When SimCity was first announced back in March 2012, simulation fans couldn’t have been more delighted. After all, it’s one of the greatest series ever evolved both in terms of the enjoyment it provides and the technical triumph it has achieved over the past 15 years. Constructing buildings are easy, but paying attention to hundreds of actions at once -- in a city full of residents and structures that need constant attention -- is challenging, while still a perfect treat for the fans of the genre. SimCity is considered a reboot of the original, and it didn’t disappoint.
Building a city is what you must do as Mayor, and you decide what can be constructed or destroyed. With certain rules applied to the SimCity world, your job is to keep your Sims happy and ultimately build a thriving city. The very first road you build sets up your journey as Mayor. Even at the beginning, things get hectic fast. Constructing the foundations is always the most alluring and best part of SimCity. Eventually after plotting numerous roads, buildings, landmarks, services, things turn more complex. While you build structures and manipulate the economy according to your will, the goal is to attract Sims towards your city.
Providing their needs is the only way to keep them motivated; these individuals can also complain when not contented with your ideas. The more dissatisfied Sims you have, the more your city loses reputation and income. Every service here is so intensely linked with each other; one single failure can lead to a disastrous result within a very short period of time. Inevitably, the Sims want everything with perfection, as they like city services to be at their best performances, and with very minimal problems (unemployment, pollution, etc.) as possible. Fulfilling those demands while keeping your city’s appeal level up now becomes a big challenge, in addition to your economy periodically giving you discomfort. The good news is that in this version of SimCity, there are several other ways you can keep your economy steady (more on that later).
Appropriate zoning is the key to successful SimCity play. While you are free to create commercial, industrial and residential zones, you must know what type of city you wish to build. For instance, when your focus is to build an industrial city (considering your choice suits your terrain), you must provide services to train and educate your Sims that will help the city grow towards that route. An industrial city would need power plants, which produce less pollution. To build those, you must first research it through universities. However, universities won’t simply function unless you have a proper foundation of education, and so on and so forth.
No matter what type of city you have in mind, however, there are four basic services you must provide to make the Sims permanently stay in your city. Providing utilities such as electricity and water are the most essential necessities, followed by garbage disposal and security. If you lack the ability in providing any of these services, you will see lots of unhappy Sims -- simple as that. Public services such as healthcare and education will soon be demanded along with amusements and better traffic (which require heavy maintenance, slicing a fair amount of your earnings). If these are maintained at a steady rate, your city will keep on growing. Inevitably, all these require a large amount of investment along with your patience, which can seem uncertain at times. What really helps is the amount of information your city produces in the form of statistics and suggestions. Those who enjoy spending time analyzing a hefty amount of data will be in for a treat.
It is truly amazing how visually appealing SimCity can be. With the implementation of the new GlassBox engine, SimCity feels even more alive, with better animation and more dynamic physics to go with it. The game lets you zoom all the way to the streets where you find your Sims moving about your city. At times it’s actually relaxing to watch the city grow steadily while you spend time sightseeing. Still, that kind of leisurely activity can even help you understand the game better. SimCity lets you to scrutinize each and every element of the game, which includes both the buildings and Sims. Click on a building and it shows you all the stats you need to know about its current condition, what is required for further growth, and also admire the fabulous design and attention to detail from every angle. When exploring the buildings and roads, you can identify potential spots for obligatory adjustments. As for the Sims themselves, the camera will follow when you click on one, showing their overall interactions. Following Sims throughout your playthrough will give you an idea about their expectations.
When you think about it though, haven’t we already experienced these features in previous SimCity titles? More importantly, does SimCity 2013 actually have anything new to offer? The first thing that is likely to get the most attention is its Always-Online feature. Much has been criticized regarding this feature due to some glitches and technical limitations, but idea-wise, this has a lot of potential. You are no longer alone in this SimCity world; meaning the game connects you with other Mayors around the globe. In a particular region, a city can have up to sixteen lots, which can be played by different users. These cities not only can share utilities amongst each other but also have the ability to trade. The idea behind constructing such a network between cities makes perfect sense when you classify cities with specialties. For example, when controlling multiple cities, one city can be built focusing on tourism generating a large number of revenue, while another can be mostly industrial to feed the workers from a neighboring city. When we had to focus to try maintaining every possible solution from a single city in previous SimCity games, the possibilities have expanded to a higher level by allowing you to interact with multiple.
Nevertheless, this idea has failed terribly due to some frustrating setbacks. Signing into two different servers (SimCity and EA Origin) is mandatory for playing SimCity, either on single-player or multiplayer mode. Adding more insult to injury, you can’t just log-in whenever you wish. Either the servers are always full, or you must wait an agonizing 20 minutes before the game even lets you in. And if your bad luck continues, the waiting clock restarts for yet another 20 minutes if the connection happens to fail. Not only that, even if you do make it past these hurdles, the game sometimes still won’t connect to the servers. The most wearisome issue you have to deal with is when you are kicked out in the middle of play due to connection errors.
Luckily though, there are other servers where you can log in without much difficulty; the only problem is that your friends may not be around (it feels like a blessing compared to the server shenanigans you’ll inevitably run into, though). There are other minor setbacks, such as the fastest speed setting has been disabled along with the achievements and leaderboards. This is obviously to reduce the load on the servers, but it certainly feels like I’m being shut out of the rest of SimCity’s features. SimCity is a game where you generally invest several hours into, but this practice will likely sour people’s interest in doing so. Despite that, there are still features that make the game better in some aspects. An idea called City Specialization lets you to capitalize the resources available in your city and build structures accordingly. Later on, resources gathered can be traded in the global market, which generates a significant amount of revenue. This particular feature brings so much to the game, and you’ll end up spending hours into specializing your city. Buildings let you enable consumer good production, mining operations, developing tourism industry and even trading. This is something that definitely gives SimCity an extra edge.
There is still much to be talked about in the latest entry in the SimCity franchise, especially for someone who has been a hardcore fan since the original. Even with all the server issues, I was still very contented with the level this series has reached. I’m certain that Maxis and EA know what they are doing to strengthen the future of this magnificent series, although its online feature needs improvement to make it all work. SimCity has always been fun and it continues to stay that way. If you have been craving for a robust city-building simulation, there can’t be any better treat than this.
Sarwar Ron, NoobFeed