I’m very sad to say it, but this hands-on review of the new SimCity game is the final nail in the coffin of my interest in the game.
As with the author from that linked review, I spent a massive chunk of my life playing SimCity 2000. I also spent weeks on end (literally, in terms of how many hours I’ve played) with SimCity 4. No matter which iteration of the game you play, the goal is simple: create a city and maintain the budget. You can make whatever you like, a huge metropolis or sleepy farm village, and the level of detail in managing these cities reached a great depth by the time 4 came around. I love these games, the ultimate sandbox of creativity and fun, and when I saw the first trailer for this new game, I had high hopes. News and info started trickling out about SimCity, named after the original for a sort of reboot effect, and I was cautiously optimistic; it looked beautiful, they’d introduced curved roads, and while it wasn’t a huge interest to me, the possibilities of an online multiplayer element sounded kind of fun. Over time, even more details emerged that had my interest, like the ability to create one regional airport that is funded by neighboring cities or to add elements onto already-placed buildings (like an extra wing for a hospital) to increase their services. All of these little details were very cool to see.
Then more news and info started trickling out.
For all of the pros, the cons are just too heavy for me to jump in. Granted, my current computer can’t even handle the game, but even if it could, here’s why I’d be skipping it:
Always-on DRM – This is certainly the biggest “screw you” to PC gamers who legitimately buy games, and it’s hardly forgivable. What does this mean? Basically, if I were to buy SimCity, I would only be able to play it on a computer that’s connected to the internet. Not only that, but if the game company’s servers go down, or they shut them down years from now, the game won’t be playable. I can still start up SimCity 4, whenever I want, and that game was released nearly 10 years ago. I understand that the multiplayer aspect can’t last forever on these games, but removing the ability for a customer to play their own game by themselves, all in the name of anti-piracy, is a darn shame. That right there, is nearly enough to kill my interest, but there are plenty of restrictions in the game, itself, too.
Roads = Power – This gripe was a little more minor, until I read the review above. In previous games, power is supplied to buildings through neighboring buildings, which get their power from a power station. If there are any wide gaps between these buildings (there usually is, especially when working with dirty power sources), they need to be connected with power lines. Water systems worked in the same way. In the new SimCity, however, all of this connection is handled by roads. That sounded like a really clever idea, until I realized that it meant that everything would need to be connected to roads. I wouldn’t be able to create two separate little communities on the same grid, connected only by power lines, and it’s a small detail, but an annoying one. When I read that destroying roads automatically destroys any adjacent buildings, though, it went from an annoying feature to a horrible detriment.
The Land Remains The Same – Again, in previous games there were options to alter the land to further one’s creative process of making a city from scratch. Whether it’s carving into a mountain, creating rivers or lakes, or whatever else, there were choices that could be made to change the face of the landscape in and around the city. That’s gone in the upcoming SimCity. It’s not just changed or gimped.. it’s gone.
Phenomenal Cosmic Power, Itty-Bitty Living Space – In this new game, the playable city areas are much smaller than in SimCity 4, there are less cities per region, and the cities don’t even have the ability to directly connect to one another (they’re all separated by sprawling landscapes, so there’s no ability to create a large metropolitan area that visually connects multiple cities). For how much they’ve restricted the game and folks’ ability to play it, this aspect is the most disappointing of all. For all of this disappointment and hassle, I wouldn’t even be able to enjoy as much building area as I have in games past.
If these things change, I’m game, but they won’t.. not all of them. Electronic Arts and Maxis have created a game that looks amazing and has some great new features, but the restricted and dumbed-down game they’re offering us just isn’t for me. It’s been said many times that they’re open to the modding community making changes, so that may prove to help with some of the gameplay details, but unless I come across a version that I’ll be able to play long after EA takes their servers down, I’m going to have to just stick with a 10-year-old game… and as great as that game is, this is all rather sad news.