Review

SimCity: Cities of Tomorrow Review

  • Game release: March 5, 2013
  • Reviewed:
  • PC

The future's not so bright. Don't worry about the shades.

We're all interested in the future. I've always bought into the whole argument that it's the place where we're all going to spend the rest of our lives (thank you, Criswell), and box-office receipts alone show the widespread appeal of looking forward to see if we're going to wind up in an irradiated wasteland or a Blade Runner-style ennui-opolis loaded with neon signs and noodle shops. So it isn't much of a surprise that the first expansion pack for SimCity is Cities of Tomorrow, which reskins the game with sci-fi buildings and technology. But while this snazzy new face-lift has been pulled off with enough skill to please even the most wrinkled Hollywood starlet, virtually none of the flaws inherent in the core game design have been addressed.

Cities of Tomorrow is something of a "more of the same" add-on. SimCity gameplay has been preserved for the most part, but accentuated with futuristic touches and technology that allow you to take your towns into the future. Granted, this is a future that still features ridiculously small city borders, an unhealthy emphasis on multiplayer, and the same old always-on Internet connection that alienated so many fans last spring, but hey, it's got all that plus mag-lev trains and robot drones now, so take the good future with the bad future.

OmegaCo revolutionizes your industries and then your entire cities in a vaguely ominous way.

All of the tweaks in this add-on collectively let you evolve past the current era into a shimmery future that represents the later 21st century and beyond. The biggest symbol of this leap forward is the MegaTower, a cloud-touching superstructure that lets you fit almost all city accommodations and services under one roof. Forget about the crippled zoning mechanics in the original SimCity; you can place residential, mall, office, park, security, waste collection, and other specialized levels into single buildings. You can even top everything off with something eye-catching, like big neon signs, parks, or tourist-drawing lookouts.

But even though building up, not out, would seem to be a good way to handle the tiny municipal footprints that are still imposed on city-builders, I had serious problems with how to use MegaTowers in my personal cities of tomorrow. Their sheer size remains an issue. Each tower occupies a tremendous amount of space, which means that you have to cram them into cities by demolishing huge sections of your original layout. Figure on getting rid of a good four square blocks of residential development to plop down just one tower, which really exacerbates the demolition-happy design of the original game. Don't go all future on an existing city if you have any emotional attachment to it, because the old place will be gone in no time.

You're left with a game that hides the same dissatisfying experience under a more attractive surface.

MegaTower economics are also hard to get a handle on. They're awfully hard to fit into a budget. Unlike residential and commercial developments, which spring up instantly on somebody else's dime after you lay down streets and zoning, MegaTowers cost huge bucks for their initial builds and then for each level that you add on to them. Because of this, they are suitable to use only later in games, once you've done pretty much all you can with the old-style structures and are looking for new challenges. That can be disappointing if you're buying this add-on expecting to instantly time-travel to a century or so in the future.

The new Academy promises a way to make big decisions, programmed by people with compassion and vision.

I tried forgoing all traditional residential and commercial development in favor of a MegaTower right at the start of building a new city, forgoing all traditional residential and commercial development for a MegaTower, and almost immediately went broke without that traditional revenue. I'm not sure what the issue is: the added building cost, that towers generate less tax revenue, or some other mysterious problem. Where you can see how well you're doing with homes and stores just by looking at them and clicking to pull up info screens, tower levels are impossible to get a visual read on. Also, MegaTowers have been jammed into one budget line item instead of being treated as separate residential and commercial options like their old-fashioned counterparts (a move that makes no sense, since the tower levels are just homes and stores and offices in a different cosmetic form), which makes things even more confusing.

Other big additions are OmegaCo and the Academy. OmegaCo revolutionizes everything. It's a vaguely sinister omni-corporation making a vaguely sinister unspecified product called Omni that starts as an alternative industry and soon infects just about everything with franchises and drones that do much of the grunt work in this technological wonderland. You can make big bucks with Omega, although you need a huge flow of oil and ore to keep this great mystery product going, and a pretty seriously developed traditional economy before it makes sense to go in this direction. The Academy is sort of a super-university that expands SimCity gameplay farther toward a Civilization-like feel. Invest big here, and you create ControlNet, a Wi-Fi-style resource needed to power high-tech buildings. The Academy also serves as the home of research, where you can discover tech that leads to new structures such as a fusion power plant, sewage recyclers that churn out drinkable water, garbage atomizers, and so forth.

Granted, this is a future that still features ridiculously small city borders, an unhealthy emphasis on multiplayer, and the same old always-on Internet connection that alienated so many fans last spring.

Again, there are some interesting ideas here. But all come with huge price tags and generally have equally monstrous footprints. It's hard to afford them and even harder to find enough empty space to plop them down in your cities. Almost all of the new options are geared toward players who have hit the limits of the original game and need new challenges. You're also forced to create specialized cities throughout entire regions more than ever. The size of the new structures makes it necessary to branch out to three or four regional cities, either through taking them over yourself when playing privately or by dealing with other human mayors in multiplayer. So if you're hoping to serve as the somewhat realistic mayor of one futuristic megalopolis, sorry, but it isn't happening here.

A few bugs make the future look not quite so bright in spots. I encountered various odd issues. ControlNet sometimes would not connect to certain buildings, no matter how much money I was generating. Mining facilities occasionally would not hook up to water, regardless of how much I supplied, even if I plopped high-tech hydro towers practically right on top of them. Only demolishing and rebuilding on the same spot cleared up the problem. I was sometimes unable to run pipes from Omega factories to the newfangled pods that automatically delivered oil and ore. I would set everything up perfectly, with no overlaps, right over a source of the natural resource in question, but then not be allowed to place a pod for reasons unknown or get an error message about not being able to build on a road, when there was no road in the way.

Apparently, cities in the future will be modeled on the Steelport of Saints Row IV.

Everything does look great, though. Plop down some MegaTowers, and they create a sky-high neighborhood straight out of the Coruscant Imperial City planet of the Star Wars prequels, with little terra firma to be seen and huge floating neon signs all over the place. Old-fashioned buildings develop futuristic looks over time, too. Every time you add some Cities of Tomorrow sci-fi tech to the landscape, the old structures respond by growing what look to be long neon tubes. Zoom in at night, and the city streets look like something out of Tron. The developers seem to have taken design inspiration from a lot of old sci-fi movies. All of the Academy buildings and mag-lev trains reminded me of the domed city in Logan's Run.

The gorgeous sci-fi burgs in Cities of Tomorrow prove that beauty only runs skin-deep. Once you get bored with the neon-clad gimmicks of the MegaTowers and OmegaCo, you're left with pretty much the same flawed game that annoyed the city-building community last spring. Given how loud the critics were back then, it's disappointing that Maxis and EA did little to address any of these gripes, particularly the restricted city borders. This expansion may be set in the future, but the game is stuck in the past.

The Good
New "Blade Runner by way of Coruscant" graphics take the game into the future
Multipurpose MegaTowers are innovative, if also wildly expensive and huge
The Bad
Does very little to address core problems with the SimCity design
Cities are far too small for the new structures, most of which have massive footprints
High-tech nature of new buildings can strain your budget to the breaking point
5
Mediocre
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Discussion

41 comments
chickenchaser78
chickenchaser78

Now that this game has been out for a while, is it worth buying now?

emptycupofgames
emptycupofgames

I'm such a huge simcity freak too, this last game has just been so... rough. I wish Maxis could find a different backer. Too bad they can't kickstart their way to a new Simcity instead of having to co-operate with the devil. :(
So many grand ideas are brought to the table in the game, but then the game treats you like a dog chained up and puts those great ideas juuuuuussssttt out of your reach.

Back2TheR_Oo_ts
Back2TheR_Oo_ts

This simulation is good not great. Games are not games anymore and this is what has come from trying to get babies and your moms mom to play games. I mean NFSMW AI slows down for you! Anyway I digress.


I recently downloaded some DLC for Simcity using my Samsung Galaxy (1st phone) mobile as an AP device. I had used this to conduct an experiment on gaming on the xbox using mobile internet. In short its almost impossible. Took 30 minutes to download a 20mb update.


However when I downloaded the Simcity amusement park DLC it told me to restart the game. Obviously it couldn't connect to the servers and sure enough all the DLC was there. 5 seconds it took.


Was the DLC already there?


Is all the Simcity DLC already installed on your computer/on disc?


IS ALL DLC ALREADY INSTALLED ON YOUR COMPUTER/ON DISC? LA Noire, Resident Evil, Gears of War.......and so on.


"" when a news reader says "that.s the end of the news! " you know they're lying ""

dogbert784
dogbert784

Disappointment after disappointment and people still support EA. 

granola_goodnes
granola_goodnes

So I'm guessing Simcity 2000 did the whole future city thing better?

m_dorian
m_dorian

This game is an insult to all the decent fans of the franchise, new and old. 5 is a very high mark for this overpriced and buggy piece of junk.

PETERAKO
PETERAKO

PS: I currently support a game broken on release with promises fallen short and Im aware that this might be pretty much the same. however the devs are hard at work to fix it as well as their image towards fans. no excuses were made for the mess that game was. I trust them to fix it despite trying to hide the mess this game was in.

PETERAKO
PETERAKO

-Does very little to address core problems with the SimCity design 

-Cities are far too small for the new structures, most of which have massive footprints 

-High-tech nature of new buildings can strain your budget to the breaking point

these problems say a lot. 

 Firstly that they are pushing their original intention of milking dlc and how the game was desinged around this.

Secondly, this single minded tactic started to show on how poorly concieved and unbalanced the game mechanics/features are.

There are another two freakish things about this.

1-The irepairable mess of an engine doesn't allow for said umbalances to be corrected

2-There are people who actually buy this. Its a rare instance in which I genuienly and objectively believe that they don't know any better.

manbropig
manbropig

I'm not sure if the reviewer reads these comments at all, but I think there may be a mistake in this review: "I tried forgoing all traditional residential and commercial development in favor of a MegaTower right at the start of building a new city, forgoing all traditional residential and commercial development for a MegaTower, ..." Using that "forgoing" part twice is the mistake I'm referring to. If this was intentional I apologize.

KingBobCat
KingBobCat

We want bigger maps, not more flash!!!!!!!!!

R4gn4r0k
R4gn4r0k

I love how Maxis/EA keep adding content to this game without ever fixing the core problems people have been asking them to do.

"How would you like some more DLC ?"

"No, we want the problems fixed EA !!!"

DawgByte2
DawgByte2

SURPRISE... You get "Brett Todd", the man with 2 first names... to review this game.

He's the dimwit that gave Sim City a "second look" and gave it a 4... yet you had him review this game. Good job, Gamespot. 
How about the ORIGINAL reviewer who was a little less harsh on the game, and have more of an open mind to it so he played it from the get-go?

Lord_Vader
Lord_Vader

This is disgusting. They decide to completely ignore everyone's requests for an offline mode and bigger cities (not to mention fixes to the numerous amount of bugs) and instead they release this DLC as a new paint of coat for an otherwise unflattering pile of trash of a game. EA must be stupid to think that gamers won't see past their charade of putting profits before customer experience. Then again their stupidity and lack of competence might explain why they were voted worst company twice in a row.

DefconRave
DefconRave

They took one of the best pc franchises and f*cked it up.

Tried to be clever, tried to dictate what gamers should want.

Still can't believe they haven't even expanded the city sizes. Should be called SimTown instead.

meatz666
meatz666

I really regret buying SimCity. While they don't ditch the small cities, I'll not play.

moonlightwolf01
moonlightwolf01

Kind of funny that the key feature of the cyberpunk city architecture they're ripping off with this expansion is that of gigantic mega cities that stretch across whole landmasses yet Sim city's "cities" are hardly big enough for a small town.

draco934
draco934

no offline play, no sale

ewjiml
ewjiml

Judging by the comments (or lack of), I guess they should come out with an expansion called SimCity: A City of the Past....

MasterTheHero
MasterTheHero

I know the review isn't too gleaming, but, I love this game. Sometimes I'll log in and play for an hour, and sometimes I stick around for 4 or 6.

The thing with Sim City is that, truthfully, it's nothing like the original games. It's really just a game to mess around with in order to make beautiful, aesthetically appealing cities.


What draws me into the game is slowly watching the city evolve, which no one has the patience for. I like to build a small town USA with dirt roads and see the trailer homes pop up. There's no schools for the children yet, so they're running around outside playing. I like having the poor work over at the coal mines in order to make an honest wage for their sim families.

Then, when the population has grown enough, I plop down the school and see the buses pick up the kids. I start collecting garbage and draining sewage, all the while trying to keep my budget in balance. Time for a town hall.

Profits are going well from the mines and more people are coming to the city. I make beautiful avenues and side streets to create suburbs, overpasses, tunnels, and decorate the sides with parks and trees.

The trailer homes turn into middle class houses, some folks live on the beach, others up on the mountain, but everyone is happy. People are getting sick, I build clinics, get fire fighters, acquire police protection. All the while still carefully managing my road layout, trying to avoid creating any messy traffic situations.

We have enough to become a city now. Apartments are starting to appear along with office buildings. The public is getting smarter and the demand for schools increases. I build a high school, maybe a community college, maybe a university. The students at the university start researching new technologies for me.

My little mining town isn't so little anymore, it's actually quite pretty. People want to come visit, so I build trains, maybe an airport, a ferry.

Traffic is getting heavy, we're making a ton of profit creating alloys and plastics. But it looks like we've gained enough education to create processors and televisions and computers. Now what started as a mining town, is now a city.


And this is playing on the slowest speed, just watching everything grown. That's where the joy of Sim City comes from in this game. It's about creating a model city and then watching your people interact with it. You can design it in anyway your mind dreams of. You can make the cities look like a ghetto, a suburban utopia, or an industrial wasteland. The choice is up to you. It's a game that's meant to be savored and enjoyed, not rushed through at max speed. Doing so just reduces the life expectancy of the game.


Sure it's not a game for everyone, especially the impatient. But it's a beautiful game and I love playing it.


Feel free to enjoy some of the pictures I took in-game here:

http://smg.photobucket.com/user/Master_The_Hero/library/Sim%20City?sort=3&page=1

boarwar
boarwar

As pretty as this looks.....

Ill never buy this game with its tiny map sizes, lack of offline single player, and the fact that EA has ruined two of my favorite franchises in the same 6 months (sim city and command and conquer). 

No wonder EA was voted the WORST company in america. if only they would release the total ammount of refunds they issued with week 1 server issues. i bet 50% of the buyers returned this garbage.

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

Boycotted EA right after the SimCity fiasco. Their view of the customers became evident as they treated us with utter contempt. Peter Moore to this day still won't admit that SimCity is a DRM nightmare and nothing more. That's what happens when suits take over a company. They know nothing about gamers and nothing about gaming.

Stevo_the_gamer
Stevo_the_gamer moderator moderator

Dang. That's disappointing. I really wish they'd address the core issues in SimCity.

Zevvion
Zevvion

@R4gn4r0k Well, it sold well. It's financially a success. So shame on all the people who think it's shit but bought it anyway. You're giving them reason to produce crap like this, which they now have. And you'll probably buy. 

The only voice they care about is your wallet. And can you blame them? 'This is shit! Here's my money!' isn't a good tactic. 

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@DawgByte2 Brett feels the same way I do, and was free to review the game, where my priorities were elsewhere. Would you prefer I review it so I can say all the same things and give it a 5, too?

Lord_Vader
Lord_Vader

@DawgByte2 Aww... little EA fanboy got hurt by a  review? Tough luck. The original game sucked and I wouldn't have counted on the expansion to make it any better. The game is dead and people have mostly forgotten about it. Too bad EA has ruined another once-great franchise.

Zevvion
Zevvion

@Lord_Vader Oh really? Over 2 million people still bought SimCity and climbing. It's a success in their book. If they are so stupid then what do you call the millions of people that hate the game but still buy it?

People saying something is shit and still buying and playing it. There is nothing more stupid than that.

nait2k4
nait2k4

@Lord_Vader You don't make cash off patches! You don't make cash off patches!

Sing it the tune of that Simpsons "friends with salad" song, it works.

Lord_Vader
Lord_Vader

@DefconRave Don't forget how they ****ed up Command and Conquer and are in the process of screwing up the Battlefield franchise with BF4 being basically a clone of BF3.

Zevvion
Zevvion

@MasterTheHero You're describing SimCity 4, but with fewer features. You should try that game. You'd probably totally dig it a lot more.

hammoud
hammoud

@MasterTheHero I play the same way you do. I love watching my city grow, but eventually the bad traffic AI sets the city in self destruction mode no matter how well prepared you are :( and my biggest complaint is the very small size of the city border

Zevvion
Zevvion

@boarwar To be fair that refund stuff they offer is pretty great. I wish Valve had something like that. Sometimes I buy an old game from them and it totally doesn't work. I ask for a refund and they plainly say 'no'. It's my fault for not researching if it will work. Which is crazy.

Also, Command and Conquer isn't ruined is it? They tried that FTP thing, but they canceled that didn't they?

Zevvion
Zevvion

@GSGuy321 I'm pretty sure all the online decisions were Maxis'. Not EA's. I know EA hasn't always done the right thing, but blindly blaming them isn't going to help. They aren't always the one's at fault.

Stevo_the_gamer
Stevo_the_gamer moderator moderator

We got a free game out of the mix at least. Really was frustrating at the time when I bought a product at launch that wouldn't even work for over a week.

R4gn4r0k
R4gn4r0k

@Zevvion @R4gn4r0k Weird, I bought Rome 2 and those developers actually listened to the community and fixed a lot of what was wrong with the game. Same with COH 2 and Relic.

Actually, a lot of developers listen to their community because at the end of the day we all want the same thing: to play great games.

I don't see how EA thinks taking people's money and ignoring people's problems is okay. I don't see how you find that to be okay either.

And no, I didn't buy Simcity or any of the DLC. When I played the beta it was pretty clear to me that the AO-DRM would be a mess, when even a limited beta didn't work without connection and server problems.

DefconRave
DefconRave

@Lord_Vader @DefconRave I don't know why companies willingly let EA take them over. If they need a publisher why not join 2kgames or SquareEnix, heck even Ubisoft would be the lesser evil.


MasterTheHero
MasterTheHero

@Zevvion @MasterTheHero I've seen the SimCity 4 gameplay, I'm not a big fan of the interface or the graphics. I like this new one much better.


@hammoud the traffic problems have been fixed. One of my cities, Turtle Cove was just impossible with traffic. One avenue would get backed up for miles and miles at the city entrance. Once I added some tunnels, overpasses, and alternate routes. Then the traffic finally cleared up, so it's definitely do-able.


Unfortunately, the city size will always stay small, that's true.

Tyril132
Tyril132

@Stevo_the_gamer  

Yes, but to be fair, that "free" game isn't free if you purchased the product that came with it for $60.00 at retail and that product completely failed to meet your expectations.

It's $60.00, minus the added value of whatever you would have paid for the "free" game.

R4gn4r0k
R4gn4r0k

@Zevvion @R4gn4r0k I don't know about that: Rome 2 was always on the highest places in the steam stats (store.steampowered.com/stats) so I doubt that many people actually stopped playing. I also have no numbers from Simcity so I can't say.

What I do know however is that both these games' forums have been pretty busy, with people complaining or with people asking to fix stuff. The number one complaint about Simcity was the limited city sizes, did Maxis fix this in any of their content additions ? nope, they just added other stuff. That's the difference between EA/Maxis and most developers out there.

Did EA/Victory listened to the complaints about C&C: Generals ? Nope, they just shut the game down. WTF ?

Zevvion
Zevvion

@R4gn4r0k @Zevvion Yeah, but you're kind of proving my point though. People stopped playing Rome 2 because of the issues. People kept playing SimCity consistently. 

Also, I want to make sure; I'm not saying this it's okay to not listen. On the contrary. But what I'm saying is they won't listen if you don't speak up. You can speak up with your wallet and not much else. It's Maxis making these dumb decisions though, not EA.

Zevvion
Zevvion

@DefconRave @Lord_Vader 2K is one of the best publishers in recent years I think. They may demand a lot, but they also completely give in to the devs wishes. At least, as far as I can tell from an outsider perspective. 

SimCity More Info

  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    SimCity is a city-building simulation game that lets players create the city they desire to make the choices that shape your city and power the citizens within it.
    4.1
    Average User RatingOut of 985 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate SimCity
    Developed by:
    Maxis
    Published by:
    Electronic Arts
    Genres:
    Strategy, Management
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Mild Violence