Monte Cristo continues to try and breathe new life and new features into this stagnant genre.
City-building games aren't as common as they once were after SimCity set the bar and the market was flooded with 'Tycoon' games, but Monte Cristo's City Life series continues to try and breathe new life and new features to this stagnant genre.
At it's core, Cities XL is like any city building game you may have played in the past, it requires good planning and forethought and an almost Zen like balance to succeed. Most games will start the same way: Build houses for people, people need jobs and food so you build farms and industry, the industry need paperwork done so you build office buildings and buisness hotels, these buildings require more houses for qualified works, which in turn now want schools. The balance can be hard to achieve as too many buildings of one type without enough buildings of another will cause spaces to go unoccupied and drain your city funds. This all sounds rather complex on the surface but you have numerous charts and overlays at your disposal to see where your problems lie.
Just like other games of this ilk you'll be zoning out areas for residential, commercial and industrial and choosing the density of the structures (higher density will mean denser traffic to contend with) but now in Cities XL you'll also be choosing what class of person will be living in each residential property. It seems rather ridiculous for a mayor/city planner/deity such as yourself to have to choose if this residential area will be lived in by the uneducated or high paid executives rather than the citizens themselves deciding who will move into an area and this will give you one more thing that you'll have to balance in your city.
This city certainly looks "XL"If you're choosing to play (and pay) online then you'll have the option of being able to trade for resources with other players. This opens up some new options to players, such as building a city that has no dirty industry and pollution and trading your office space and vacations for power and industry goods. While online your city will exist in an always running online world with other players where you can communicate with other players through a chat window, complete trades or visit each other's cities. These ideas are unique to this type of game and all come with their own problems. Trading online can be a risky buisness, should you be sustaining your entire economy through trade and some of those deals are cenceled or the entire trade system fails (again) your city will fill with bankrupt buisness and your coffers will hemridge cash. The chat window can also be troublesome as it whizzes by with the voices of a hundred players all trying to get help or sell their recourses, this might be familiar to players of World of Warcraft who like to watch the drama of the larger cities.
Graphically Cities XL looks pretty sharp and offers several different ways of placing structures which can keep your city looking interesting, having a fair few designed for each type of building also helps keep things interesting. It's claimed that the game has 500 different looking buildings and they'll be adding a further 200 each year along with new maps, quite a bold statement but when you consider that there is a monthly fee it's good that they're offering extra content along with the subscription. Sadly the performance of the game can be a little rocky, performing trades through the game can have you waiting a considerable time between screens, the performance actually got so bad that I had to use a second computer to perform the trades through the website. It seems that these problems are due to some bugs in the release version of the game and after seeing Monte Cristo staff visiting the chartrooms I'm confident that they'll have issues like this wrapped up shortly.
Cities XL may not be as in depth and as refined as such games as Sim City 4K but with the online features that promise a lot of upcoming content this average game has the potential to be great. That said Cities XL is a full price game that also asks for a subscription fee equal to that of a cheaper tier online RPG for access to all of the online features, which is hard to recommend to all but the most dedicated city builders.
Originally posted to CitizenGame.co.uk on October 20, 2009