My SimCity First Impressions

I picked up SimCity (5?) last night on a whim after telling myself I was going to wait a bit longer until the storm had blown over. For those unaware, there is an issue gamers have with this latest SimCity. Server issues, the “always-on” connectivity required by EA, being forced to have the EA Origin program service installed and running, etc. After installing the game and playing for a few hours last night, building cities, deleting regions, etc, I have decided I am not currently happy, either. I can see where all the complaints are coming from. I made such a comment on Facebook, to which a friend asked:

So is Sim City a bad game or is it a good game with glitches?

Well, what follows is my reply. I figure it was such a long response, I might as well make it my blog post as I cover most of what I’m thinking. So, here it goes:  My reply to the above question is the following:

To answer, I have to answer this way: What I liked about the older versions of SimCity, even the panned Sim City Societies (which I’m considering reinstalling) is the fact that I had (at least in my mind) more control over how my city developed. If I wanted high density residential zones, I could plan those. If I wanted low density single family homes, I could zone those in a section somewhere else. Same with businesses and industry. In the latest SimCity, you simply say, “This area is residential,” and then the computer decides everything else. How many houses are built, what they look like, how they will evolve and develop, etc. 

As far as industry goes, it cripples the beginnings and later growth of your city because of this scenario: If I build a power plant and connect it to my city, then people begin to move into my city, if none of my Sims “decide” to work at the power plant, then it remains closed until it “hires” a Sim. So it may be several game months before the power plant kicks in, in which time your population growth is hindered because there is no power running to your city. 

Later in the game, this same issue of “No Workers Available, Plant Closed,” (that’s how the buildings are labeled when you hover over them, begins to affect your entire city. 1) People needs jobs, and you have a large citizen base. 2) The industrial buildings need workers, but the citizens in your city that need work may not have the education to work there, so they can’t be employed there. 3) The game constantly reminds you that you need more workers and starts suggesting you should bring people from neighboring regions in, which is a whole ‘nother issue in and of itself.

It’s a so-so game with bugs and severe A.I. issues. The user is also “crippled” by the fact that your city’s size is set by Maxis and you can’t grow beyond that without starting a “neighboring city” to allow for other growth potential (like exporting workers for other regions you have built or providing services such as electric, water, trash pick-up, etc).

The previous versions of SimCity have allowed for user customization (I guess that’s the word I’m looking for) by letting you decide how thick a certain areas population will be, letting you lay out a common theme, etc. The new game takes all that away and tries to dumb down the basics while making the “real city management” factors too demanding on what you are actually able to do. If you go over budget, the game’s A.I. will actually stop you from doing anything until you tell it how to correct the deficit. You are then forced to either 1) shut own government funding. 2) shut down important city necessities such as police, school, fire, power, water, etc. 3) raise taxes to a ludicrous rate or 4) take out a loan. That’s it, that’s your only options. It won’t allow you to try and grow your city and try to get a larger population in which will contribute to your income, it just shuts you down and locks up the game until you decide what you want to sacrifice.

Another nitpicky issue is the fact that EVERYTHING has to be connected to a road. You can’t build a neighborhood anymore and plant a playground in the middle of the square to raise its land value. Now, not only do the houses have to be connected to the road, but so does the playground as well. If it’s not, you can’t even place it. Roads are very important in SimCity, in fact the roads control everything – from where your power goes to how your water flows, your trash and sewage flow – everything. Another hinderance. 

So, for others, it may be a perfect game. For me, it’s a great series brought to its knees by corporate greed and a lack of understanding about what makes the series great in the first place – allowing people the freedom to let their minds be the limit on what they create. 

There also seems to be some features missing, mainly in the decoration front. I’m betting EA is going to nickel and dime folks to death with DLC to add these little features. Who knows, maybe the zone options will come down the line as a $14.99 expansion pack as well.

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