SimCity has been swallowed up in the fiasco surrounding the need for an consistent online connection to play the game in the first place, as well as EA’s complete lack of planning when it came to the huge amount of people that frequented their servers. SimCity isn’t a bad game due to these issues, but it could have been made so much better if the ultimate focus hadn’t been to create a pseudo multiplayer game for a game that should continue to keep its focus in the single player realm.
SimCity has changed very little since its first iteration back in the golden days of PC gaming with the main aim being to build your city into the next amazing metropolis, fighting crime, sewage disposal and budgets along the way. Again, the same methods that were used before to tackle these problems i.e. placing police stations to lower crime, placing more residents in an area to increase jobs for the industrial sector etc. A nice touch is the ability to add extra elements to each primary building, such as adding a classroom to the original building, meaning that you don’t have to continually build four or five different schools to enable your Sims to become more educated. Although the goals are much the same, with a barebones tutorial to get newbie’s into the swing of things, everything looks much prettier and more vibrant, aiding in the pride you feel as the city looks more and more like a metropolis rather than a patch of land with a lonesome house and a dirt track road.
Specialisations are also included allowing you to become the biggest oil exporter in the world or the new Las Vegas, allowing your playing style to be catered for, though some are certainly easier to run with than others, particularly as there seems to be an added focus on the environment here. Now wind pollution is a huge factor in the development of your city, meaning that a rough guide to how you imagine your city will be is necessary to ensure you manage an element of success; rich Sims won’t stay if your new city can compete with China in terms of smog and pollution.
The core mechanics of the game are good and offer a wealth of information for the Mayors who want to know the income of each household, the zones in which residential areas will not flourish due to their proximity to industry, and showing how educated each part of your city is. But what the game fails on is that it narrows your imagination as the space you are given is so darn tiny, with the only way for your city to expand is via land density, fitting more industry/shops/ houses in a small area, so essentially expanding upwards instead of outwards. Maxis attempt to resolve this by adding a certain amount of regions within each map, some with different locations or more natural resources, that are supposed to be taken up with other players whom will specialize in different areas to you allowing you to help out each other; a service based city can send out its extra police cars to police a neighboring city whilst another could export its energy to make sure the region is kept running.
By sharing resources, all cities in the region can combine to create a great building, such as a huge solar panel or a monument for tourism, that allows them to all gain the benefits of working together. This is a good idea in its own right, particularly if you get the right people playing alongside you, as the satisfaction in helping each out when its not under your control, the popular random disasters are still very much a part of the game, is huge as you all become interdependent, much like the real world. However SimCity was always primarily a single player game; whilst a multiplayer system is desirable it should never have been the main facet of the game as a whole. It further takes away from the single player experience, with the only may to make a mega city being to individually up skill and build three or more cities, with different specialisations, to even attempt to allow your imagination to run wild.
The consistent connection brings in its own problems as well, with unavoidable updating needed to allow you to even start playing the game; 15 minutes for every download, running on a fast connection, is ridiculous as well as the monster update that is needed to initially start the game for the first time. Other odd choices are the decision to have to destroy buildings if you want to remove the road, which is the weirdest coexistence in architecture ever, and the inability to keep any local saves. The achievement system is hollow, roads bug in and out of existence, and the advisers border on useless at times, asking you to continually do something that you neither have the money or the space for!
If these little things were improved, an update allowing local saves and the OPTION for offline play would make this game very good. As it stands, the huge amount of restrictions placed on the player, when the idea of SimCity was always to remove these restrictions, make the game OK at best, and nowhere near as enjoyable as its pedigree would make you believe.