SimCity Review: Charming, incredibly fun but flawed

It would be an easy job to presume what direction this review will head to. So much has been the hype around the first week of launch for SimCity that even if you’d want to avoid it by choice, I doubt you seldom would. The SimCity launch has been plagued by the inclusion of an always-online DRM system, something that has been a controversial hot-topic since long. The DRM-always-connected issue is one thing, the game was also utterly broken during launch day, with redundant mechanics, players not able to join games, players losing their cities completely, long server wait-times etc. It has been 11 days since SimCity’s release now, and Maxis/EA have hurried rectifications to the broken city-builder experience, to make it a somewhat better experience, if not a perfect one.

We always yearn to take out a review as soon as possible for our readers, but we needed time with this particular game as I was sure the experience would improve holistically as time progresses. We wouldn’t be doing justice to our readers by taking out a premature review with the game not even working to its supposed intent. SimCity is somewhat fixed now, and above all things, its playable. I’d say we’ll see the SimCity experience get better as the days pass, but that’s just me. This is not a review for the ‘now’, it is intended to be timeless. Atleast for now, I can say that yes, I have experienced the game in all its phases to be a decent judge to it.

SimCity1 1024x576 SimCity Review: Charming, incredibly fun but flawed

SimCity (PC [reviewed], Mac)
Developer: Maxis
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release: March 5, 2013

I loved SimCity 3000 (1999) and SimCity 4 (2003). It was a game I played and thoroughly enjoyed along with my siblings, all of us in our early-adolescence. There was always a childish innocence about the SimCity games – in the way buildings were built, citizens moved, places caught fire, cops chased criminals, etc; and this experience had left a sweet tasting memory of the fun times we had been through while playing the game. To begin with, luckily, SimCity 2013 maintains that cute art-direction that made it so special in the first place. From the loading screen music to the Tutorial dialog boxes, everything about SimCity 2013 is reminiscent of what SimCity was all about, good-natured light-heated joy, coupled with an industrious appetite. And this factor, it feels good to say, is still very much a core of the SimCity experience, which is enough to get any gamer started.

SimCity is a city-building simulator, and a very apt one at that. You are the Mayor of your city, and you’re supposed to build your city from scratch; from the very first patch road laid, to complex inter-city train and bus networks, commercial hubs and industrial complexes. From building your first small sized clinic, to taking on a mega project to complete an architectural wonder, SimCity has it all.

SimCity represents a solid, vast, efficient and easy-to-use and understand interface, which gives you more control over every little aspect you could probably imagine. The user-interface is designed flawlessly, matching any top-notch photo/video editing enterprise software. Complex information on intricate matters of your city is delivered to you in the most believable, approachable and digestible manner. Setting up water and power distribution systems, originally a chore in the previous SimCitys, is now easy to set up and manage. It is the control of complex sub-systems in a very easy-to-operate manner, that makes SimCity a standout, on the basis of game-design. It is evident of the work Maxis put into this, SimCity is hands down a game design marvel.

SimCity E3 966x423 SimCity Review: Charming, incredibly fun but flawed

There is sheer joy in watching your city grow into a world class metropolis

You can start game your by setting up your sole city in a region of your choice, or joining an existing region which has an available city to claim. A ‘region’ is a collection of other cities (from 2 to 24). Cities within a region are supposed to work together to mutually benefit each other. There is a shift in focus from what the previous SimCitys wanted the player to achieve. SimCity 2013 wants you build specialized cities, be it major oil producers, service providers (like garbage handling, policing), tourist cities, gambling cities etc. The size of the cities are small, and no longer is it possible to build you own self-sufficient mega-city. SimCity is designed in such a way that after you complete your small city, you have to move on to a new city and build it to specialize in something different from you first city. This is a downer, as it limits you to only a selected style of gameplay.

SimCity encourages you to play with others, the focus of a sole single player mode is missing. Since the size of the cities are small, there’s only so much you can build in a city. There is no workaround the small sized cities, this is the only size the game offers. The game relies on you outsourcing commodities/services in and out from your in-game neighbours, and leaves you with no second option whatsover, apart from destroying your city and starting over. If your city has a garbage problem, since you’ve already used all your available land, you can’t build any more garbage collection outposts. This is when you can outsource your garbage collection to your neighbour. While this may sound logical when comparing it to a real life situation, it destroys the purpose of being a ‘video game’. If you’ve built more police stations than what your city needs, you can provide that service to your neighbour, demanding a fee, of course. If your city is resource-rich in oil and ore reserves, you can build the infrastructure to extract them and sell them off for a profit. By building that infrastructure, you will have to sacrifice in so many other things you can do in your city, of which there are plenty. It seems the game contradicts itself, offering you so much to do, yet not giving you the complete freedom to do it. Thus one would come to a conclusion that SimCity 2013 is more of a trading game than a purist city builder. The objectives of EA are questionable with this move, as the social part of SimCity feels more forced than being just a natural addition.

Rest assured, you will have many things to do in SimCity, provided you can move on from the fact that the city you so dearly built with your dedication is one you have to let get go sooner or later, and this cycle continues. This makes that element of attachment missing from the core of the game. I loved the old SimCitys only because I worked on maximum 2-3 cities and they were built with my truest creative intents. This is just not possible with SimCity 2013 and is one severe backdrop in this modern game. Not sure whether the developer Maxis really intended this, as it clearly seems like ‘an EA move.’ For a game that is so brilliantly designed in every aspect, it feels sad to see that it doesn’t really know where it belongs.

simcity SimCity Review: Charming, incredibly fun but flawed

You can zoom and follow every single citizen of your city

All is not bells and whistles in SimCity, as underneath this lush game, lies a system deeply infuriated by bugs. Many in-game mechanics are simply broken. I will refrain from complaining about them as the majority of gaming press has chosen, as they will be rectified sooner or later, but I feel the game was launched prematurely. It is only a matter of time when we will see SimCity emerging as a polished, stable game. If Maxis is capable of delivering a system as well made as that in SimCity, I’m dead sure they are more than capable of troubleshooting any issue anyone has.

Always-online DRM issues aside, SimCity is a fun game overall. It lacks a sense of direction and belonging, but makes up somewhat with an excellent interface and gameplay mechanics. Tinkering around in SimCity is charming, there is a childish humour in just about everything in SimCity shows you. Its a sheer joy watching your city grow into a sky hanging metropolis.

WHAT’S ILL

  • A feel good factor when building your city and watching it grow
  • Complete control of every aspect of your city
  • Compelling OST and art-direction

WHAT’S NOT

  • Multiplayer modes are forced
  • Small size of cities, limiting your gameplay style
  • No sense of belonging, as there is only so much you can do with a city
  • No option to save your progress or undo a move.
  • Incredibly easy

RATING

  • Gameplay Progression:  6/10
  • Graphics: 9/10
  • Sound: 9/10
  • Unique Selling Proposition: 9/10
  • illFactor: 9/10

SCORE8.4/10

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