SimCity Impressions

I waited a relatively long time before picking up the newest SimCity. Amidst the rather massive wave of negativity, I still wanted to pick it up and give it a try so I did.  I heard about all the issues with connectivity and DRM.  I heard about how horrible the game was despite hearing how wonderful it was on day one; yes, the same great praise on some sites turned into a massive wave of bandwagon shenanigans.  When things are good they’re good, but when things are bad it’s like holy shiz newsworthy and everyone makes a humongous deal out of it.

I wish my cities looked this nice.  I"m horrible at using space well.
I wish my cities looked this nice. I”m horrible at using space well.

Since buying the game a few days ago, I have encountered ZERO connectivity issues or issues related to Origin DRM.  I have been able to connect morning, afternoon, and night.  The -only- issue I’ve had with this server saving technology (which might not even be a real thing) is my city rolled back 15 minutes.  The game told me that something wasn’t synching and I had to rollback.  I was bothered, but it was only 15 minutes.   I’m not insinuating the connectivity or other issues didn’t exist — I”m sure they did — but I haven’t experienced them, and they shouldn’t be a reason to dock the overall game.  DRM can be annoying, and Origin sucks compared to Steam, but all things considered I can’t say opening Origin bothers me like it does other people.  I have games associated with EA/Origin that I purchased many, many years ago, and I’m actually grateful that Origin has my ownership saved to let me play them later (I hate discs).

Gameplay wise, SimCity is fun.  I really like the stylized atmosphere and zany personalty my cities adopt; I mean really, zombie invasions and Godzilla are awesome.  I hate the restrictions on city size.  This tiny little box doesn’t give me any room to customize the look of my city how I want, but I think I understand why it’s this way.  The devs want you to specialize your cities.  I learned the hard way it is almost impossible to have a nice city that does everything.  At the rate citizens complain, it’s impossible to have industry, commercial, residential, and any sort of specialization without having your city fiscally or civilly implode.

My cities look like this with tons of traffic jams.  Well, and sickness, fires, and theft.
My cities look like this with tons of traffic jams. Well, and sickness, fires, and theft.

To overcome to city size issue, my friends in the Keen and Graev Community have created several regions where each of us build a city and interact with each other.  This is where the multiplayer is a ton of fun.  We create a map, and each of us takes a spot or two.  Our cities get connected by water, road, and rail, and we can do trade with each other.  We can also send police, fire, medical, and trade help, as well as mutually beneficial resource trade.  Most of this happens automatically, but it’s nice to be able to buy up one city’s excess power or water when I’m in a bind.

There’s some question as to the replayability.  I haven’t grown tired of the game yet, but I can’t see there being a whole ton of reason to make dozens and dozens of cities.  I think it’s a depth issue.  There aren’t a whole lot of ways I can truly get in and customize what’s going on.  I wish I could choose restaurants and tech locations rather than relying on the socioeconomic status of my citizens and the overall land value.  I’ve often become frustrated that I have to build parks just to make the land value go up.  I wish I could specifically zone for the size of houses, and for wealth.  That way I could choose to create trailer parks and low-skill workers rather than having the citizens suddenly decide it’s okay to put a highrise apartment complex next to a factory, then complain it drives the land value down when they freaking decided it was a good idea to go there!

In summary, SimCity is a ‘good’ and ‘fun’ game hindered only by a slight lack of depth and a frustrating limitation on size.  My connection issues are non-existent, and people complaining about Origin ultimately have to get over it, but the fact that a game can technically be single-player yet still have a server status website is a bit perplexing.  Playing in a region with friends is by far the best part because visiting their cities and seeing them crop up in the distance makes the entire experience more enjoyable — after all, who doesn’t want to have to worry about your neighbors polluting the air and sending arsonists over to your city? SimCity is addicting, and you’ll only begin to realize its shortcomings after you lost 10+ hours of your life.

  • I agree with your assessment. It is a fun game but the restriction of the city size is annoying. I have burnt a decent amount of time on the game already but find it less and less appealing to log back in.

  • If you’ve never played a SimCity game before, I can see how the game appears ‘fun’.

    Unfortunately it’s a huge garbled mess, with people already tearing apart the claims of glassbox; the population figures are fake, the ai is abhorrent, sim’s don’t actually live anywhere and all migrate in giant herds from one building to the next, etc.

    The reddit group for it, previously a fan-boy ridden sub has quickly turned into a disparaging view of how awful this game really is, to have been called SimCity. Is it fixable? I doubt we’ll see any of the core issues changed, they still can’t get the servers working correctly.

  • I keep going back and forth on it. I have always loved the Simcity series and still play Simcity 4 from time to time. I also love city building games in general like Tropico, and Anno series. Heck I have spent dozens and dozens of hours in the past playing Cityville. However so far there is just too many things keeping me from pulling the trigger on the new Simcity.

    EA = Strike Number 1.
    Always On DRM = Strike number 2.
    Limited City Sizes = Strike Number 3.

    I have a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship against EA. While I enjoy many of the games they publish I hate Origins and hate the lies EA tells. EA tends to ruin good developers quicker than any other publisher I can think of.

    I can understand Always On requirements for somethings but traditionally Simcity has always been a single player GOD game so to speak. All the interesting stuff that has been said behind the reasoning for the always on connection sounds good on paper and eventually I am sure it will be good overall but I would want the choice to play it online or not. To me it is like Diablo 3 VS Torchlight 2. I actually enjoyed D3 but HATED the always on requirement for a game that I never once played multiplayer on. Simcity might have a super online game but it is one of those games that the series was built up as a single player game and it should have at least left that option.

    I like huge spread out cities. While I respect the idea that you mentioned about linking smaller cities in a region among Guildmates cities, I am still bothered that you have to do that just to get a bigger city. I think part of that is to allow EA to milk microtransaction / DLC packs in the future. I think personally it is a money grab attempt by EA pure and simple.

    I don’t like the limited customization either from what I have read here and elsewhere. If EA wants to do microtransactions and DLC to me that would have been the best way to do so. Heck they could have done so with Day 1 DLC in the forms of building packages.

    I am not going to say that I will never try the new Simcity as I am sure that would be a huge lie but until they actually put in the code to allow me to play offline and/or go for a mark down for the $60 price point I will just have to stay content to play Tropico and Anno or classic Simcity even until then.

  • @Darkstryke true. Some of the things I have seen on sites like RPS such as insiders saying that really it wouldn’t take much to code in single player and then the latest articles on sites about how the SIM individuals are horrible as is the pathfinding AI in general really are concerning for a AAA $60 major release.

  • My biggest issue with the game isn’t server or city size or anything like that. It’s like Darkstryke said, there’s a ton of underlying AI issues and simulation issues that are probably never going to be fixed.

  • I think I’ve seen some of the AI issues. Those are fair complaints.

    Darkstryke, your comment about not playing previous SimCity games is also true. I think the last one I played was in the late 90’s maybe. I’m definitely not an insider, but maybe others who haven’t played are hesitant to give it a try when in reality they may have fun.

  • Play SimCity 4, get the package on Steam with the Rush Hour expansion. Now that IS fun and you will lose weeks of your life. 🙂

    I have not bought SimCity 5 yet, still watching the reviews. The apparent lack of AI depth, even in a small city, is not a good thing to hear. I was assuming city size was small because the AI was more complex.

    Reading reviews right now is frustrating. I could care less about the connection issues, I want gameplay information. It’s a safe assumption all connection issues will be fixed and these people whining about it just need to get over it.

    If it’s a good game I’ll buy it, regardless of the always on DRM or whatever.

  • The simulation needs some work. There are major issues with traffic, which they say is part of the challenge. I disagree. The issues with traffic have nothing to do with building a solid network. Emergency vehicles do not get priority in the simulation, for example

    My other big issue for the past week has been that city interaction doesn’t work, or it’s delayed massively. I’ve gifted money to a few cities that has never shown up. It really makes the game far less enjoyable when you can’t rely on other cities in the region, it makes the game unplayable for me due to city size being so small.

    City size being so small makes it impossible to set up everything and still have an effective city, IMO. I don’t mind the city size when interaction with neighbors works, but I can see it in three months… Bigger Cities DLC! $15 only!

    All in all, I love the game and I find it highly addicting WHEN IT WORKS properly. I still hate the always online DRM, which EA can try and deny what it actually is, but we all know. THe funny thing is that EA is giving away a free PC game for all the launch issues on the 18th, thus basically nullifying the impact of their DRM savings from piracy.

  • more than anything, despite it’s slick appearance it has made me want to go back to SimCity 4 :/

  • Its an interesting game that I play, but it has so many shortcomings.

    The worst is the traffic AI. They move the shortest distance possible even if its a dirt road with a 6 lane highway next to it.
    Supply trucks, public transport, garbage trucks, emergency crews all stop working the moment your city gets into one big traffic jam.

    I had a bug with the great works not showing what it needs.

    In other news:
    It seems someone hacked simcity and can play it in offline mode just fine. What EA lied? how is that possible.
    And yes there is nothing in the way to increase city size.

    The game is ok with good at times. While it could have been great with more development time and choices made.

  • @Steve
    “Emergency vehicles do not get priority in the simulation, for example”

    LOL I can tell you in real life they dont either 😉

  • Thanks for the objective review Keen! It seems the initial bandwagon of “omg this game is awesome” was quickly replaced with “omg this game (and drm of Any sort) is a hot mess!” with truth being obviously somewhere in-between.

    There are 3 reasons I haven’t picked up the game (and btw, getting a 1,000,000 pop on SimCity for my Super Nintendo was one of my first “I’m so cool” gaming accomplishments, and yeah I’m that old):

    1. Limited city size. This is a Huge issue for me.
    2. No undo or save game feature. Also huge. Yeah, I liked to save and then bring in the disaters as much as experiment 🙂
    3. The like of graphs over time. What can I say, I’m a nerd that way.

    The big design change, besides the focus on multiplayer of course, was the shift to making cities disposable…I don’t remember starting new cities much in the earlier games, I remember having relationships with a few cities over time…Specificity was my most successful I can remember that from, 25 years ago?

    All of that said, the game simply Looks Fantastic and the city specialization concept will be enough for me to check it out when the dust settles…2014 maybe?

    Thanks again for a solid, objective take on a game that will someday be super fun.

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