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.
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.
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.)
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

More Platform Reviews

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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nyran125tk

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Edited By 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.

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nyran125tk

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Edited By 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.

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FroMcJoe

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@nyran125tk Tiberium Sun....Oh how the mighty have fallen

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DefconRave

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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.

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nyran125tk

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Edited By 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.

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DefconRave

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@nyran125tk @DefconRave crap. Did they start a new studio? I wish there was an alternative city builder (not anno).

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nyran125tk

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@DefconRave @nyran125tk try Banished to maybe. Also STEAM has just released Age Of Mythology extended edition

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DefconRave

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@nyran125tk @DefconRave ok. Thanks, i'll check out tropico. cheers :)

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nyran125tk

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Edited By nyran125tk

@DefconRave @nyran125tk yep

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DefconRave

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Edited By DefconRave

@nyran125tk @DefconRave He's Will Wright right? no pun intended.

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nyran125tk

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Edited By 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.

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Gelugon_baat

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@kitmeep

Do you play the game, kitmeep?

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SuppaPHly42

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i just got this game and it is complete crap. i have played many simcity games and this one has missed the mark so badly i don't know what else to say. now they should just give up on it and make the game the should have made in the first place and then make sim earth and sim ant again.

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nicecall

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This game still sounds crappy, but maybe other companies will learn from this to not have a constant online requirement for a single player game. EA on the other hand im sure will have learned nothing and will make this same mistake over and over.

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Toysoldier34

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Edited By Toysoldier34

While the game certainly has some flaws I still enjoyed it and got many hours of fun out of it.

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joey2010

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@Toysoldier34 idiot

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The1337Dunham

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@joey2010 @Toysoldier34 So he's an idiot for enjoying a game that you don't like? Get a grip.

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TheKeef

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Big shock here. Terrible game tries hard to be less terrible, fails terribly, news at 10.

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TheLeftHandDoom

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this game is just a complete fucking mess. This game is probably the low point of EA.

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RhythmAndBlues

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@TheLeftHandDoom I think I agree, in terms of it representing the big-corporate arrogance that's so frequently complained about, but rarely seen so clearly. This game's watch-words were, "meet the new boss, you cunts - it's always online, and you *will* play with other people, whether you want to or not…".


No we won't. And yeah, maybe you shifted some units, but the damage done to the 'good name' of the franchise will, in my opinion, prove not to have been worth it. The handling of this release has graduated stepwise from 'disappointment' to 'debacle' - when I hear the words "Sim City" now, I think more about this festival of shit than I do those cherished hours that I spent with earlier games in the series when I was young.


Reputation: tarnished.


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IndremaLover

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Fortunately for all of us sim/city fans, we have Tropico 5 on its way.

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GSGuy321

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Edited By GSGuy321

@IndremaLover I've never tried it, but I'm hearing good things about Tropico.

Also, there's some indie titles coming out soon in this genre which should spice things up.

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northArrow

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The core problems are yet to be addressed, it needs bigger city plots and terraforming/custom regions. The offline is no doubt a step in the right direction though so I'm hopeful that the modding community can make this game what it should have been in the first place.


And this is a prime example of how a game can be ruined by multiplayer. For Christ sakes, not every game needs an MP mode tacked on. I really wish more developers would see that

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Drilbit777

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Too Late EA.

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mattcake

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Take turd. Polish turd. Result. Smeary turd.

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killerQuagmire

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Probably one of the most broken games I have ever played. I watched countless tutorials on managing traffic yet my cities would always get gridlocked no matter what. Casinos and sporting events would flourish then inexplicably just stop making money. Nothing could be done to revitalize them. The game had amazing potential that never materialized. I figured they would eventually work the bugs out but now I know it simply isn't going to happen.

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cgobeil

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SimCity was my last hope for EA, I have now moved on and I highly doubt that I will ever buy one of their games again!

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tomservo51

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ea sux. game over.

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GSGuy321

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Edited By GSGuy321

Great review BT.

I boycotted EA after the DRM fiasco launch of this game. What's great about the new landscape in gaming is that with the loads of indie developers and options out there now, I can let go of one Publisher with ease without even flinching. I have plenty of other great titles to keep me busy. Genuine competition is a good thing and the consumer wins.

I, the consumer, am in charge now EA.... There's a new boss in town ! And he's shaking things up !

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Darkreaper_1

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You can't polish a turd!

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tomservo51

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@Darkreaper_1 You can, but it's still a shiny turd.

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Edited By sidewinder_na

I'll boil it down to this: If you want to do a Facebook version of Simcity (which in all respect is what this is), then let EA mobile make it and let maxis do the games that made them a household name; no one else is doing this on AAA level (as far as i know), and making improved versions of the same formula actually seems to be the way to go here. Works for Praxis, will work for Maxis. Civilization: Revolution was not turned into Civ 5 and i don't think any Civ fan, or dev, ever thought that would be a good idea. Sadly, either Maxis lost their edge, or whoever is calling the shots, should be thinking harder.


Get Well, Maxis. Hopefully you'll bounce back with the next one.

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Darkmoone1

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Damage control gone wrong.

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chuckles471

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Edited By chuckles471

Citizen Kane applause gif™.

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Shango4

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THIS GAME SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!

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SimCity

First Released Mar 5, 2013
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.

5
Mediocre

Average Rating

1026 Rating(s)

4.1

Developed by:

Published by:

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+
Mild Violence