I’ve been sinking time into SimCity (2013) since it launched on Friday, and infuriating server connection issues aside, I’ve been enjoying the game. However, as a fan of the series, it’s impossible to dwell on this game in isolation.
I understand that SimCity 2013 offers its own gameplay paradigm of which online interaction with other players is core, and along with that comes a number of mechanical restrictions.
Still, I can’t help but feel the game is lacking a few core features from previous versions that would have served it well.
Since you are playing online with a bunch of randoms from all over the world, or even your friends, the ability to save your city’s progress at whatever stage you wish and then reload it doesn’t exist.
Cities are linked in many ways across regions, sharing workers, students, resources, and many other elements – so each city has an impact on the regional economy. Saving and loading cities at different stages of development would obviously have an affect on neighbours, and this is probably why the feature isn’t present.
However, I miss the ability to make a save, plan out an expensive build, learn from the mistakes, load my save, and get things right.
I also miss wreaking havoc across my carefully-crafted metropolis with the array of natural disasters on offer. Sometimes, when the complaining citizens are getting too much, it’s nice to blow off steam by reigning down divine wrath, and then simply reloading a save and continue being Mr Nice-mayor.
The transport systems have been vastly improved in SimCity, but there is one core component missing – subways. I can’t think of a good reason why this wasn’t included, but I have already encountered situations where it would be very useful.
In SimCity, you get two types of road: streets and avenues. All roads dictate zone density, and once you have a high density street, it cannot be upgraded to a wider avenue which can funnel greater volumes of traffic. Destroying roads also destroys buildings attached to them, making one loathe to destroy entire neighbourhoods when there are congestion problems.
The problem with avenues is that they are very expensive, and unless you plan far ahead to cater to future demands, you will be using a lot of streets. Streets inevitably become congested even in the best of layouts. Adding more buses doesn’t help as they simply add to the congestion.
A subway system would be ideal in this situation.
The areas in which to build have been standardised across regions, and the space can sometimes feel restrictive, especially when trying to cram in specialisation buildings once a city has developed to a medium size.
One might presume this is once again some sort of balancing issue for the social elements of the game. Maxis might argue that the processing power required on their side (all simulation processing takes place on Maxis servers) would be too demanding and detriment the overall game.
Still, I would love to see larger or smaller city zones in which to build.
SimCity looks great when your city has evolved to an advanced stage, but it also starts to look very cramped. Having the room to spread out would enable whole new build styles, such as dense commercial zones, with outlying industrial and residential districts. These large established cities would also have a lot to offer their burgeoning neighbours in terms of services and resources.
Similarly, a smaller city zone would enable the ability to build compact yet functional towns. For example, one could build a suburban residential area with a low power consumption footprint (making small wind and solar farms plausible) whose citizens commute to work at larger neighbouring cities.
One of the great features of SimCity 4 was its terraforming tools, which were a vast improvement from previous versions. Terraforming has been chucked out in SimCity 2013.
Your regions are pre-designed, and the city zones cannot be altered. I can see why this might be necessary, once again for social gameplay elements, and to draw leaderboard from the scoring systems – you need a constant base for that.
However, surely we could have been given a set of tools to create our own regional and then city zone layouts. Sharing these regions with the SimCity community and building outlandish and inspired cities sounds like a lot of fun, and not having those regions part of the global scoring system wouldn’t be a bother to me personally.
Maxis may once again argue that since simulation processing takes place on their servers, this feature would put too much pressure on their systems.
Three of the four features on my wishlist above could be achieved by including an offline mode for SimCity 2013.
I understand and even side with the argument that Maxis and EA made it clear from the announce that this game was going to be online-only, and it has been designed as such. Therefore, if that doesn’t appeal to you, then don’t buy the game.
However, even with all the social stuff going on, the gameplay experience is ostensibly single-player. The SimCity series was founded on single-player gameplay and many fans pleaded with Maxis to go the extra mile and incorporate an offline gameplay mode.
The problems with the always online system were apparent during the disastrous launch of SimCity. Your hours of vested gameplay are at the mercy of EA and Maxis and their server uptime and availability, as well as your own Internet connection stability.
However, Maxis doesn’t seem willing to budge on this issue, with Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw recently saying that “We have no intention of offlining SimCity any time soon but we’ll look into that as part of our ‘earning back your trust’ efforts.”
Have you played SimCity yet? What are your thought on the game? Let us know in the comments below and on the MyGaming forum.