SimCity – The Death of a Franchise


A number of times I wrote about my longing desire for a new SimCity to be released.  In the decade since SimCity 4 came out, Maxis had gone quiet on the city-building front.  I languished with a piss-poor computer for many years, attempting to pirate other city-building games, downloading shoddy alternatives on tablets, and simply replaying the old games as they weathered with age.  But nothing satiated that discontentment quite like a brand-new, official SimCity could.  And so when I heard that Maxis, teamed with EA, would be releasing a new version of the game on March 5th, I was ecstatic.  The graphics looked amazing, the concept sound, and the promise high.  I couldn’t wait.  Hell, I even went out and bought a brand-spankin’, top of the line computer for the event.  Of the purchases that day, the computer I do not regret.

SimCity Panoramic

Now see, when I was a kid, SimCity 2000 came out but my computer couldn’t run it.  I didn’t know that until my installation failed and I had to wait a year to play the game I had purchased.  Not anyone’s fault but my own.  So when SimCity 3000 came out, I made sure my specs were right.  Except it still wouldn’t run, and to this day I don’t know why.  So I was a bit world-weary with one of my favorite franchises, and bought a computer with around twice the system requirements for 2013’s most recent iteration, all to ensure launch day went without a hitch.  As I’m certain you’ve all heard by now though, that was not to be the case.

simcity-2013-connection-error

The servers were down for almost a week, and when they were up, I was guaranteed to lose all my progress multiple times.  I attempted to give EA the benefit of the doubt, dutifully following the latest news updates on the game and reading reddit’s simcity subs religiously.  I assumed when the bugs were fixed, I would have a perfect game on my hands.  To my extreme dissapointment though, the bugs were never the main problem with the game.  A shitty launch of an amazing game is forgivable; hell, I’d be happy to overlook it if BioShock Infinite’s launch went to hell.  But a game like SimCity, so torn from it’s roots as to no longer resemble the game I loved or even now wanted, makes the terrible launch more salt in the wound.  So below, I offer a warning to those contemplating buying this game.  To summarize:  do not.

simcity-review-2013-23

First, take a gander at the picture above.  That’s it.  That’s the city you get.  Sure, you can chose different kinds, one with more hills or rivers on it.  But that’s it.  And it doesn’t take long to pack it to the brim.  In no time you’ll discover that SimCity 2013 is less a city-building game, as it is a game of deleting important buildings to build other important buildings game.  In a certain respect I imagine it teaches you the importance of the efficient use of land and space; the concept fails though when two feet over the border, stretching to infinity, lies rolling plains.  It just feels so arbitrarily constricted.  I remember older SimCity games where you could stretch your roads for what seemed like miles, making a sprawling city with farmland, skyscrapers, and everything in-between, all laid out in urban sprawl much like a real city would.  And because I assumed this would be a city simulation game, mainly because that’s what it is advertised as being, I was shocked to learn that I’m limited to an extremely artificial, arbitrary, and claustrophobic plot in which to build an entire city.  It leaves your choices so cramped and limited as to immediately suck the fun away.  If you create a decently sized city (upwards that is; don’t ever think you can expand) your power plant will soon prove to be insufficient.  And so you’re forced to destroy some of your towers in order to build a new power plant.  This requires more water, so more buildings go as you plop water pumps.  Now there’s crime, which necessitates schools and police stations.  Entire city blocks fall to the necessary items.  And while those considerations would naturally come into play in any city simulator, when you’re restricted to a space so limited, with so many mandatory buildings, you soon find that there are few types of cities to build that would actually work.  This runs against the entire notion that you can specialize cities and all these other cool concepts that immediately fail due to the size constraints.

Spark_2013-03-13_20-51-01_zpse500f8d9

In such a small city, crammed with so many skyscrapers, traffic inevitably becomes a problem.  Were we able to create intricate highway and interstate systems as with games of old, this problem could at least be alleviated or even just tweaked in a way that would mirror real life traffic problems as they arise with populations putting strain on existing infrastructure.  But not here.  Not when the game mandates that there only be one way in and out of the city, and all traffic behaves as stupidly as possible.  I’ve seen my traffic stretch on for miles, out to the horizon, as people attempt to go from one city to the next; the cars never moving.  And since this is an “agent” based game, one which draws the stats from the action, and not the other way around, this means that cities literally die.  No workers, no trade, no commerce, no moving vans, no new buildings, no police or fire presence.  The cities basically freeze.  And though the throngs roar about it day in and day out, Maxis and EA continue to boast about how much fun people are having.  Which leads me to my last point.  With such shoddy programming, such extremely limited landmass, and such oversimplified gameplay, I feel less like I’m playing the city building game of the future, and instead playing a slightly more complex FarmVille.

farmville-shelly2

Because in the end, what is the god-damned difference?  I attempted to boot it up today to even see if I could glean some fun off the money I wasted, but soon lost interest.  Back to BioShock.

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5 Comments to “SimCity – The Death of a Franchise”

  1. Great article. I know how excited you were for that game to come out, and I am sorry to hear that it was that big of a disappointment. Maybe with future patches or expansion packs they will be able to fix the bugs and stuff. Glitchy online, small land size, and traffic problems–those all sound like problems that can be fixed.

  2. I am so glad that to read an article from you again! Enjoy Bioshock and after that, I implore you to pick up Tomb Raider which was top notch in almost every way.

  3. I’m looking to get a Chevy Silverado z71 and I’m not sure from what year it soulhd be. It has to be cheap but still have the power to go off-road. I’m not much into boggin but I still want to be able to drive out to my lease through the woods. I’m 16 and this will be my first truck. I’m still looking to put more money on the truck once I have it, but I want to have a truck that isn’t too old but cheap.

  4. Brcanillie for free; your parents must be a sweetheart and a certified genius.

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