It’s been about two weeks since SimCity released and I really didn’t want to do this, but I have to admit it. SimCity is a farce. A fiasco, a debacle, and quite possibly a boondoggle to boot. I am a pure Maxis fan. SimCity was the first game I actually paid money to: 20 or 30 bucks, in 5.25″ floppies, from the MPH next to the old central lending library. Sadly, both MPH and the old central lending library are a distant memory, and with this new iteration of SimCity, so is my love for Maxis.
There are so many things this game did wrong, I don’t know where to start. There’s a lot lie and broken promises to talk about, but I’ll concentrate on the game first. The game starts off really nice and pretty. You have a beautiful little town and the trucks and buildings that are rendered are incredibly cute, especially in the tiltshift mode. However, the game soon shows its incredibly ugly seams, and SimCity is pretty seamy. Firstly, it’s a barely self-sustainable suburb. When you start off the game runs well enough, but as the game progresses into 100k+ citizens your town breaks down.
It was touted as a fully simulated game, but this isn’t the case. Firstly, all your sims are FREAKISHLY stupid. The traffic algorithm has sims driving down the SHORTEST route, regardless of road size, traffic, or anything else. This alone will lock up your city turning the shortest road into a carpark where other roads sit vacant with tumbleweeds rolling down. Secondly, your sims will route in the silliest way ever. I have personally seen police cars obliviously on patrol when a crime is present literally a block down. I have seen cars go around a block in circles for (apparently) no reason. I have seen firefighters wait in traffic going off to a fire while another fire causes a building literally across the street burn down.
So, point one: smart simulation. FAIL.
Ok, a smart simulation was out of their grasp. Can they actually do a simulation? The game was supposed to have actual people go to actual jobs and return to their actual jobs, but this apparently wasn’t the case. I didn’t track my sims, but apparently all they do is go to the nearest unfilled job, then work there, then go back to the nearest empty house, and sleep there. What kind of insanity is this? I had constant requests for me to zone more residential so that offices and the like have jobs, but maybe all that happened was that the residents were just stuck in traffic and couldn’t get there. Who knows, right?
Even worse, there’s an ever increasing inflation of population numbers at the tail end of the game, for no reason. Well maybe they couldn’t simulate all the people in a city, but why do an exponential curve rather than say a straight 1 to 10 linear simulation?
So, point two: real simulation: FAIL.
The game itself (at the beginning, before your population grows) is actually quite fun. I love the feel of the plopping of buildings, and seeing people run around is great. But the town itself (I can’t call it a city) is tiny, and if you want to start with specializations (trading, mining, tourism and the like), you will probably have to rely on your neighbouring cities to provide utilities and city management services like garbage, etc.
So, point three: Fun game. Pass, but just barely, because…
You know what’s the problem with needing neighbouring cities to provide you utilities and services? NEEDING NEIGHBOURING CITIES TO PROVIDE YOU UTILITIES AND SERVICES. AND ALWAYS ON DRM. Many people have complained about this. There’s talk about EA lying that always online was needed to run the simulations, and disproved by a whole host of people out these (ie RPS and the like). I myself have been able to run the game when the connection to the servers die. But you know they problem with that? It throws all your borrowed services from your neighbours into a tizzy. There have been times where I’m chugging along beautifully until all of a sudden my town loses power from my neighbour (which is actually me, just with extra power and utilities to spare). This together with other bugs like commuters not communting properly, trade and tourism being messed up, and a whole host of other problems.
And apparently you DONT EVEN NEED TO BE ONLINE. People have already bodged it such that your city works online, so all that marketspeak from Maxis and EA as just hogwash.
So our towns are still forced to be self-sufficient, because you can’t rely on your neighboues providing a stable power/water source. Similarly, you can’t rely on specializations, because your tourists and trade may suddenly dry up if your internet connection suddenly decides to dry up. And therefore you end up with a tiny little town who’s force to have at least 25% of its area set aside for boring things like waste removal or airports.
Even worse, the only route for all of these things to come in is the central highway. Of which there is only one entrance and exit. Which leads to a perpetual gridlock (and carries on to the rest of your city). It’s not that there isn’t enough garbage trucks, it’s that they’re either stuck in traffic or too incompetent to do its job.
And that’s if you can even load your city to begin with.
So, point four: Always online? FAIL. FAIL SO BADLY.
The worst part about this is that we’ve gone about twenty years without needing an online presence. True, playing with your friends would be awesome, but that should be an option, not mandatory. And therefore in spite of the server issues working itself out in the past few days (I haven’t had any problems with being unable to go online recently, but having regular water pumped in from my neighbour is still an issue), I still hate it. It’s ironic that such a wonderful bite-sized timewaster for offline play has been rendered useless because of it’s always online requirements.
Final outcome? I impulse bought this when it camer out and I’ve regretted it ever since. $80 down the drain for somehting that’s relatively unplayable. EA and Maxis have lost whatever credibility they have had with me. I will still pre-purchase games that I have an unshakeable faith in (XCOM rewarded my belief, and I hope Bioshock does so too), but I think prepurchasing or purchasing while a game has obvious flaws will be something that I (and we as a gaming community) should stop.
And if you haven’t bought Sim City yet, DONT.