build multiple cities just to make sure all needs are met. This is neither an enjoyable experience nor an easy one to produce because it requires an almost simultaneous set up of each city in order for certain services are available. This major disappointment has also been coupled with a terrible server launch for EA that has still not been fully resolved. While the servers do technically work, matching with other players is still far from a streamlined experience.

SimCity is still a fantastic game in what it tries to do, create a city. However, some key design choices have left the game to be flawed in ways that make the previous games seem like a better alternative. If a single player mode was added, the game would still not be as good as one would hope for because much of the creativity in city design was limited by the initial concept of cooperative building by smaller construction space. For fans of city simulators, SimCity is still one of the most compelling options available, and hopefully lessons learned from this release will point Maxis towards a better path.

P.S.

A point of note that others may not be aware of, this game has a DRM always online feature which does require an internet access at all times. I tried not to let it impact my final decision on the game but it is something that is surely important for those considering the purchase. My opinions on the multiplayer are strictly a result of the DRM server issues from EA, and the impact it had on my personal enjoyment of the game.

 

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