It's been three days since the release of Simcity, and for three days I've been unable play the game.
First and foremost, I usually stay away from reviewing games. I also usually avoid pre-ordering them. In a sudden stroke of stupidity, I've decided to review a game I pre-ordered in a sporadic consumerist moment, having teased myself with gameplay videos all week prior to release.
Now, before I get in the review I think it's important to note that I've only been able to play the actual game for a whole 30 minutes to an hour, while the other ~56 hours have been spent trying to connect with EA's Origin servers.
The required persistent online connection was something I assumed to be manageable. I assumed that the release would be much like Diablo 3; unplayable for a day or two (at most), with a bit of lag issues here and there. I'm here writing this review, and not playing the game right now, because it's now three days after release and the game is still unable to connect to the servers. When it does 'connect', it attempts to verify the cities I've built (usually unsuccessfully), which then prompts me to exit the game and try back later.
EA has demanded that I'm part of a minority, and that the majority of players are able to connect. I don't know if that's true, but judging by the overall reception on various review websites it seems unlikely.
Now, for the hour I actually managed to connect, and play the game, there were several glaring issues that need fixing. First, the city size is far too small. The dimensions of the playable area is roughly the size of the medium map from SimCity 4. I was able to use the entire provided area in UNDER the first hour of playtime. Outside of this hour, I was forced to choose between having industry, population density or businesses, as one zone is not large enough to contain all three in a sustainable fashion. I get it; this is an attempt to force co-operation between players, and create individualized (*specialized*) cities that function in an interconnected way. The problem with this, which was clear to me within the hour of playtime, is that no other players actually give a sh*t about 'sharing' their resources with other players. Not only this, but say you buy power from another neighboring city. Now, say that the Mayor of that neighboring city decides to abandon the city, but before they do they sell their power plant. Because you're entirely relying on this other player to power your city, you're now without power. You're now forced to demolish a part of your own city, because of the restricting size of the area, and you must invest in a power source of your own.
The above illustrated, to me, why forcing players to be interdependent fails. Hard.
In reality, sure, cities are most definitely connected and rely upon one another. But again, this isn't reality. This is SimCity. We, the players, should have the capability of being self-sustaining, even if specializations are kept as a core component of the game. This isn't an MMO, nor are people flocking to SimCity to have a 'social experience'. People just want to build cities.
This is another case of 'don't fix what isn't broken'.
That's not to say I haven't had ANY fun with it. Periodically zooming into a region down to street-level and watching your Sims hustle and bustle to work/school/casino's is truly amazing. The graphics, when unsightly graphical bugs aren't there, are beautiful to look at; SimCity has never looked so good.
Ultimately, the absurdly small area in which you're forced to develop, the graphical bugs, the lack of server preparation for the release, the bad PR from EA, random crashes, the dreaded 'white-dashed' border, and the limits to transportation (Airports are really too big and impractical to build, while there is a notable absence of highways, subways and raised-roads) make this game personally very disappointing. There is fun to be had here, but this game requires some serious patching and development.