SimCity. Maxis (2013) PC

One of our primary functions as a site is to look at games as they ARE and not as they WERE. With a lot of games there tends to be a slide in their score as mechanics age (Shenmue), or through the years become fucking terrible (Tomb Raider), but the trend with more modern games is they appear to actually improve in the medium term. SimCity is a case in point. The user scores on Metacritic hover around the 2.2 region which would roughly put it in our “Shower of Shit” category which even for me seems like an overly harsh score, while at the same time some mainstream press actually had the cojones to give it 100%.

So what do we think of SimCity? We’re gonna hate it right?

First things first

Most of the issues with SimCity are a result of us the gamer. We want bland tasteless iterated experiences that don’t really push the boat, that is why Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Overwatch, FIFA, Madden, and The Sims type games are always the top selling game. We gush over games like The Last of Us and God of War 4 because they offer great stories but watered down bland gameplay mechanics. Kotaku will troll us with a thousand clickbait articles about “Brooklyn-9-9 being the Dark Souls of Pacman” and idiots will rage about it not realising their entire site is based around idiots sharing their articles to rage. Did you know an ironic view still counts as a view? (begging you to share this in ironic rage…).

The point is we want stripped down experiences with the depth of a puddle and a hand holding tutorial. We don’t want to be challenged and we reached a point where averageness is interpreted as being the best or worst. There are hundreds of examples of this, Ghostbusters reboot, Star Wars 7 and 8, whatever game has just been released for the Switch, I won’t digress too much here but hopefully you get the point.

My roads cope better with the traffic then EA’s servers did.

Always-on and the Servers

Ok, a pretty big goof was the “always-on” always connected Internet Connection requirement to play. Go read the reviews, there are thousands of them, all whinging about the servers. It was a huge pain at the time. For me, I honestly I don’t want to play with people over the internet 99% of the time, and if I do I want to do it with an actual mate. Somebody who is going to draw penises that match the penises I draw but actually be useful and help me either side of the literal dicking around. I had zero intention of playing online so I didn’t want the damn feature.

The other significant problem is that game developers design their servers to support the game over it’s life, not the day it is released where there is usually more interest. It means huge games have a terrible time during the first few weeks with latency, load times, and connection issues, and yes, these are infuriating. But what SimCity taught me, and I live by this… Don’t buy a game week 1, and certainly don’t buy something on release date. Let them patch the bugs, let them fix the flaws. Almost all games are now released early and buggy because we will rage if there is the slightest delay (see Dark Souls Remaster, or No Man’s Sky) as a collective we have zero patience. But wait and play the game a few weeks later, or in this case over 5 years later, and issues are typically resolved, hell even No Man’s Sky sorted itself out so there is hope for everyone.

Put succinctly, you can now play Offline, and there is no waiting to join a game.

These idiots couldn’t find the park next door to their house…

The actual negatives

This isn’t an original joke, but it is apt. SimCity should have been called SimMediumSizedTown. Fully packed in, your city population will scrape 200,000. None of this 20,000,000 capacity sprawling metropolis from earlier games. My cities in 2000 or 3000 would have 10 schools, 10 police stations, 10 hospitals, and so on every 30 meters. Here, you can’t really budget for 1 of each in a settlement.

The aforementioned depth of a puddle is very much on show. To build your city it takes 5 minutes, once you turn a profit you steamroll. All it takes is a trade depot and one resource in your town and you have won the game. That was and is SimCity’s real problem, not the always on. The always on can and was resolved. The main flaw is the game is that it is just boring and shallow. Hell even Anno 1602 had more depth.

The  other significant issue with the game I was having is that it is simply too slow. At times it feels like you’re playing a mobile game where you have the mechanic that things take 10 minutes to build and you have to wait for it in real time. I would often put the laptop down and do something else for an 20 minutes, come back and spent the money. Call me old fashioned but I should be playing a game, not passively waiting for shite to happen. By my count I played this file for 30ish hours, and easily 20 of that was me leaving the game ticking along while I did other more interesting things (literally watching paint dry as I painted kitchen wall).

POO MAP!

My other nitpicks are from the lack of depth surrounding constructing your utilities and how plots work in general. You no longer place power lines or water pipes instead all your utilities are sent automatically down roads it is a minor omission but I feel like it is an important one. I used to like having a backwater shack off in the wilds with one dirt road. A long running telegraph wire adds so much to your aesthetic having a dirt road and no wire, while providing the function is never going to be as interesting.

As for the zoning, it is all connected to the road. You don’t zone light/medium/heavy, you just zone Residential/Commercial/Industrial and if you’re connected to a high density road your zones can upgrade. It makes sense, but it removes an element of your city planning and building as there is pretty much no reason to build small roads when you start out as you’ll make more money quicker buy spending a little more on your roads right off the bat.

Build big roads

Symbiotic

The main premise here is a fairly sound one. No City is an island. I am from Manchester (UK), Manchester needed Liverpool to access it’s port to trade resources to become what it is, it needed Sheffield for Steel, it needed Leeds for Commerce, it needed towns like Stockport filled with commuters, it needed small villages for the rich so it made sense for SimCity to adopt this type of strategy. The problem is it is on too small scale to really work (or be fun). Do you want a small town that only exists to provide light industry and say a power plant? You are supposed too, because that is sort of the point. But try and do this and you won’t have enough workers to keep the power plant running, the power plant wont actually generate enough electricity to power other cities The symbiotic nature of cities adds some depth but it is effectively a charade as most cities become 100,000 populations with a school and one of Fire/Police/Hospital.

Wooo my largest city is marginally bigger than Blackpool!

Another major problem is, 200,000 people isn’t that much for a city, it would roughly place you 25th in the UK for population size and do you really aspire to be Aberdeen [Reference]? Is that really you’re goal for a game? Sunderland with the Eiffel Tower? I didn’t think so. You want Manhattan, with the Eiffel Tower, you want London with the Empire State Building, and even if you choose the largest sized map, with the most amount of plots for your villages you won’t be hitting these lofty heights. At a push you might create region the population of Birmingham, that isn’t to say that Birmingham isn’t nice, as our one reader is from those glorious parts, but you don’t aspire to build Birmingham. You want a Megatropolis with penis shaped roads, and pubic hair trees with a capacity 3 times larger than Manhattan with 70 casinos and a mountain running through it. In SimCity while your mighty phallic symbol will fill your town it lacks the size for me to properly over compensate.

200,000 doesn’t even place you in the top 100 US cities. [Reference]

Mr Stumpy at full mast.

Conclusion

We now live in a society where things are THE BEST or THE WORST EVUR. There is no in between anymore. Again, think the Reboot of Ghostbusters, it was thoroughly mediocre, it was a 6 out of 10 film. But society in some douchey collective rage decided it was the worst ever because women ruin everything. Just like EA or Ubisoft ruin everything. Collective reasoning flies out the window as it is easier to gush or flame than to try and offer balance. That is SimCity in a round-a-bout way.

SimCity was released with a terrible Always-On feature, it was plagued with terrible Day Zero server support, and the game was a stripped back version that barely compared to SimCity 3000. But as a game it wasn’t terrible, SimCity was simply mediocre to average. My main criticism of earlier SimCity games was that the game was built on a rinse and repeat building queue, build houses, get taxes, build a school, build more houses, add some industry, add a Police Station. Here, you build one trade depot and one form of city specialisation, and the game is won.

I wanted to hate it, I wanted to jump on the bandwagon and write something scathing, but after playing for around 30 hours over a couple of weeks digging around trying to muster up some bile I just couldn’t bring myself to hate it. The sad fact is I just didn’t care. SimCity is boring, I was bored, it is boring, but that boredom didn’t elicit hate or anger. SimCity played like a mobile game with pay to win, or wait mechanics. It was boring. But I kept at it, trying to hate. And still, I couldn’t, it was simply average.

SimCity is a game I wanted to hate but couldn’t muster more than a “meh” in 30 hours of play time.

Pros: The Poo Map

Cons: Bland and repetitive

50%

Back in the Day:

I broke one of my rules and read the reviews first, and boy are they all over the place. 100%s, 0%s, an average user rating of 2.2 and a 64average critic rating on Metacritic. I tend to not follow Metacritic scores, but 64 in a world where 7/10 is average this translates nicely to our 5/10 is average.

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I'm awesome. I write about videogames and play bass guitar.

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