SimCity is a simulation city builder that’s name has spanned over 20 years. Infamous for its colourful graphics and complex simulation engine, SimCity can keep you entertained for hours. Be it keeping a handle on crime, developing cities to reach for the sky with glitzy skyscrapers or having an industrial super power; SimCity has it all. Now, with computers more powerful than ever, the simulation and content of the game promises to blow all us virtual mayors away!
Having waited a decade for a new SimCity to be released, fans were wetting themselves with excitement come Thursday 7th March 2013. Many would find themselves staying up late into Thursday night waiting for the clock to strike one minute past twelve, Friday morning. At this point SimCity was released for download. Alas, it has been a tumultuous launch for the highly anticipated game. Electronic Arts (EA) who own the developer Maxis, insisted on an “always-online” format for the game. They claim it is because the game’s simulation is so advanced, mega computers are needed to process the information and this can only be done on the massive servers within EA. This reporter feels it is more a ruse for EA to easily add micro-transactions to the game. Buy this for 50p, buy this for £1; a new expansion is coming for £7.99. Something which is available from launch incidentally, are three country specific themed expansion packs. It just shows the direction the game has taken.
So, you have to be online to load the game and all your saved cities are stored on the servers. In this day and age where your phone has better internet then the majority of households did 5 years ago, it’s not such a big deal. That is until some incredibly dumb person in EA’s accountancy department decided that money was more important than whether or not the game works. SimCity launched initially in the USA on Tuesday 6th March. I was a disaster. All the servers filled up in a matter of minutes and the majority of people who had purchased the game, weren’t actually able to play it. If you did get into a game, it crashed or froze. People were up in arms about EA’s no refunds for downloaded content and the USA media latched onto the poor performance from EA. The launch has made front page on newspapers, headlines in news programmes and the forums are buzzing with comments.
Come launch night in the UK, same issues. I personally had been anxious about the UK launch, hoping the issues would be resolved or we’d be unaffected. How naïve of me. Initially, the game worked fine but come Friday afternoon when I really wanted to get some hours under my belt, I was sat staring at the dreaded servers are full, log in unavailable and numerous other messages. If I could load the game, none of my cities would load. I quit after an hour of waiting and went and did something else. Credit where credits due though because checking forums for the latest Saturday, and EA were spamming announcements about how they are working around the clock to improve server stability and capacity. Come Saturday night, hey presto. Everything was working seamlessly and I sat down to get a few hours mayoring under my belt. What a way to spend a Saturday evening!
After getting accustomed to the controls, how the game works and building some bits and pieces, I can say this game is a masterpiece…nearly! The graphics are incredible, the gameplay is brilliant and the grip it gets on you is intense. And this is where it all falls down. Once you have played for a few hours and built something of decent size, you start to notice all the things that just don’t make sense. Emergency vehicles sat in traffic lights and sirens blaring, a population of 100,000 but only 10,000 workers, cars all trying to use one road. There’s so much that just isn’t finished. You are constantly hounded by alerts of crime and fires even if you have 50 police cars. They all just sit in traffic and all go to the same crime scene. Population is hugely inflated so you always have underemployment. Traffic completely cripples your city because your beloved sims are all using the same road. This is meant to be the most advanced simulation game out there. EA and Maxis drilled it into on lookers that everything in the game will be simulated. It just isn’t.
I have been trying to hold off for as long as possible writing this review in the hope that an announcement from EA comes to the fore or some of the problems are fixed. I would love to tell you this game is sensational and a 2013 must have but at the moment, all I can say is buy it pre-owned in 6 months when it has been patched and is working as it should be. Then it will truly be epic. Sadly though, I fear the damage to the SimCity name may be irrevocable and this will be the last SimCity we see!
This game should be a solid 10/10 but I can only give it 4/10. These 4 are because yes the graphics are great, the game is fun but there’s just too many bugs.
Maybe I’ll review it again in a month or two once these issues have been ironed out and I can give it the 10/10 it deserves.