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Review – Sim City
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Sim City
Reviewed on: PC
 
Developer:
Maxis
 
Publisher:
Electronic Arts
 
Release Date:
5/3/2013
 
Genre:
Simulation
 
Available On:
PC
 
Official Website
 
 

Score: 4.5 / 5

Arguably one of the best-known titles in gaming for many years, the new instalment proved its’ popularity with server hiccups upon release — the biggest ruckus on social media since Diablo III launched in 2012.  Launch problems aside, the popular city building title plays different to its predecessors and is an overall charming little package.  Sim City – the fifth instalment, is here.  At the time of publication, it seems to now be working fine too!

SimCity - PackshotPlease note, despite the long history I have playing the Sim City titles in the past, this is easily the first time I have felt ‘successful’ while playing the game.  In fact, the game’s tutorial at the beginning has to be one of the best utilised in a game to date.  Sim City’s tutorial is thorough and concise in showing the basics of play for success.

In all fairness, while I enjoy a good, healthy debate on what people do and do not like in a game, the ‘always online’ function of Sim City is of little concern to me.  Being able to play via Origin is a preventative measure for pirated copies, but it also allows the cloud saves of your city. While I can acknowledge the frustration experienced by players at the beginning of the game’s launch, in which cloud saves were affected, it means no matter where I go, I can log into Origin and continue playing the game from where I left of.  There is also a choice of where you want your server location, as above, you can select the server and begin.

Sim City Start

This is where it begins. Select your server and away you go!

 
Sim City seems to have found a new, streamlined approach that removes the frills of older titles.  If you also remember the budget measures in previous titles, I would constantly be roused at by that man telling me I had too many roads – and with ALLCAPS.  I am so glad he no longer exists.  I may no longer regard myself as ‘the worst Sim City player’.

THATGUYTrue to the Sim City spirit with your loading screen displaying ‘herding llamas’,  Sim City has had a facelift with a new interface and rewritten approach with how Sim City plays even if the premise remains the same – building a city.  As a new way to play, the player seeds commodities to succeed in the game. This time the Sims (or your residents, as you wish) appear as they did in The Sims, without the need to educate/develop as people.  Yes, you still need to build for the people, but this occurs as in all previous SC games in zoning for the residential areas.  In a fresh approach, the residents are now more interactive which fairs better in knowing specifics of what people are either happy or unhappy about.

Aesthetics aside, the fundamental building side of the game is simplified for the better.  No longer, will the player need to build infrastructure such as water pipes underground or connecting many, many power lines from the power supply of your town.  Provided you build the utility hub (i.e. a Water Tower and Power Plant) that is within close proximity to where your town is (as the multi layering functions of the game will show where this is needed the most.  I found this to be brilliant, as I could better use my time finding out what the residents wanted rather than building a pipe, and another pipe, and having many ugly brown power lines appearing in a messy manner across the grid.

One feature that is missing is the mapping tool, which in previous titles allowed the player to create their landscape prior to the game commencing, in allowing environmental items, such as water, mountains and trees.  A small feature I do not think will be missed.  Of course, the disasters are still around to be enjoyed, for choice of a better word.

Sim City - Loading Screen

My city was called Noobtown. It had been a while…

 
Despite the game requiring a permanent internet connection via Origin, this is the first time Sim City in the franchise has a multiplayer function.  From here, you can visit your friends’ cities to have a look, utilise their commodities (and vice versa) for your city at a cost.  In addition, Sim City has leaderboards amongst Origin friends.  For me personally, I did not pay too much attention to this, as I am not used to playing Sim City on a multiplayer level.  It does serve as a good measure for players who have a competitive edge amongst friends.

The visual settings are different, and rather than staring down at a grid from a bird’s eye view, the mouse curser allows to zoom in and out, and swing the camera angle around.  In each zoning, the building designs appear to be random and thorough with detail.  For example, if you zone a commercial block, it may build a restaurant, a clothing store and a Laundromat with finished touches to suit for the business sign and paint colour; you do not need to select what kind of business that zoning will be.  By hovering your curser over any of the individual buildings, it will show how much profit the business makes for your city, plus any general thoughts.

It can say that it is happy with how things are going, that it is not happy, that there is an industrial zone close by which may be affect its business, that it needs more workers, etc.  These little hints along the way will indicate how well (or not so well) you are doing.  If you attend to their needs, your town will continue to prosper.  Much like in The Sims, ‘smiley’ icons will indicate this – which never occurred in the previous titles.  I felt that the overall GUI of the game is very similar to what has been previously seen from The Sims.

Sim City Screenshot

A screenshot of midgame. You can see from the bottom right graphs, that INDUSTRIAL is high in demand, while RESIDENTIAL and COMMERCIAL can be a little bit patient for the time being.

 
The midi file of the main theme no longer chimes in when it is time to check your budget measures, as in Sim City 2000.  There is always a peaceful, musical soundtrack playing, which has prevented me from hearing my own choice of music, as I have done while plying other titles before. It feels like having my own little orchestra for building a city.

When the Sims are talking, they speak in muffled tones that are neutral from any native language.  Sim City is free of any fake accents and voice actors.   It keeps me safe from seeing the ‘puppet mouths’ that I so often comment on when I review a game in how their sound and facial expressions match.

True to form, the relevant sound effect will play when you are interacting with a particular service – you will hear sounds of cash registers, fires burning, and explosions when a property needs to be demolished.

Overall, I found Sim City to be a delightful experience of a familiar title with a complete makeover that feels like it is a new game altogether, and freshens up on some monotonous requirements with previous versions.  Those who spent many hours with the previous titles may feel a little bit overwhelmed by the new look and ask themselves – ‘do I know you?’, but after getting into the swing of things, they should feel like they have caught up with an old friend….  who has had a bit of work done in their older years.

If you feel nostalgic, you can purchase a copy of Sim City 2000 here.

 

 
SimCity - Screen 01SimCity - Screen 02SimCity - Screen 03
SimCity - Screen 04SimCity - Screen 05SimCity - Screen 06


 
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Lucas
The Podfather/Convo Controller
Super salesman by day, Batdad and Gamersutra by night. As a self-confessed technology pacifist, he prefers to sit on the console-war fence and play games on his PC.
Matt
PlayStation Fanboy/Motormouth
Electrician by trade and yet also highly skilled at finding time to game around work and family commitments. A PlayStation fanboy with a platinum count and obvious podcast bias to prove it. Thinks DC is clearly superior to Marvel. Has been known to rant.
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Started in January 2011 by brothers Lucas and Matt, Drop Bear Gaming has been operating for over 7 years offering a fresh and relaxed perspective on the video game industry. The website is a passion project more than anything and it is our distinct pleasure to continue bringing entertainment to our listeners and viewers.

The guys release a podcast episode every two to three weeks and over the years they have welcomed guests from developers, publishers, and other gaming outlets onto the show.

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