Rebuilding The Beloved SimCity From The Ground Up
I want to like SimCity. I want to like it so much. In fact, I do like it. So much that I’d love to tell you to run out right now and buy the game. There’s just one thing holding me back.
I can’t play it.
As I type this review out, I’m sitting on the game’s splash screen as it reads “authenticating with the game servers.” I wouldn’t be surprised if it stays like that for about ten minutes, or if it shuts me out with a server error or full server. The irony in all this is that I don’t really have an issue with SimCity’s need for a constant Internet connection.
Oh hey, I actually was able to log onto the server I wanted. That’s been pretty hard to do recently. Still, I’m unable to connect to my region. Restarting the game puts me into a queue. Man, I really wish they’d just add more servers to account for the overwhelming demand.
It’s a bit of a shock that EA didn’t see that demand coming. It’s a highly anticipated title that hit all the right notes leading up to release.
But enough about the loading issues. Let’s take a look at what the game actually is once you get past all that, as long as I’m waiting here.
This isn’t a proper sequel to SimCity 4. The two games simply cannot be compared; they’re apples and oranges. Instead, SimCity focuses on smaller cities, forgoing the larger sprawl we’ve grown used to. While that may sound off-putting to some, the concept actually works pretty well. We’re connected to a group of cities, ranging anywhere between two and sixteen, in regions. Individual cities are connected to one another, meaning we can share power, water, sewage, health services, and so on.
For example, I attempted to make a giant urban sprawl, which didn’t go well at all. One of my friends focused on the dirty work, providing power and garbage pickup. Another friend made a mining town and is gathering coal. I’m able to use their specialties to my advantage by purchasing goods. In exchange, their Sims visit my city for their commercial needs, or flat out work in my city. Maxis has done an excellent job of creating the feel of a real community here. Does the inability to make custom highways stink? Sure. Does it bite that more often than not, we’re specializing our city to do just one thing? Perhaps. But this is a new day and a new SimCity.
There have been some concerns when it comes to how the game’s environment looks. Thankfully, it doesn’t look as jarring as some suspected. You’ll see your neighboring cities in the background as you build and play. The night skies can look gorgeous as you fill up your regions, especially when you get your great works up and running. Great works are a region-wide goal that people are able to achieve together as they pool resources to create a major airport, space station, or one of various other technological marvels.
My queue ended and has been met with another queue. Fantastic. Maybe I should take this time to explain the GlassBox engine.
GlassBox isn’t just used for the game’s charming visual aesthetic. Instead, the engine makes the city a living, breathing thing. Your sims will go to work, shop, and live. Well, they’ve always done this, but GlassBox allows you to actually see it. You’ll be able to pinpoint traffic jams (there will be a lot of those), track an enormous amount of data such as land value, crime trends, which sims are being educated, and what areas are most likely to expand. For a game that features smaller map sizes, Maxis made up for it with a large amount of data to digest and comprehend.
And SimCity has a lot going on under the hood. Thankfully, Maxis didn’t change the core gameplay experience, meaning it’s still addictive, it’s still fun, and yes, it’s still frustrating. The minutes spent planning your city will quickly become hours, until you look out the window and wonder where the sun went.
I was finally able to get back into the game, but the servers went down during a play session. So while I’m still waiting for money to be gifted between cities, Origin’s servers earned some brownie points as my play experience wasn’t interrupted. I wasn’t thrown out of my game, nor did I receive an error message. Instead, just a warning in the top left corner of my screen saying I was disconnected. Once the connection was re-established, the warning went away and I kept playing. For all of the issues with the game’s launch, some kudos should be given for this one thing at least. But those issues are still a thing.
Even so, SimCity is a game I absolutely adore. When I’m not home, I miss playing it. When I’m failing miserably with my city planning, I’m learning how to avoid those same mistakes. Take that urban sprawl I mentioned earlier. In a bout of frustration, I demolished everything. The entire city is gone and all that remains are signs of pollution. Immediately, I regretted this decision, because there’s no undo button in this game. Everything you do has a consequence.
Ultimately, Maxis set out to create a real living world for players to tinker with. At that, they’ve succeeded. Well, they’ve succeeded whenever the game actually works…
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
The engine is adorable and the filters are charming, but the bugs are annoying. 4.0 Control
It’s fun to finally build curvy roads, but grid patterns are still best density wise. OCD gamers will undoubtedly stress out when building roads due to snapping issues. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Subdued music is fitting for the scene. “Sim speak” gets annoying pretty quickly. 5.0 Play Value
When it actually works, you’ll become wholly absorbed in SimCity’s game world. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|