Mar 23, 2013

SimCity Review

Lights Off
4 Awesome
Retails for: $49.99
We Recommend: $39.99
  • Developer: Maxis
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • Genre: Simulation
  • Released: Mar 04, 2013
  • Platform: Windows
  • Reviewed: Windows

After a decade since the last proper SimCity, Maxis returns with the simply titled SIMCITY. In this fifth iteration, a more social and connected experience is engineered for your enjoyment. After a rocky start, Maxis has bulldozed most of the issues and now Mayors are back to building, until they reach the restrictions of the city size.


This review is after several patches of the game, published after Version 1.7 was released

Unlike previous SimCity games, everything is tied to road placement. For instance, you can only zone for residential, commercial, or industrial along a road. This makes sense, and is only a subtle change from SimCity 4. The roads also carry the electrical, water, and sewage piping rather than having to build those separately. These changes provide a smoother experience and allow you to worry about more pressing matters.

In a game where you can build anywhere and any way you want, it does a lot to restrict you from making your own choices. I can’t place where the one entrance to my city goes and can’t shape the land as I see fit, which to an extent makes sense. The city limits feel big at first, but soon after laying down your first set of roads to outline your city, and as you begin to place buildings and zone RCI, that once large space becomes increasingly claustrophobic. I found myself tearing down and rebuilding to maximize the land space for what I needed to do, and not what I wanted to do. So the new fancy curvy roads went by the wayside as they took up too much room despite being aesthetically pleasing for the city.

Cities transform before your eyes as time passes. Whether it’s normal, llama, or cheetah speed; seeing your hustling and bustling city expand and live and breath before your eyes is simply wonderful. That is, until disasters can befall your city such as tornadoes, UFOs, meteor strikes, and so on. It doesn’t even take the large disasters to have an impact on your city. Smaller ones like crime, pollution, sewage backup, and nuclear meltdowns can have strong and adverse affects on your city that will take you a while to come back from. The game doesn’t do a good job in teaching you how to recover from such disasters. I discovered that planting forests helped reverse the effects of ground pollution over time. The large disasters can be unlocked for completing certain in-game achievements, but why anyone would do this intentionally with no option to resort to an earlier save befuddles me.

That’s right, SimCity is online-only. A digital rights management requirement, for authentication and for accessing your saves all exist on a server. No longer can you wreak havoc on your own city and press the virtual “undo” button and use a clean save before the carnage was applied. This has enraged many. When the server issues were cast aside, the requirement was an unnecessary step, but largely didn’t interfere with my Mayoral duties.


You’ll be able to create public regions to share with friends, or anyone who wants to join in. Together, you can work towards a common goal, and make sure you don’t overlap in duties for services like trash and sewage, and make decisions to improve your City Halls that will make available special buildings across the region. Or even build an Arcology, Space Center, or an International Airport that benefits the entire region.

A Sandbox Mode exists where you can start a city without any monetary or researching requirements and immediately build the city of your dreams. However, achievements, challenges, and leaderboards all get disabled as a result. While you can’t exactly put in cheat codes, it’s certainly the next best thing.

At night, your sprawling city lights up the night sky. During the day, pollution hangs about in the air, obscuring your vision of nearby cities and your own. A wide range of PCs are able to play the game, and looks good while doing it. Filter options hid in the menu allow you to make your city look always in the 1920s with a sepia tone, or like a live motion Sin City with whites, blacks, and reds. Neat little touches allow you to personalize the look of your city. The UI features buttons are plushy and soft, showing inspiration from The Sims. When using the data maps, you’re met with a texture and colorless city, leaving behind only what you need to see.

Chris Tilton delivers an impeccable score. It’s a soothing, jaunty, an overall uplifting score that just makes you feel good and doesn’t get in the way. The soundtrack allows you to think and provide careful thought to managing your city. Clicking on Sims or your buildings have a specific sound that play to give an audio cue as to what type of building it is and what it does. The casino buildings jingle and jangle as you hear the customers drop money hoping to score big.

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SimCity does away with the remedial chores of beginning your city of prior games, and streamlines the experience. But all too soon you start to hit walls. Those walls make you think more creatively, but become less fun as you aren’t doing what you want, but what you need. SimCity is a lot of fun, it stumbles many times, but I still couldn’t break myself away from the game for too long without coming up with another idea or strategy that had me logging back into the game a few hours later.

An Origin code for SimCity Digital Deluxe Edition was provided by EA for review purposes