SimCity 4 was the first game I played for the PC and it kept me hooked for days and days, even today.
SimCity Societies was a low blow on all the SimCity fans; it lost the original mood and gameplay (maaaybe it had something to do with Maxis not being involved in its development)
It has been 10 years since SimCity 4 was released and this year Maxis brought us the new SimCity (No, SimCity 5 is not how it’s called).
Promised to have zoning, and some really cool features from the previous installments (more variety of transportation and management) with an all new fresh design and engine. This was all a bit too good to not come with any drawbacks.
The Glass Box engine is amazing on its simulation capabilities, you get the feeling that every tiny car or people actually matter to your city and you can even have a bit of a butterfly effect (if you influence a Sim, it can affect the near Sims and develop into a bigger scale). The management of a city’s services goes side by side with the engine’s ability and you get a lot of graphs that explain the current state of your city in a very appealing overlay effect.
You now have resources on the region depending on the city (different cities have different concentrations of resources) like coal, oil, iron, water and even wind. From these you can produce even more complex resources like petrol, metal, etc.
All of these are a specialization, along with casinos, trading and other stuff that you can specialize your city in (or have a mix of the ones you want)
However, a big drawback in this game (and I think that is EA’s fault) is the “always online” requirement.
Publishers have been adopting this system a lot lately and EA explains this need by stating that part of the simulation happens server-side and is not processed entirely on your computer. This was recently proven wrong when a hacker posted a modification to the game that did not let it connect to the internet. The game ran exactly the same and even unlocked you to use all the terrain in the regions.
It is disappointing that a game from 2003 can outrun a recent game in terms of features. You can only choose between 8 preset regions and you cannot change them. The city space is very limited and it seems like this and the resources available in the city limit your creativity.
Something that also really bothered me was the road guide because you used to have a square grid that covered all the terrain in SimCity 4 when you were planning roads and here you have these really dumb guidelines that don’t help you at all and most of the time they aren’t compatible with any of your development plans.
With a lot of emphasize with the multiplayer, the game does have a lot of cooperation. You can, for example, you can specialize in Water, Sewage treatment, Medical, Education and sell those services to your neighbors while buying them Power and Fire Support or borrow them money and resources. Unfortunately, the sync between you and your friends is slow, power and water will take some times to get to their city (which is annoying in the first hours of a region) and visiting a friend’s city will give you a snapshot of how the city was 5 or 10 minutes ago (depending on the connection and server crowd).
In conclusion, SimCity is a fun game and challenging game that could’ve had been even better if the combination between previous games and current technology was better.
Graphically, SimCity is visually stunning with the amount of detail in each single building or street. The game has its own visual style, which seems a bit cartoony and colorful at first, it is consistent and overly appealing to look at.
The attention to details and functionality still amazes me as you will be capable of spotting factories which have actual working lines moving, trucks unloading or loading resources on mines and trading depots, kids having fun in their backyard, or even elevators going up and down on skyscrapers if you zoom in. Also, if a zone has a lot of crime, or poor education, you might catch glimpses of actual robberies taking place, graffiti filled buildings (despite the type of building in that zone) and so on and so on.
The GlassBox engine has truly found a way to make a city look alive and functioning and I’d like to say that this is by far one of SimCity’s highlights.
However, old fans that were used to the SimCity 4 mechanics will definitely miss some features lacking in this title, namely the agriculture industry options. Now, I understand that some might think that fields and crops don’t have that much of a place in a city, but try to think of it this way. Cities, originate from small towns, and usually, these small towns rely more on agricultural profits which are way cleaner than the heavy industries we have available at start. This would give players a choice between keeping the air pollution low from start and developing later, while maybe getting less income. Small town usually often do this in order to use the available space around them more effectively.
Which brings me to our last point in SimCity, the effective space available for you to build on. At first, for small towns, players won’t find much difficulty or restraints, but as you go bigger, and your town starts to expand, it won’t take you much time until you reach the limitations your city is given. After this, your only option left to grow as a city will be to increase in density.
This encourages players to focus on getting the maximum amount of buildings possible on the space you’re given, instead of freely building the city the way you want. The current map size is simply just smaller than everyone was expecting and unfortunately there is no variation with map size in all the 8 different regions.
So, my final opinion is:
SimCity is a very fun and deep game, which is equally addicting and interesting to play. I would say it is a worthy sequel of its predecessor, even if it lacks some qualities and the new emphasis for multiplayer doesn’t exactly appeal to as many people as the producers thought.
But in the end, SimCity in our opinion ends up being worth a buy if you miss playing the old one. It is the best game for city simulation out there nowadays and we can’t wait for new plans to expand on the game and franchise.
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