SimCity has been a long running and very popular series for EA, and the thought of a new SimCity game has would be mayors planning city designs and figuring out tax percentages even before the game was released. The announcement of SimCity was very much tempered with the knowledge that it would require a constant internet connection to function. This, understandably, brought forth many questions about the game’s stability and gamer’s distaste for always online DRM (Digital Rights Management). No one can forget the debacle that was Diablo III’s launch. Who would dare to attempt such a thing again and expect a different result? Well EA dared, and not without good reason. With the new SimCity being all about playing with friends and managing entire regions, it was clear they had a plan for this new game. Unfortunately, having a plan simply isn’t enough, and their execution leaves much to be desired.

As is you couldn’t already guess, SimCity didn’t have what people would call a “successful launch”. You know, the kind that games have when they don’t require always online DRM. That may be a bit harsh, most major releases suffer from at least some server instability at launch. The problem with SimCity is what took them well over a week to fix, most other games solve in less than a day. Features were removed in order to decrease strain on servers, and even with servers in mostly working order some features have still not been returned. It is safe to say that for this reason alone, SimCity could be considered a failure.

Rocky mountain high.

Rocky mountain high.

Now, let’s put that nastiness behind us and focus on the actual game. SimCity is as much a SimCity game as those that came before it, but it is also very different from those games. Yes you’re the mayor of your own bustling metropolis and can control what your city becomes. The biggest new addition, and what sets this SimCity apart, is the addition of regions. Many different mayors from all over the globe can come together in a single region and build cities. Different cities in a region have different resources available and different means to access the global trade network. These cities can specialize in specific trades, or can be the jack of all trades type. How you run your city is up to you, but everything you do will impact the region as a whole.

Building schools, for example, will bring in citizens from other nearby cities if they do not have schools of their own or if they are full. Building a train station will bring in tourists from other cities to help bring more value to your commercial areas, and building hotels and attractions will keep them there and spending money. Cities within a region can also build great works that provide huge benefits to the entire region. The International Airport, for example, brings in a massive amount of tourists to the region which will provide a huge boon to the economy of nearly every city. The Solar Farm will give a large amount of power to each city which can reduce or even eliminate the need for city specific power, and the costs associated with it.

The one unfortunate side effect of the new region setup is the fact that cities are now restricted to a relatively small square of land. This can be particularly restrictive the longer you play and try to take advantage of some of the later game production options. This also prevents players from having the massive metropolis they might be familiar with from previous games. It is something you will get used to, but it is a massive disappointment.

Little did you know the entire department is responding to this fire, they're stuck in traffic.

Little did you know the entire department is responding to this fire, they’re stuck in traffic.

Building up your city is mostly similar to previous game, if not a bit streamlined. You can still set your residential, commercial, and industrial zones, and you still have to (or not depending on what type of mayor you are) take into account pollution and the like to keep your citizens happy. Zoning is done only along streets, so careful management of where and what you zone is required for your buildings to eventually reach for the sky. Building parks will define the value of an area on the map and allows you to define low, middle, and high wealth citizens. More parks means more value and more growth, which in turn adds more citizens and more jobs. It is a simple system, but it will pull you in and not let you go until the wee hours of the morning, especially when played with friends. In fact, you could spend a great deal of time simple viewing (and often criticizing) the cities of your friends in the region. Unfortunately, your view of their city is not consistent with theirs. This results in your view of their city being far out of date.

The A.I., specifically that of emergency vehicles, is quite poor. Ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars will constantly allow themselves to be stuck in traffic. To make matters worse, fire trucks will block each other from responding to multiple fires on the same road as they simply line up one behind the other. Waste vehicles will often form a single file line on one street rather than split off and gather waste from different areas of the city. It is funny the first few times, but when traffic is backed up all across the city because the garbage men need to re enact the human centipede, it can become frustrating. Oh, and god forbid there is a fire on that road.

(Insert Batman reference)

(Insert Batman reference)

SimCity is a fairly good looking game, especially at a distance. You’ll be able to make out cars and people, and at night your city and those of your neighbors light the horizon in spectacular fashion. You can zoom in close and take in a street level view of the city, which will reveal uncut grass, choppy looking people, but still an interesting perspective of your city. The visuals can be toned down enough that just about anyone with a somewhat decent computer can play the game at a decent framerate. There are the occasional hiccups when disasters and other such taxing events hit, but it is brief and not game breaking. The music, despite being there purely for background noise, is quite good. It is good music to build to, though no one would blame you for choosing your own music over SimCity’s.

There is a lot of good things going on in SimCity, the most important being that it is a lot of fun. It makes it all the more disappointing that there are so many problems, and almost all of them stem from the game’s always online requirement. When full functionality is returned and server stability is a thing of the past, SimCity will be an easy recommendation. Until that time, you’ll have to be willing to put up with just most of what SimCity has to offer. Just make sure you have a good connection.




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