Escapist Editorials

Escapist Editorials
SimCity Is Broken, And It's Not Just the Servers

Greg Tito | 18 Mar 2013 19:00
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That's just one system; I could go on about how police cars don't seem to catch any criminals or how hospitals have tons of empty beds when people are dying all around it until I'm blue in the face and might need to go to an actual working hospital.

It all comes down to bad pathing code, which Maxis says they are fixing even now. I just wish the developers had noticed the problem during the, oh, I don't know, year of beta tests leading up to launch. The traffic affects every single other system, breaking the game even more. If your streets are clogged, you can't trade your precious commodities like oil, coal, or computers very easily. Of course, that begs the question of why you're asked to trade these resources at all. Well ...

The "endgame" of this SimCity is to specialize your little city into building or making something to trade on the world market. You can mine coal or ore, pump oil and make plastic, concentrate on trade or tourism, or go for high tech to make electronics. Exporting these goods makes a lot of money for your city that's unaffected by taxes, city services or populations but you have to go "all-in" because the factories and support buildings for your chosen specialization are so expensive. In essence, the only way to make it work is to run your budget at a huge deficit and pay for your city on the profits. Setting aside for a moment that a city government doesn't really earn money from a company in its borders selling oil - I suppose you could argue the funds represent tariffs or something - the city simulation game you thought you were playing shifts into a commodities trading game. And it's a tough one too. To meet some of the goals to upgrade your specialization - 5 million daily profit? What? - You have to squeeze out every cent of profit you can and forget about everything else.

You may be different, but I don't want to care about importing coal or whether I can build processors at a profit when I'm playing SimCity. I want to build a city that functions on its own. I want the simulation to react in predictable ways, and if it does something I don't expect, I want there to be a reason why instead of the developers saying, "Ho hum, I guess that's borked." I want a water table that refreshes when it rains. I want said promised rain to actually fall. I want police stations and fire stations and hospitals to serve the community instead of doing nothing. I want subways.

There is a nugget of fun to be had with SimCity. Those first few minutes placing your first roads and homes, executing your plans, is about as enjoyable as gaming can get. But when you start to hammer at the systems, they all just break under the onslaught of logic. Add all this in with the server and connectivity issues, and it's very hard to recommend SimCity to anyone.

Keep in mind: this is not an official review, but just my views on the game right now. Once the network issues are fully resolved, and features like the fast mode of play - stupidly called "cheetah mode." What, fast, medium and slow was too complex? - and leaderboards are re-implemented, we'll let you know The Escapist's official opinion. Perhaps I'll even include some video of all the human bus caterpillars I was talking about earlier, just to be nice.

Until then, be wary of SimCity.

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