Sim City Revisited: Has it Improved?
When SimCity first debuted in 2013, I agonized for a week trying to decide whether I wanted to pre-order it. Eventually, I not only pre-ordered the game, I pre-ordered two copies of it. My thought process was that the game had a long-time reputation for success and, well, if I bought two, I could play alongside my partner. It all sounded very lovely and flighty and peaceful-laying-on-clouds, sunshine, roses, and kittens.
So with that, I spent over $160 and waited patiently for the day to come when I could sail away to Nameless City Land and craft a new life. Unfortunately, as many of you are aware of, the launch was an unmitigated disaster. When we were even able to log in, there were so many errors and issues that the game became unplayable. Eventually, when the launch disaster resolved, we began to see the truth of the inherent issues within it. Small maps, no offline mode, and bugs that caused traffic to route poorly or not at all were just a few of the issues within the game.
It's been a long time since SimCity was launched. Two days ago, I decided to give the game another try. What's the worst that could happen? I had already forked out the money for the game. It wasn't like I had anything to lose. Here's my thoughts on what I found.
I wish I was kidding when I said this, but I encountered an unavailable server at first. Unlike the launch disaster, it self-resolved in only about two minutes. Better--much better. Server issues are bound to happen to any online game occasionally. I can't fault EA for an issue that self-corrected so easily. However, it still bothered me a little bit because frankly, I play single-player mode only--thus, there shouldn't be a forced online component anyway. Thankfully, I was presented with a large Offline Coming sign when I logged in.
I started a brand new city, because I wanted to get a completely "clean" experience playing the game. For the sake of this review, I called my city "GameSkinny Land." For the purposes of this review, I chose sandbox mode.
The biggest negative still remains within the SimCity game--the tiny maps. I had my map almost filled within about 45 minutes. It then became a game of what-to-demolish, what-to-keep. While that's fun sometimes, it feels forced and actually made me resent the game a little bit. I found myself sitting there thinking "ugh...maybe I should start a new city. This is boring."
It's not that I don't like challenge--it's more that I like challenge when I want challenge. I'm also one of those gamers who occasionally just likes to cheat my way into building or developing a monstrosity. This is something I loved about SimCity as well as The Sims itself as a series; if I wanted to, I could just cheat myself a few million dollars and build, build, build. I miss that. While sandbox mode does give you $1,000,000, you go through that pretty fast maintaining buildings before you have a solid populace. Maybe it qualifies me as a cheater, but I miss being able to cheat.
The problem with the map is twofold; there's simply no way to plan your city properly because there is such little space. When your industry, commercial, and residential areas are crammed so tightly together, it becomes a game of trying to maintain each. Simply put, the game stalls out.
Also, I'm unimpressed with the fact that most content is the same as it was when the game launched. There's paid content available, but I'm simply not willing to fork out more money for a game I really feel I lost money on in the first place. There's a few kitschy little parks and landmarks that have been added, but nothing significant.
The other issue is that, reportedly, each update added to the game seems to fix certain things and break others. The game is inherently broken/poorly made, and I don't feel like EA has any interest in fully correcting it. It's just been too much for too long for most fans.
Although I listed several negatives, I'm not totally down on SimCity now. I did have fun building up my city. The first thing I noticed was that the game seems...smoother, somehow. I don't remember hearing about any upgrades regarding the smoothness, but it's certainly possible. Regardless of video settings, the background or distance still appears blurry, and that still irks me.
The second thing I noticed is that the game seems to respond much more quickly. The first time around, I found that I would place a building and then have to wait for two or three minutes for it to respond. This time, everything seemed to kick in much faster and this made it easer to respond quickly to issues that cropped up in the city.
I also noticed that traffic appears to be flowing correctly now, and the resident bug where residents would simply never go back to their homes seems to have resolved, too. This is a major hooray--no more traffic jams or loss of workers.
After playing for a couple of hours, my feelings toward the game are vastly unchanged. It seems EA hasn't been able to "put out the fire" it originally encountered, and it seems like most of the changes so far have been cosmetic. I do have a little bit of hope for where the game can potentially go, should EA find their way out of this mess. Unfortunately, it's really the game itself that holds the inherent issues, and that's not going to change without basically creating a whole new game. EA should consider making a SimCity 2015 (or maybe SimCity: It Works!) to overhaul the entire game. EA originally stated that bigger maps weren't possible because it would cause the game to require too many resources to run. I don't buy that as an excuse; there are many other much larger, resource-heavy games developed on other engines that are able to run huge areas just fine. In short, SimCity still feels more like a casual game I'd play once in a blue moon, than a game that I'd really dig into often.
Pictures sourced from (in order of reference)