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First Look: SimCity 5 March 13, 2013

Posted by Stormy in Uncategorized.
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…and now for something completely different.

I’ve been a Maxis fan since the days of SimAnt and SimIsle. When you’re a lonely kid with a fascination for pushing buttons, being put in charge of your own ant farm, island or entire city and being given carte blanche to run the place is pretty much the coolest thing ever. Strangely, I didn’t really pay a lot of attention to the hype surrounding the launch of SimCity 5…which is weird, because I actually played a fair bit of SimCity when I was a kid and really loved it. It never really dawned on me that the new SimCity was out until I started hearing the chorus of screaming from various Internet People who were just outraged…OUTRAGED, I TELL YOU that SimCity didn’t work perfectly well for the first week of its launch.

To those people I say clearly you’ve never been through a marquee game launch like a World of Warcraft expansion or the Great Diablo III Clusterfuck of 2012. Anyone who was expecting EA’s servers to work flawlessly on Day One of the biggest and most-anticipated game launch of 2013 needs their head examined, and anyone who has sworn off EA over this launch snafu is making a huge mistake.

I was once like you. Last week I went to the EA website and promptly lost my shit when I saw the sticker price of the game: $60 for the base game, and $80 for an expanded collector’s edition. I even went so far as to post a “You’ve got to be shitting me.” post about it on Facebook. There was NO WAY I was paying $60 for this game, no way no how nosirree bob. Except that my birthday is next week and I like shiny new things and I’m prone to moments of weakness and yeah…

Not Just SimCity 4 With Better Graphics

In this age of faster processors and GPUs, EA/Maxis could have just slapped better graphics on classic SimCity, polished a few bells and whistles and called it good, and the masses would have rejoiced and paid through the nose for it. Instead, they’ve rebuilt the game from the ground up and innovated in some pretty amazing ways.

Much hay has been made over the idea that SimCity is now a server-based always-online social game instead of the single-player game of yore. While there’s a good point to be made there about the reliability of EA’s servers, and while I’m sure somewhere some game reviewer has invoked the word “Orwellian” with respect to EA’s DRM capabilities, the fact is that moving the game to the cloud has allowed EA/Maxis to expand the game in some pretty cool ways.

Social Structure

Instead of one massive single-player city, players are thrust into a “region” with anywhere from three to sixteen individual little hamlets. The social aspect of the game works very similar to that of Diablo III: I can create a game, then invite two to fifteen of my Origin friends in to play around in my region with me, or I can leave my game public so that any random person with an internet connection can drop in and play with me.

But here’s where it gets interesting: each one of the little hamlets in the region is blessed with its own set of natural resources, and these resources can be traded openly with the other cities in the region. If my little town is rich in coal and ore, I can set up a pair of huge mines and a trade depot to sell these things to other cities. A friend running another city in the region can then specialize in, say, electronics manufacturing and buy my materials for use in his business. We can also share things like fire protection, hospitals, and police protection. Regions come pre-loaded with a highway between the cities and a basic railroad, so you could theoretically decide to make one of your little hamlets into a bedroom community and one into a manufacturing powerhouse.

Specializations

I’ve already touched on this briefly, but it deserves explanation. New in SimCity 5 is the ability for your city to specialize in being a particular type of town: for example, a manufacturing town, a tourist town, or a gambling mecca. In my cities I’ve been maximizing the town’s tourism potential by opening a sports stadium and at least one or two other specialty tourist destinations. If you were playing with a friend, you could make one of the towns specialize in mining and trade, and another specialize in manufacturing.

But here’s the best part: adding a specialization to your city is very, very lucrative. Running a sporting event or rock concert in your city’s stadium can net you 50-100,000 Simoleons per day. Granted it’s because I’m older, smarter and a better gaming strategist than I ever was as a kid, but this is the first time I’ve ever run a city in SimCity with a positive cash flow.

Less Annoying

Remember the old SimCity? Every two minutes, somebody in the town wanted something. The citizenry were unnaturally needy. Every two minutes the power plant was overloaded and needed to be upgraded, or your city planner was yelling at you about traffic, or the populace was whining about taxes. Everyone in your town constantly had a litany of problems you had to deal with. At times, playing the game felt less like being an all-powerful government magnate and more like being someone’s errand boy.

Not so with SimCity 5. Sure, you’ll deal with the occasional sewage overflow or brownout if you’re not careful, but I’ve never once had to delve into the boring minutiae of playing around with tax rates to lure in Sims. Sometimes this does go a little too far–last night there were a few times where I literally had nothing pressing to attend to and I was pretty much watching an animation of my city going about its daily business, but overall EA/Maxis has traded annoyances for depth and strategy.

TL, DR:

I’ll be honest: you may have noticed that posts here on the Wall have been sporadic lately. My future in WoW is in doubt at this point, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not actively subscribed to WoW in six months. But this SimCity game…I’ve messed around with RIFT, LOTRO, GW2, Civ 5 and a handful of other games on Steam, and nothing has sucked me in or held my interest nearly as well as SimCity 5. So where is my gaming future going? I have no idea…but if you need me, you can always add me as a friend on Origin.

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Comments»

1. John - March 13, 2013

You suck. Positive SimCity article? LoL

2. Gus - March 14, 2013

I for one welcome the other viewpoint on this game if you don’t like that that’s up to you.


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