By Michael WORKMAN
A video game that revolves around civic management is probably not what most people would think of as being wildly popular. But that description would be a gross oversimplification.
Developer Maxis’s “SimCity” has garnered a colossal devoted fan base since its humble start way back in 1989 that spawned several additional games in the series. It has been 10 years since the last major “SimCity” game was released and expectations could not be higher for the reboot fans have been waiting for.
The big draw for “SimCity (2013)” is letting players design their own city and tackling the challenges that come with a growing population. Players build roads, zone new residential areas and provide police, firefighters and hospitals to meet the need of their citizens. Also, players must build power plants to energize all the homes and industries sprouting up. The game offers greener power technology, such as wind and solar that produce no pollution but generate a paltry amount of power, or build coal and oil burning plants that produce tons of power but sadly massive quantities of pollution.
Once players have a decent sized city, the game truly starts to shine.
“SimCity” is spectacularly gorgeous to look at. The new graphics engine have made it hard not to spend a few minutes admiring the details the Maxis team has put into the game. The buildings look stunning and vary enough to give the feel that the city is constantly evolving as businesses and populations grow. It’s even possible to follow one of your citizens and watch them commute to work, get fired for being late (since you neglected to build that new highway to reduce rush hour gridlock), go shopping and other activities.
A major new feature that “SimCity” has is full online play so players can share resources and connect with other cities. If a player’s city can’t generate enough power from its power plants, they can make an agreement with a neighboring city and buy their surplus power. It also is meant to encourage players to visit other players’ cities and share ideas and coordinate. For example, if your city has large unemployment, build a train station so your residents can commute to another city for job opportunities. While this feature is useful and can be quite fun to interact with other players, it has led to major problems concerning “SimCity”’s launch.
“SimCity” requires a continuous online connection on EA’s Origin program in order to run the game. Maxis explained it would be easier for their development team to provide updates and save game data to the cloud. This news was met with skepticism by some fans of the series who wanted to be able to play “SimCity” in an offline mode so players with poor Internet connections could enjoy them game. Maxis assured fans that it would not be a problem, yet when March 5 came, a firestorm of server issues plagued Maxis. Several players could not connect to the servers for hours and the ones that did manage to secure a connection frequently had their connection severed and kicked back to the menu screen. Not only did players have their experience interrupted but all their game data was lost and they had to start over after building a sizable city and investing a lot of time. Maxis has added several more servers in order to accommodate all the players online but the damage was done. “SimCity”’s launch was a disaster.
Maxis senior vice president Lucy Bradshaw posted a response on March 8: “So what went wrong? The short answer is: a lot more people logged on than we expected. More people played and played in ways we never saw in the beta…” Her post ended with, “…we feel bad about what happened. We’re hoping you won’t stay mad and that we’ll be friends again when ‘SimCity’ is running at 100 percent.”
It is not too surprising that modern games that require constant online connections are having uneasy starts. After all, this is a relatively new feature for games. Blizzard certainly had issues with “Diablo III”’s launch but hopefully developers will learn from these early mistakes and things will go smoothly in the future.
Horrible launch aside, “SimCity” is a great game that should be played by anyone looking for a fun resource/building simulator. The only problem I found with the game was there wasn’t enough room for cities to really become sprawling metropolises. Maxis has hinted that may change in the near future but for now gamers will have to make due with what they’ve got.
I desperately wanted to give a perfect score to “SimCity” but the server issues and small city maps make it impossible. Again, I implore anyone interested in “SimCity” to give it a chance as it is wonderful to play and beautiful to view.
“SimCity” gets a 4/5.