SimCity Updated Review

Too little, too late.

Finally. After months of demands, the long-awaited Update 10 for SimCity has made the city-building simulation available for offline play. Still, it's a case of too little, too late. Removing one of the primary irritants that made the game so aggravating at launch has done surprisingly little to make it likable, since all of the same old miscues like multiplayer-centric regional city building and dumbed-down zoning continue to make your mayoral duties fussy and unrealistic.

Gameplay has been carried forward almost untouched in Update 10. This is a straightforward patch that removes the need to connect to the Maxis servers before being able to play. Just turn on offline mode in the Origin launcher before firing up the game, and you're good to go without the Net. That pesky DRM disguised as a game feature is now gone, and good riddance. A year ago, the disastrous launch saw thousands of people unable to play the game for lengthy stretches of time due to network issues. Even when you could get online, the game was often sluggish and prone to random disconnections and lost save files. But most of these problems were cleared up ages ago, even though minor outages were common right into last fall. So as much as removing the Internet requirement is a blessing, it ceased to be a deal breaker some time back.

SimCity really enters the future with Update 10's removal of the always-on Internet irritation, but the game design remains flawed in key areas.

Still, there is a real positive to finally being able to play completely solo. Saves are stored locally. Maps can be saved multiple times now. This is a small change, but a really valuable one for those times that you want a do-over if a subdivision isn't working out like you planned or you want to rethink the 120K of simoleons you just blew on a new mall level in a MegaTower (the Cities of Tomorrow expansion is fully supported here, along with all of the previously released downloadable content). Of course, the offline trade-off is losing all of the online features. You can easily switch back and forth between the online and offline modes depending on whether you want to play with others or play by yourself, but the two have been completely separated to keep people from cheating in multiplayer and on ranking boards. All this really means is that you can't move regions between the two modes of play, though, so no big loss there.

That approval rating is pretty high when you consider all of the problems with zoning in the game.

The game underneath it all remains the same, warts and all. SimCity may finally be letting you play completely by yourself, but the multiplayer focus of the core design is still wholly evident. You are still stuck playing as more of a governor or a president than a mayor, presiding over small regional maps crammed with as many as 16 cities apiece. Running these burgs is still an irritating juggling act. Each is absurdly tiny and is hemmed in by arbitrary borders that ignore huge stretches of open wilderness. But each city also somehow has enough territory to mine ore, dig up coal, and build nuclear power plants like a miniature country. Mayors are supposed to look after sewer systems and potholes, not oil reserves.

Playing solo only emphasizes how poorly this whole approach works, especially since the lack of a multiplayer option means you're stuck with serving as the mayor to multiple cities on each map. Splitting up your focus between numerous towns is more annoying than challenging. On the larger maps, you need to constantly switch from one city to another. This gets very tedious, very fast. Entering a new city requires 30 seconds or more of loading time, for starters, and you are constantly slapped in the face by the small city sizes. Swapping back and forth from one Duckburg to another is an insult considering that you could do almost everything you needed to do in just a single city if the borders weren't so ridiculously restrictive that you inevitably ran out of the room needed to build key infrastructures like water treatment plants and high schools.

Other core mechanics also don't reflect any of the reality of running a city. Zoning remains as much of a headache here as it was when the game was released last year. This whole system is terrible, whether you're playing the game online or off, because the removal of direct control over neighborhood density continues to limit your planning choices and create chaos when it comes to laying out an orderly city.

The offline city of tomorrow, today! (We should have had it yesterday.)

There are positives to the SimCity approach only if you can accept the absurdity of the premise and you like the idea of looking beyond the more limited worldview of a real-life mayor. Update 10 does nothing to change the basic character of the original game. This is really just a patch that does little aside from removing the always-on Internet requirement and performing some internal housekeeping so the game can operate fully on local systems. This is a good thing, especially given how the launch problems proved that this sort of DRM is spectacularly ill-advised. But even though this addition by subtraction makes for a better experience overall, in that at least you can now play the game whenever you want, all of the other flaws are still present and still glaring.

The Good
Update 10 removes the always-on Internet requirement of the original game
Removal of the online DRM means that you no longer have to worry about a server going on the fritz and wrecking your city-building plans for the evening
The Bad
Core game design remains focused on multiplayer elements
City size limits, multicity focus, and zoning rules are still aggravating
5
Mediocre
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for SimCity

About the Author

Brett Todd would have rather killed four or five hours proofreading old city bylaws than venturing once again into the mayor's office of SimCity.

Other Takes on SimCity

Brett Todd is a longtime city-building enthusiast--not to mention, the mayor of an actual town in Ontario, Canada. He spent the equivalent of five or six real-life council meetings wearing a virtual chain of office in SimCity. That's around 20 hours, give or take a motion or two.
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Discussion

82 comments
dsunhammer
dsunhammer

I just remembered this game, as I gave up on SimCity when I heard what they had done to this version. Anyway, I had hoped enough time had passed that EA figured out they had made huge mistakes and fixed them.

Thanks for letting me know my hopes were unrealistic.

"Too little, to late" is very accurate. I'll wait 4 or 5 years then check back again.

Better luck next time, EA. Here is a tip though. Actually listen to the players next time, because if you don't you soon will be out of the biz.

pastasauce87
pastasauce87

What is EA doing... I mean, I'm used to them pumping out polished turds... but this Simcity/Sims 4 situation... They are trying to see how far they can push the customers... $70 for Sims 4?!!? Now they are pissing on us without even the courtesy of calling it rain.

neongreenyogurt
neongreenyogurt

I've been playing Sim City since Sim City 2000. I bought this one once it came out. I was probably one of the few people who have literally never had a problem with it. When I  bought it, I got home, installed it then played it. No problems. I see people bitching on the forums for months. I see updates coming (I love updates so I'm cool with that). People keep bitching, then they finally give you all offline. People continue bitching. I haven't used offline mode a single time, because I don't bitch about DRM. I'm sorry I'm a hipster that doesn't bitch about DRM. 

Well, I got distracted while writing this, forgot what I was on about, BUT!

Stop bitching the game is fine. If you stop looking at what it DOESN'T have and look at it for what it DOES have. You'd be happier.

Stop bitching about the city sizes, there is a very clear reason why it's like that. Shut up.

Stop bitching about the game, every last one of you are literally just looking for a reason to complain because that's how humans are, the game could be 100% flawless but there would be tons of people bitching about something on the forums because that's how you people are. Screaming for attention because there is something about a game you don't like.

I have so much more to say, but no point in continuing, you all are in so much denial it would hurt to read you replies.

pmulrich
pmulrich

Picked up Simcity after the offline mode became available and the price dropped to a reasonable 10 bucks given the reviews. Just like to bring more cautionary tales to the deserved 5/4.1 ratings posted here, in addition to the points already made


1. offline mode is a joke - you still need to connect to Origin to launch the game. for all its sins Steam lets you launch games offline, but not that buggy DRM prison Origin.


2. My biggest frustration with the game is that basically it's so badly designed and half-assed finished that most of the time it will push you to rage quit because fundamentally, ithis version of Simcity is all about things you can't do, and without telling you why. For example, you bulldoze about a 10th of your city to make room for the huge footprint of the megatower, and then you spend 20 minutes getting pelted by arcane error messages, with the game refusing to let you place that structure in a place that would look open. There are no explanations for why things don't fit. It made me hope for once for something like a suggestion pop up that would let you see where the cursed structure could fit. Same problem with trying to lay out bigger roads, or laying rail or maglev tracks. More error messages about track angles being too steep and other unhelpful bits of news. It would not be so bad a problem if the city surface available was much bigger, but with a stamp available to you to build a city with unclear and arbitrary placement rules, it just takes the fun right out of it. Not to mention making it very hard to plan ahead and optimize available space, since many available city placements even take away usable real estate in your already small map by putting plateaus and water, and where you lose the surface to build one the slope and a good portion of the shore.


3. Budget management in the game will make you doubt at the core of your soul everything you know about microeconomics. Sometimes your budget will fluctuate wildly, with no clear cause and effect relationship between your actions and variations.  the game does show you hourly and monthly numbers for costs and revenues for about 20 line items, but it never lets you look under the hood for a detailed balanced sheet that you let you connect the information on revenues/losses from individual buildings to how they aggregate to your budget. Experimenting with things to see what affects your budget can be fun, but not when the game only gives you an illusion of control. Once you get high added value goods produced like transistors your revenues go through the roof, but as soon as you run out of mines and oil rigs (which take up half you city), importing the inputs will crash your budget. It just felt like playing with subprime loans to build an economy.

gruber23
gruber23

As a long time fan of SimCity, this was such a disappointment. It was very promising at first but EA had to screw it up with their idiotic decision to make it a mandatory internet connection game. Even putting the internet issues aside, the overall limited gameplay and features compared to its predecessors just didn't cut it for me. SimCity 4 Digital Deluxe Steam

thingta42
thingta42

I recommend that people just buy Sim City 4 deluxe edition and play that. Especially so with all of the user generated content there is on the web for it. You can get way more hours from it all.

Ramus73
Ramus73

Hmmm funny, didn't a PR woman state that making the game offline was impossible? I was never going to buy this anyway as I refuse to give EA a penny. Why people still give money to this pathetic company is beyond me.

DerBasterd
DerBasterd

I have played every Sim City. Before last years Sim City, I thought the very first Sim CIty was the worst. Every Sim City thereafter, was better than the one before it. Sim CIty 4 blew me away. Sadly, the current Sim City let me down. Not because of the online issues debacle, that's something most games have been or are going through. No, that's not why. Instead, it's the idea of limited land to build on and the ridiculous notion that you can't connect to other cities if they were not connected with a highway , a body of water or by rail. Also, the resources that must be extracted to develop an economy which is an excellent concept, yet resources don't last very long and soon you find yourself bankrupt with no way of making enough simoleons to survive. Offering services like police coverage and supplying electricity for other cities pays you pennies compared tot he expenses of running the city. Don't get me started on the stupid wonders that take up most of you're resources amd time to build which lead to bankruptcy faster. I regret spending $60 on this game. 

Lord_Vader
Lord_Vader

It's sad that we probably won't ever get another SimCity game for years because of this debacle. For some reason most devs think that city simulators are a niche genre in PC gaming (as opposed to MMORPGs and shooters) even though I hardly doubt that's the case. In fact, one of the most popular games on the PC when computers became affordable for middle income families was SimCity. But with the console and PC gaming market heavily oriented to catering to franchises like CoD, I don't see Maxis or any other major developer for that matter making a city simulator any time soon.

solitas777
solitas777

I'm still waiting to pick it up for $15. That's my sweet spot. If they had done this game right I would have bought it day one.

abcdefgabcdefgz
abcdefgabcdefgz

If you made a 2d game like sim city 2000 with better graphics you could have gigantic maps with current hardware instead of the pretty 3d graphics that take long load times and much smaller city sizes.

riggles_nz
riggles_nz

I tried playing this again the other day for the first time in a few months, after 15 mins and trying 3 different maps I found them all too small to even be able to start making a city without being forced to make a grid of houses off in the corner of the map. There is just no freedom in this game.


Cities XL on the other hand has maps so massive you don't know where to start.

nomailx
nomailx

SPOT ON! I uninstalled the game after the 3rd day, even though I was enjoying it at start. I couldn't build the city I wanted just for the exact reasons cited above.


Also, you may have mentioned the Absurd "no resource" sharing policy between cities which make the game even less playable. (One city can't automatically send resourced to another. You need to gift it which is a loading time hell.).


So even if you agree to manage the whole region, it will still seem as you are playing different accounts, switching from one to another to help the Main account. The feel of "ruling the region" is completely absent.


Really short vision from the makers.


Cheers to this Review. Best I've seen since Kevin's.

Ripper_TV
Ripper_TV

I haven't noticed before that it was sooo ugly. Look at the screenshots!

sakaixx
sakaixx

offline and it still sucks ?

PetJel
PetJel

if they had any clue about what people actually wanted in a new sim city they could've made a fantastic game.


not to say a developers own idea's should be dismissed, but if they wanted to make a hit game all they had to do was look at all the hyped up people asking for it for 10 years straight and the sim city 4 mods that were downloaded tens of thousands of times. expanded road systems, new buildings, massive train mods, and so so much more.

fredyellowone
fredyellowone

I'll be honest, I still like and enjoy SimCity 2013.  My only complain would be the size of the maps.  Way too small.

bvarious
bvarious

SimCity's latest iteration should be a cautionary tale for any developer. Bungled, broken and best forgotten.

mkdms14
mkdms14

Soo everything that you guys originally complained about was fix in the updates now you are complaining about them giving you what you wanted?  What kind of gaming site are you guys running?

PacoTaco
PacoTaco

I made the mistake of purchasing this travesty when it first released.  Between this awful sim and Simcity Societies, it's quite clear that SimCity has taken a nose-dive in terms of enjoyment and addictiveness. I will not purchase the expansion, and I will not release-day purchase another SimCity game either.

rogerpenna
rogerpenna

I bought Sim City 2, 3 and the awesome 4. Never bought this one. EA screwed it up totally.

KBABZ
KBABZ

I wonder how many of the DRM haters are actually fans of SimCity in the first place.

usernameonetwo
usernameonetwo

Haha fail. Biggest fail in years. I'm glad i never bought this crap. One must be stupid to pay for this crap. Like it;s not enough the game is way overpriced it never gets a deal and costs too much.

santinegrete
santinegrete

Dear Sevenizz, with respect this time, hell, I don't know if you'll be here: this could have happened to your Halo, your Gears, or any XboxOne experience with the always online requirement you defended until the end. PC gaming is cool, but in here most products you purchase aren't you own at the end of the contract, and that could have happened to any game in your beloved console. I have proof right here.

adro191
adro191

they cant make bigger city cause core game codes are broken, enlarging the map will just open a can of worms. end of story. NEXT please

lateralus1
lateralus1

Wah wah wahhhhhh. "DRM disguised as a feature". You would think they would have learned by now and never have done this with the original release in the first place. Diablo 3 still has the always-online crap built into that still too right? No thanks. Suck my balls you asshat publishers treating gamers like criminals. Suck my balls.

pip3dream
pip3dream

The saddest thing about this whole debacle, is how many gamers actually BOUGHT this game.  I mean this game had bad reviews, and worse complaints - yet some how they managed to sell MILLIONS OF COPIES of this game.  It floors me.  Companies arent going to do a damn thing about their shitty games if they keep making millions of dollars off us.  Im kind of mad at gamers for this.

pip3dream
pip3dream

Why don't they let us have bigger cities in this?  It seems so bloody arbitrary.  This whole game is just questions...

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

Lol is Brett Todd the reviewer an actual Mayor of a real town iN canada? 


See now THATS the type of people you should want to impress with a city builder. Real mayors. That should be the standard.


if i was to build a city building game id want real mayors to play it and give me feedback.


Brett you should email EA and tell them you are a mayor of a town in Canada and the next Simcity EA is building, they should talk to you for ideas.

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

go to STEAM and get better games.  start with civilization 3-5, Tropico...Banished maybe


matter of fact EA is destroying some amazing brand names like Bioware and Maxis. The main company developers leave or the company gets bought out and this is the end result. Games from these once upon a time amazing companies, seem to turn to sht now.


Anyone remember Westwood? Oh how THAT franchise they created has fallen to.

DefconRave
DefconRave

What the hell happened to the team that did sim city 4? Its like a bunch of morons has replaced them.


The small "city" sizes is the biggest issue plaguing the game for me. 

Cowbie
Cowbie

@sakaixx I'm still trying to figure out why people thought adding offline would be some magic fix. That was small in comparison to the train-wreck that is the rest of the game.

Dragon_Nexus
Dragon_Nexus

@mkdms14 Did you read the article? verything isn't fixed. It's still designed around multiplayer with lots of little cities mushed together instead of building one large city to cover all your needs.

nicecall
nicecall

@rogerpenna ya i loved sc2000 and 3000.  Not sure how you can screw up simcity, but ya its EA, they have turded every classic game they control.  wtf they did to Syndicate I still have no idea what that game was supposed to be. 

Can't wait to see how badly they will screw up Mass Effect now that its fully in their hands... they'll probably turn the game into just a fps game and toss out all the other elements.

Im sure the brilliant minds at EA are thinking up ideas to remake the Ultima series and release it as a FPS game also to further stain another classic series.  Lets shit on all the games we have control over, this is what we do.

abcdefgabcdefgz
abcdefgabcdefgz

@usernameonetwo yeah this game was made by EA for suckers that remember good sim city games. Glad I didnt fall for it. I would never ever buy any EA game without seeing reviews first its just common sense

Xirtahm
Xirtahm

@pip3dream Most of the sales were within the first few weeks of release, and many received refunds later down the road.  People have been begging for a new SimCity game for YEARS, and the sales numbers would have been astonishingly higher if they never had the always-online DRM to begin with, as well as adding a simple feature like being able to build freely without zoned regions.

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

@pip3dream Could have sold 5x more though. That game could have been epic. DRM just holds back sales, it never helps.
 

Not to mention all the negative feedback which affects your long term reputation.

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

@DefconRave  the main people left. this is what happens or EA buys them out. Thats why im not holding my breath for Dragon Age 3.

Dragon_Nexus
Dragon_Nexus

@nicecall @rogerpenna Dude, Mass Effect has been in their hands since ME2.

Darth_Aloysius
Darth_Aloysius

@Xirtahm @pip3dream  This, on top of that the game started off as quite enjoyable and addictive and this review doesn't do credit to its better features. But despite that I got bored quickly, and it pales in comparison to SimCity 4.

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

@DefconRave @nyran125tk  try tropico. The main guy went off to do somethign else, he was the same guy behind The Sims 1 and 2 also, but they are gone.

SimCity More Info

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  • 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
    Average User RatingOut of 988 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate SimCity
    Developed by:
    Maxis
    Published by:
    Electronic Arts
    Genres:
    Management, Strategy
    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