SimCity is the newest installment in the SimCity franchise. For those not familiar with SimCity everything you need to know is in the title. You build and interact with a city where everything is controlled by you.
Want to make a gambling metropolis that would make Vegas green with envy? You can do that.
Want to make a city that is the pinnacle of academia? You can do that.
Want to make a city filled with nothing but sewage treatment plants and elementary schools? I don’t know why you would but sure, that’s possible too.
When you begin in SimCity you’re put through a very basic tutorial that will allow veteran and novice users to gain the basics of the gameplay. You’ll learn how to plop buildings down on the map, what requirements are needed for certain buildings, how to use the charts and graphs to examine how your city is functioning, and how to tend to the needs and wants of the people who live in your city.
Once you’ve completed the tutorial it’s time to start your own city and here’s where the biggest change in the SimCity franchise presents itself. You have the option to join an online game or create one yourself.
SimCity is a game that’s always online and, if you want, you can interact with anyone while you’re playing. I’ll touch more on what the always online portion of the game does but for now let’s get back to the game modes.
You have two options…
- Join an online game: This is self explanatory and picking this option means you definitely will be playing with other people online. Someone online has created a game involving a region and you can pick a settling point to start your city. Other people will have picked starting points in the region for their cities and you’ll need to interact with these people during your game.
- Create one yourself: Another self explanatory choice but in this mode you can play by yourself. You’ll still get a region with different places to settle a city but you make the map private and don’t invite anyone else to play, the entire region and it’s locations to start cities are yours. You can also set the map to public and wait for other people to join your game.
This is the first time you start to see that SimCity isn’t really SimCity anymore, it feels like SimRegion with the ability to take on entire regions and construct different cities with different strengths based on what that section of the region offers you.
Each region is laid out with preset areas to place a city with some regions only able to accommodate three cities while larger regions can fit up to sixteen.
The trading options are limitless and really do help add a “we’re all in this together” feel to the game.
Deciding where to place a city is important because of the way a region’s natural resources are distributed. The starting point for one city may have all the coal, ore and oil you would need but there could also be so little water that it would never support a growing city.
Enter trading between cities!
Since very few regions offer city starting points with all the resources needed for a thriving city you’re forced to trade to make up the difference. This is where the biggest difference is highlighted between private and public matches comes in.
Public map scenario: If your city is drying up but another city has an overabundance of water but little oil you can import their water and export your oil. You’ll do this so the trade is fair on both sides.
Private map scenario: Your city needs water so you claim another area on the map with plenty of water and send some water over to your dry city. You’re doing it all, so no need to find a middle ground for both sides.
The trade between cities isn’t limited to just resources though. Let’s say that your city has more garbage trucks than you need, you can send some trucks to a neighboring city to clean up their trash and in return they can send some police cars to drive through your city at night to help keep crime under control.
The trading options are limitless and really do help add a “we’re all in this together” feel to the game.
The last important bit about the regions is that you take the land as it is. If there’s a huge cliff in the middle of your plot of land there’s no terra forming this time around to flatten out and make some places more habitable. You’re stuck with whatever you’re given on the map and it’s up to you and your skill to create a city around that.
In some ways the inability to change the terrain is unrealistic because we’ve all seen building sites that have had to excavate before they were able to build. From a purely gameplaying point of view it does add in almost a puzzle dynamic when trying to configure a city around these natural barriers.
As you start to build your city, the first thing you’ll notice is that the maps are smaller this time around. From my time with the game I see why…
The smaller size helps promote trade: Cities aren’t able to do everything like in previous SimCity titles. Some cities may be the backbone of industry with steel and coal being their foundation. Other cities have strengths in air and water industries like wind power and water pumping stations. In order to have a “complete” city trade has to go on between the cities either in the multiplayer or single player.
The smaller size is offset by the ability to control an entire region: If you’re not too keen on playing with others then starting a private map and not inviting anyone gives you control of the whole region. Playing single player you’re able to start a city on every point in the region and tailor them to what you want. In my single player game I have one city made purely for natural resources like coal and ore that also specializes in sewage treatment. I then have another city on the water that’s main specialization is gambling and supplying water to all my other cities.
Cities are meant to grow and evolve: In SimCity your city is going to advance as it grows, that means not only will you be able to get more and more upgraded buildings over time but it also means that things like a coal power plant will be able to be replaced by a nuclear plant down the line. Oil fields may be a needed part of building your city but once the oil fields have dried up you’ll need to repurpose those areas in tech fields or maybe the airline industry. Everything evolves and changes in SimCity and you’re going to constantly have to tear down in order to build up.
You’ll also find that the Sims in your city will actively ask for your help. It may be something as simple as asking you to build more water towers to supply your city with water or something like a fireman asking to put on a fireworks show even though houses will be catching fire. In return, you’ll have happier citizens and money awarded to you for completing certain objectives.
The interaction between you and your Sims really helps make this SimCity feel like more of a “game” in parts. Having certain objectives to reach gives the game more structure and the nice thing is that they’re all purely optional, you’re never forced to do one thing outside of your plan for your city. Another thing about the objectives is that most times they’re tied into what you’re trying to do. If you’re building a city to attract tourism you’ll have objectives presented like gain an airport so more tourists can visit.
There are also achievements that are awarded for certain goals met during your gameplay and then challenges that involve the entire online community, like the goal to have a certain population by a certain date. While there is a set list of achievements for the game the challenges are always new. EA will be updating them often making sure that there’s always something new for the player.
Building your cities is the perfect example of “If you build it, they will come” in the sense that you’re in charge of streets and major buildings like fire departments or hospitals. You have a choice whether to make an area residential, commercial or industrial. Once you decide that, it’s out of your hands and you’ll see your city start to populate different areas with buildings of all shapes and sizes.
Your Sims will grow as your city grows. If you start off with small roads the houses and businesses will be smaller. You can upgrade the size of the roads to accommodate more vehicles and that in turn allows your Sims to build larger buildings. If you want to keep a section of your city very rural you’ll want to stick to dirt and simple two lane roads. If you’re looking for a metropolis filled with awe inspiring skyscrapers then you’ll want to make sure those areas are supported by six lane roads that will bring in enough resources to allow that area to grow.
“If you build it, they will come”
To help define your city you have the ability to pick a city specialization. These specializations have certain buildings that will help shape your city to perform a certain function, there are six to choose from…
The nice thing is that if you pick a specialization and find that it doesn’t fit what you’re looking for you can pick another specialization. You can even have more than one specialization at one time with the only problem being that there may not be enough space to fully explore each specialization fully.
The game looks gorgeous with every building and vehicle having it’s own personality. The way the vehicles move through the cities reminds me of the way the trolley made it’s way around Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood. It’s a mix between old fashioned nostalgia like that and the new Glass Box engine that sets this SimCity apart from previous installments.
The Glass Box engine is the unsung hero of the entire game. It’s ability to simulate every single detail in your city down to every single individual is a remarkable feat. There are a plethora of graphs and charts that will show exactly what your city is doing at all time. This raw data feed is a tremendous help to veterans of the franchise and will help newcomers learn the ropes at an accelerated rate. If something is going wrong in your city you’re able to pinpoint the cause and usually there’s a common sense fix.
What’s left to do once you build the perfect city? Well you can always tear it down.
As you progress in SimCity you’ll gain the ability to unleash natural disasters on your world.
Sometimes it’s as simple as a tornado or an earthquake. I’m a big fan of the giant monster attack as you can see from the video in this review.
SimCity is a game that’s always online as I said earlier. That means if you lose your connection for any reason the game won’t work, it also means that if EA is down the game won’t work. Thankfully after some rough spots at launch I can say that I’ve put in 30 hours at various times of the day for 2 weeks and haven’t had a problem. Some people hate games that need to be online all the time and I can understand their position. If you’re one of these people there’s not much I can do to change your mind except tell you that I’m indifferent to always online games and haven’t had any problems after the first week of launch.
Always online means that everyone will have the same updated game and that will be convenient for some people, it means that no matter when you start up the game everyone else has the same exact version you have.
Sounds in the game are fantastic with just a touch of city sounds when you’re high above the city, as you get closer to your city more and more sounds become prevalent until you can overhear Sims talking to each other.
The music is a relaxing set of melodies that set the mood. It’s the sort of music that doesn’t overpower what’s happening in the game but does change depending on the situation. When disasters happen it changes to set the ominous tone of the situation. Overall it fits the game perfectly, adding in places but never detracting from the title.
Why it may be helpful for people with anxiety.
- Addictive “one more turn” gameplay
- Always connected means the entire SimCity world is always there 24 hours a day
- Controls that are simple to perform yet powerful
- Objectives help lead the player and give them goals
- Literally hundreds of hours of gameplay here
Why it may be unhelpful for people with anxiety.
- Always online means a loss of connection on either side makes the game unplayable
Why you should be playing this.
SimCity should be a game that everyone looks into but especially if they have any kind of anxiety. SimCity is an interesting and fun game that never shuts off. While some people like to complain about the always online, it means that the SimCity world is a living world that never sleeps. A game that never goes dormant during the day or night means that no matter when someone has anxiety symptoms they’re able to play the game with others and help relieve their symptoms.
Another nice thing about SimCity is that you’re not forced to play with others. Some people thrive when playing with others and some people feel uncomfortable. The option in SimCity to play a region with others or to control a region yourself means that everyone gets to tailor an experience that best suits them.
I encourage everyone to give SimCity a whirl, then send a rampaging monster through it.
This review was based on the PC version that was provided by the publisher.
March 4th, 2013
Looks great, tons to do, mission based gameplay is a hit, trading resources adds a fun dimension, regions add strategic depth
Game must always be online, forces players to either play with others online or have more than one city, terraforming is now gone