Available on PC l Published by EA l Developed by Maxis l Classified G I Supports 1-16 players
REVIEW IN BRIEF > The first real SimCity game in a decade is an often shambolic disappointment, at least on a technical level. Server issues, broken features and lengthy loading screens are the order of the day. When everything is working more or less as intended, the strong multiplayer concepts and addictive core gameplay shine through. Who knows, this already infamous game may one day be considered an important misstep on the road to a better SimCity experience.
REVIEW IN FULL > In rebooting Will Wright’s classic town planning sim, Maxis is backing its ability to improve upon perfection. It doesn’t succeed, far from it in fact, but it certainly lays the groundwork for a promising future for the series.
SimCity has an odd habit of freezing the in-game clock and preventing you from restarting it. This makes it impossible to earn money or attract new citizens.
The big ticket item in the new SimCity is the introduction of an asynchronous multiplayer mode. Each city belongs to a larger landmass known as a region and each city can be controlled by a different player. This allows you to trade resources with your fellow mayors. If, for example, you’re experiencing brownouts, you can purchase additional power from a nearby city. Perhaps you’re looking to improve your bottom line? Why not offer to collect your neighbour’s garbage or treat her sewerage at your state of the art facility? You can even collaborate on major projects such as airports and solar arrays. Not only does this dramatically enhance the sense of community surrounding the game, it also allows you get your city up and running in record time and concentrate on the areas that interest you most.
Unfortunately, the most intriguing aspect of this long awaited reboot is also its Achilles’ heel. The always-on nature of its multiplayer renders SimCity particularly vulnerable to technical problems. You may find yourself unable to connect to the server that hosts your city. Even if you do manage to get things working, you can be disconnected without warning. Switching to the single player mode offers no respite, as it too requires a constant link to the server. SimCity also has an odd habit of freezing the in-game clock and preventing you from restarting it. This makes it impossible to earn money or attract new citizens. When you’re forced to reload your save three or four times in the space of an hour, you begin to wonder if this ride is worth the price of admission.
You’re often asked to lend an ear to the concerns of your citizens and advisors. Strangely enough, though, it doesn’t pay to take their feedback at face value. You may find, for instance, that the Police Chief complains about the urgent need to expand the force even when there is virtually no crime. Your constituents may condemn you for allowing garbage to pile up in the streets, even though your waste disposal trucks have the situation well in hand. At the other end of the spectrum, a resident can be convinced that he is “doing great” even as the house next door burns to the ground. Is Maxis emphasising the need for scepticism or is this aspect of the game simply broken? Either way, it definitely pays to investigate complaints via the statistical overlays prior to acting.
…the Police Chief complains about the urgent need to expand the force even when there is virtually no crime.
Notwithstanding its multiplayer focus, SimCity does allow you fly solo. This is achieved by controlling all of the cities within a region yourself. You’ll be sorely tempted to build one shining metropolis while forcing your other towns to do the region’s dirty work. On paper, the single player mode appears perfectly viable. However, as is the case with so many aspects of this game, it all falls apart in practice. Maintaining a healthy region requires you to switch back and forth between cities. After all, each is reliant on the others for goods and services. Unfortunately, each transition triggers a lengthy loading screen, which makes finding an agreeable gameplay rhythm extremely difficult.
The multiplayer ideas underpinning SimCity are interesting and its core gameplay remains strong, but it isn’t an easy game to recommend. Perhaps a future iteration will overcome the technical stumbling blocks that make playing the current instalment a bit of a chore.