As an attempt to evolve a beloved series that’s gripped gamers for nearly a quarter of a century, the latest Sim City is a brave, ambitious and deliciously deep piece of software. As a game, though, it can be a persistent pain in the arse.
The overriding problem with this sim is that the cities you build are always online, putting players at the mercy of overburdened servers and forcing you to run the risk of being unceremoniously booted out of sessions, unable to log on, or save changes that took hours to implement. Of course, the server issues that have tainted the game’s launch are likely to be resolved as the months roll on, and shouldn’t deter diehard fans; but for anyone who’s been looking forward to Sim City and is gagging to get to grips with its new features, the fact it’s always online can be a bitch to deal with.
During the game itself, Sim City’s online dimension comes into its own as you can interact with other players who share your geographical region, and this ingenious social aspect encourages builders to work together, share resources, and make the citizens of their respective hamlets happy. Sadly, in practice human nature dictates that strangers are often unwilling to work together, even for mutual benefit, leading to selfish, suspicious play where neighbours work alone to create flawed cities that can never achieve their potential. The game’s social aspect may also irk long-time fans as working with other players is essential if you want to experience the best Sim City has to offer, which disrupts the traditionally solitary experience of raising a digital city, and pushes antisocial players who enjoy the blissful isolation of solo gaming to interact with bothersome real people.
Elsewhere, restricting builders to small geographical regions and encouraging compact, specialised cities rather than expansive urban jungles will vex anyone who wants to create something more akin to London than Barnsley, while the game’s prodigious bugs that often misdiagnose city problems and trouble players with conflicting information can be deeply irritating. And even though the game still provides a profound sense of accomplishment when you build a happy town from scratch, Sim City’s myriad launch bugs are enough to deter even the most dedicated armchair mayor long before they raise their perfect metropolis from the dust.
Reviewed by David McComb