There's no doubt SimCity has caused major controversy this week, with the realization that a game that most gamers would play alone requires an always online DRM. The game came out in the United Kingdom today (March 8th) and I was really really hoping it would take the weekend before I said this; not an entire day of playing: what do I do now?
Now the set up of the game consists of multiple hurdles. At first, you may think to yourself "wow, that downloaded quick", and if you have a super super fast internet connection like most of us don't, then you may be lucky to get through the patcher within a few moments. However, if you're me, you'll need to wait a whole nights worth of patching before you can play; so much for a midnight launch.
BUT WAIT. The fun doesn't stop there, because now you'll need to find a server, but you better choose carefully, because not only are you in danger of finding a server that could fill up at any time, but should you find a good server, all your progress is stored onto it; achievements, cloud saves and it's where your leaderboard listings will be. If the server goes down, you either have to start ALL OVER AGAIN on another server, or wait for yours to come back up. That's the horrid part over. Or is it?
Once you find a "stable" server, you then have to play the tutorial. Fortunately, I found out that you can skip it by going straight to the main menu in options, so if you already know how to play, then skip right ahead. However, the tutorial is actually very informative, so it's definitely worth playing through if you didn't do so during the beta. Basic stuff, but useful. Now you finally get the chance to actually play the game. Finally.
You now get to choose your region. Each region has it's own layout, for example one may me heavily water based whilst another may have many rocky plains. Each region varies from being able to create 5 cities and 1 great work to 16 cities and 4 great works; I'll explain "great works" later. Once you've picked your region, you can either choose to privatize it (i.e. play alone or with invited friends) or make it public, meaning anybody can pop onto your region and claim a city (to be honest, it's more fun if you just did that and made one city).
Once you're in your city, you're ready to begin building. You first need to start off with creating residential and commercial zones. Without residents, your city can't run, and without shops you won't get the profit. You don't want to build too much at first, because, of course, you have no power, no water and no sewage system. You'll want to find a place in your city far away from your residential and commercial zones to build the industry. At first, it all seems so easy. It won't be long before you'll begin to rake in the money, and be able to include items such as City Hall and be able to afford clinics, fire stations, police stations, and many other things. Now don't get me wrong; SimCity doesn't have as many major landmarks as previous SimCity games had, but that's OK because you don't really need it, as you'll have a lot on your plate as you play anyway.
This is where SimCity gets bigger, but maybe not better. You'll run into problems like you won't be profiting as fast, and with money tight, your city isn't getting any better as there may be crimes, pollution, fires and sick people. To deal with them, you need more money, and you'll soon get frustrated pretty easily. There is a fix though; you could take out a bond. Depending on how you upgrade your city in the future, you'll be able to take out possible bonds of 25,000, 50,000 and 100,000. You can take out up to three bonds, but there is a downside. Not only may it mean your residents will be paying more back, but you'll be having to pay back a fixed sum back every hour until its been paid off. That, or if you have the money to pay off the bonds, you do. I recommend that, because you'll be incredibly frustrated when you need quick cash, and you realise you've already taken out all 3 bonds. It's a painful loop, and the money you get from bonds will go quite quickly, so you're either watching your city fall apart- I mean, improve slowly, or fast for a moment, and then slow again. I think half the time I was playing my cities, I was just staring at the screen, waiting for a miracle that my profits would somehow increase.
When you find yourself with some serious profits, you can then turn your city into something larger. You could turn your city into a gambling city, a mining city, an electronics city, a tourist city and more. Now if you were to do such a thing, you'd really need to be dedicated, because turning your city into something big is hard and takes a heck of a lot of patience. It's also best if you know what you're doing; something I lacked for every type of city I was trying to make. Let's say you wanted to become a gambling city. You should start by putting a casino near the commercial zone. Casinos bring people, meaning more people will notice the commercial businesses, meaning customers. Over time, commercial businesses will profit and grow, making their businesses more themed to their surroundings. Making your city into a certain type is difficult because you need to actually have the tourists... and the room for it. By the time you have a casino, you may be running out of city space, which begs the fact that cities are too small to be cities. This game should have been called "SimTown" if anything, because a city is supposed to be "New York" big, right? Not Silent Hill small town big. I can only hope Maxis will allow for bigger cities in the future.
Moving back to my point, once you have the petition signed and the money, you can upgrade your specialized city;again in the case of the Casino city, you can then build a HQ where all the Casino goings-on occurs. From there, you have to wait until your casinos profit a certain amount before you can upgrade to even bigger stuff, which will take a while if you don't have the money. Like I said before, you have to be dedicated to making a specialized city, because you need to get the tourists in... which means your population may decrease because you might have to destroy homes to make way for that airport or the train station. It's hard because it's unrealistic; in real life, you might be able to buy that field of land outside a city. In SimCity, you're limited to just your square of land. Eventually, your brain may become frustrated and begin to give up. Once again, you really need to know what your doing, which is probably why the developers who showed us the game in the promotional segments "Let's All Be Mayor" were so good at the game; they SERIOUSLY knew what they were doing. As gamers, we don't want to be tasked to go right down into the roots of the game. We want a game that's easy and fun enough to play, not frustrating and excruciating.
Like most SimCity games, this game is no stranger to disasters. Disasters consist of tornadoes, earthquakes, a zombie invasion, or even a meteor shower. Sometimes in the game, you'll actually hope a disaster happens, just to liven up the game. If your lucky, disasters such as earthquakes will happen in areas of your city which haven't even been built yet (from personal experience). There are some disasters I'd like to have seen though, such as avalanches, tsunami's or even semi-natural ones like car crashes, train explosions and such.
Let's take a breather and talk about the other aspects. Now graphically, your cities can look very awe inspiring and ultimately gorgeous. Sometimes it depends on how you build your city on how awesome it looks. Other times, there are small minor bugs which ruins the look of the game; moments where the road will sometimes be under the dirt when you're zoomed so far out, but when you zoom back in, roads render properly again. Other bugs include ferry's manoeuvring through bridge pylons where they'd otherwise crash and not being able to play a road where you know you'd clearly be able to place it, but apparently you can't because, for example, there may be something in the way, when clearly, there isn't. If you've ever played a Maxis game, the music is very "Sim-like" and will sound very much like the music of "The Sims".
Finally, I'll briefly explain "great works". These are major landmarks in the region. They cost a lot of money and will require a lot of resources. Each will cost 1 Million simoleons and will take work in your cities to create, for example to create the space centre, you'll need to create a university that specializes in engineering. You'll also need the industry resources to create it. Those are the easy parts... the hard part is getting the money, which after a while you may come to your senses that it's just not worth your time. I could barely hold onto a 5,000 simoleon profit an hour, which means not only will it take a huge amount of time before you can raise 1 million simoleons, but you'll be spending that money you raise quickly to fix other problems in the city. And just when you think you'll be able to open up multiple cities to raise that money, you'll probably only run in the same problem. Sure, you could always gift money to your cities, but when you're running another city in your region, your other cities don't exactly raise money per hour. You only profit money in the city you are currently in.
At first glance, things don't look good. Once you get into the game, you'll have fun for a little while before things become frustrating, annoying and damn right ugly. Once you build one city, you'll eventually resort to building a new kind of city, only for the results to possibly be the same. I was hoping to last the weekend before I said "what do I do now" but sadly, I said it on launch day. It doesn't take long to get bored.