SimCity (PC), Review

Review Robert Bernstein 3/12/2013 at 6:48PM

It's only truly a SimCity if your city has internet connection issues, right?

Developer: Maxis
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release: March 5, 2013
MSRP: $59.99

 

Well, nearly a full week after SimCity’s release, we have played the game enough to feel comfortable giving our full review. Why did it take so long? For those who live under a rock, EA’s SimCity has had a launch week from hell. In fact, I can’t recall any other launch that has been botched this badly. There have been all sorts of issues with this game’s launch. First, gamers (including me) couldn’t even download the game from Origin. Then, SimCity’s servers crashed majorly, preventing 98% (rumored) of its gamers from even being able to connect to play the game, rendering the game a useless 14GB hard drive whore, as the game is online only. And then it got even uglier. A slew of EA customers attempted to get a refund for their un-playable game and many of the responses from Origin’s customer service reps were shared, showing that EA was unwilling to give refunds for digital copies of the game. But, as we all expected, once we actually got into the game (which took five days after its launch), it was a good experience. But was it good enough to make up for the long wait to actually play the game?

SimCity definitely brought back some memories of playing the previous iteration, SimCity 4. However, the newest update to the franchise adds a mixed bag of new gameplay aspects, some good and some terrible.

For one, SimCity looks pretty good on the highest settings, but there’s nothing mind-blowing here. This was expected though, due to the amount of different things that can be going on at any time on the screen. So, when you factor this point in, the game is impressive for what it can handle. However, you’ll still notice some framerate drops as you add more and more buildings and sims to your city. The tilt shift views are nice.

The soundtrack is an emotionally driven wave of cartoony Sims-esque music that we are used to and it’s enjoyable at first, but you’ll quickly find yourself wanting to get rid of it. The good news is that Maxis included sliders so that you can turn the music all the way off without turning the sound effects off because, you know, building a city to Jimi Hendrix is much more enjoyable.

The sound design is almost like a full-blown soundtrack itself. Building collapses are enjoyable, traffic noises remind you of big city traffic and crowds of sims sound like a buzzing bee hive. Zooming into a specific point on the map lets you listen in closely to what exactly is going on, whether it be a riot in front of your governor’s mansion or a baseball game.

Maxis has also thrown in some creative disasters for your city, some of which are worthy of 50s B-movie horror flicks. For example, late in the game of building up a city, you’ll unlock a giant fire-breathing lizard you can unleash to wreak havoc. There’s also UFOs that will beam up your sims, zombie hordes that will attack your citizens and meteor strikes that will cause a slew of fires in your city.

Maxis and EA have changed up a few things with this version of SimCity, including streamlining roads and power lines/sewage pipes and water pipes so that it’s just one process, instead of dealing with each individually. Players can also curve roads, which is a big upgrade, although it makes zoning a bit wonky. The most impressive aspect of SimCity is its newly added sense of realism. You can follow individual sims in the game as they go to work or you can follow fire trucks as they put out fires and you can watch traffic grow as it would in a real city as people drive to work.

The game has two major flaws. First, SimCity requires players to be connected online while playing the game at all times. And, as EA quickly learned, this is one way to kill your game sales. This assumes that everyone has a highspeed connection, which just isn’t true, yet. It’s also a big disappointment that players can’t reload the game from a save point of their choice, but are instead forced to load from their last played moment saved on the cloud.

Secondly, the game would be much more enjoyable if there were bigger maps. The maps are way too small; there is just NO WAY to fit everything you want, such as stadiums and large panels for your solar powered city, onto the small maps. Maps should be at least twice as big as they are currently, as you’ll quickly find yourself not having any room to place your airport or expand your governor’s mansion. This is the biggest problem with SimCity. Your creativity for making a city that isn’t a major metropolis with traffic issues and sewage problems is nearly impossible.

The third major problem is that multiplayer just doesn’t work for a game like SimCity, yet is basically forced upon you from the start, with regions. You are almost forced to play more than one city because the maps are so small, but it’s extremely annoying to have to go back and forth between the two cities, as the city never sleeps and you can’t pause one city to go work up another city. I’d much prefer to build one very large city than two or three smaller metros.

You'll also become increasingly frustrated that you keep forgetting to send Maxis, resident superhero, on a new mission, as there is no automation settings for him.  Seriously, you have to click "Rescue Injured" numerous times; it's infuriating.

Now that EA has worked out most of the kinks of SimCity’s servers, the game at its core is, overall, an enjoyable experience. There’s a lot that can be improved on though and hopefully EA will make some improvements soon, including adding bigger maps and more buildings. The game is enough to warrant a pick-up, but only if you have the spare cash laying around. Being the governor of numerous cities can be a rewarding, albeit limited experience.

Graphics – 8/10

Gameplay – 6.5/10

Sound – 7/10

Multiplayer – 5/10

Replayability – 7.5/10

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