Editor’s note: This review is based upon the current build of SimCity which, as has been widely reported, suffers from a host of issues. If and when the game is significantly updated, we will take another look at the title.
Ah, the glorious fun of building your own city and seeing it thrive. The notion that everyone wants to try their hand at a bit of urban planning has spawned a series of beloved games by the name of SimCity (and a few imitators as well). In turn, SimCity has even spawned the most popular video “game” series ever, The Sims. So what has EA and Maxis, the game’s creator, gone and done this time out?
In short, they have ruined the game and the concept both in gameplay and delivery. It is no longer a single player game where you can save your city and tinker about with it as you please, going back to previous saves when you make a hash of things or the game crashes. It is now in fact a massive online real-time strategy game that you can play solo, but that is not the same as a single player game. All the things that ruin the enjoyment of the game, like being required to be online at all times and server based saves, are meant to be “features” of the game.
These features have led the game to have possibly the worst launch in gaming history toping even the disaster that was Diablo III’s launch (it should be noted that DIII‘s launch issues also directly resulted from the “always on” requirement). Full servers and 30+ minute waits to get onto “available” servers were the norm at launch for the new SimCity. There have been times when the game, one that cost players upwards of $60, has been completely inaccessible as well.
Your intrepid reviewer mayor was forced to get up early in the morning to actually be able to access the game at all. And even then, and to this day, the game still drops connections frequently. As of this writing (March 11), just today, the game dropped my connection entirely while crashing. Worse, if the server you have your city on is inaccessible, you are stuffed. There is no server cloud — if you can’t access the server where your city is located, you’re not playing your city.
Here is a list of the problems with the game, some of which are game ending and others of which are merely highly irritating. The QA on this title was appalling. Neither the game nor the servers were ready for release in any way, shape, or form. And the duplicity in letting some reviewers play on “beta” servers with low population makes it all the more obnoxious. Anyone who bought this game on the previews and pre-release reviews was the victim of a con.
When you do get on the server, expect complaints from the rest of the household fairly quickly thereafter. The game is a bandwidth hog and succeeds, even on a fat pipe, to strangle all other internet activity. The only program I have ever encountered that is this bad is Skype in the bad old days.
During play you will note that Maxis wants to force you to play with other people and share maps. Of course, with the wonky server issues, the ability to do things like share commodities are regularly broken as well, so there is little incentive to play with anyone else.
Unfortunately, there are many things that you might wish to add to your city that are, quite frankly, unobtainable if you play alone. The small playing area for your city deliberately destroys your ability to do everything possible. If you do play solo, you will have to start another city (or two) on the map to get anywhere near the city your want. The stifling of choice in this game is quite spectacular — it is almost impossible to play SimCity your way.
For all this hassle you would expect to have a game that looks great (if you had a good enough machine). There again the server and connection problems fill the screens with glitches and texture tearing. By no means is this a pretty game. The interface is clunky and at times confusing. It can be hard to tell when you can and cannot build, while terrain modification rarely works.
There is absolutely nothing to recommend the new Simcity. It is too expensive for a “rental” of some server space for your city that may or may not be there when you wish to play it. Wait and see if they manage to fix the huge list of problems affecting this game, or wait until a Steam sale where it is far cheaper than full retail, before you buy.
SimCity is a broken game that does not belong on general release.
SimCity is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Mild Violence.