My city, Trampa, started off well: I kept my industrial zones far away and downwind of my residential areas with a nice buffer of commercial zones between them. My city was low on natural resources, so I decided to focus on gambling and tourism. Being from Florida, it only made sense to apply my native expertise to Trampa. My first casino was moderately successful, but when I added some resort rooms and blackjack tables, it was pulling in over $15,000 a day. My second casino, located on the other side of town, was equally successful. My city was booming and I built an exo and held events, earning over $100,000 a night! Trampa was on the map and without building a monorail! Then, out of nowhere, things took a turn. My budget was in the red, citizens started leaving. My once robust casinos were losing twice what they used to make per day! Things fell apart and without any explanation.
Having perused the Internet, the now-known pathfinding bugs and traffic errors are what I think are the culprits. I built a bus station that was closer to the highway than the casino was, which is why all the tourists and shoppers stopped frequenting the casino. I did what I could to save my city, destroying the industrial sector altogether and making room for more homes and businesses, but nothing worked. Eddy’s city was having sewage problems, so I had to build my own sewage plants, causing ground pollution in the middle of a commercial zone. My airport was desolate and my expo was a ghost town. This was after about 5 hours of playtime, at Llama speed (cheetah speed has been disabled because it breaks stuff). No space in my city to expand, residents fleeing, budget is in the red. I turned off services, built some parks and shockingly, things turned around. I went from 37,000 citizens to 73,000, with barely any effort at all. It made no sense. I was being told to zone homes because workers were needed, but also that unemployment was high.
It made no sense. None of it did. My city is an illogical puzzle built on an infrastructure of lies. For about 4 hours, it was supremely addictive, almost intoxicating in the joy it gave me. Now I wish I had my $60 back so I could play Tomb Raider for 10 hours. SimCity is not a game I recognize anymore. I’ve bought bad games in the past, but I’ve never felt screwed before. EA and SimCity just popped that cherry. And all I can do is hug myself in shame, wondering what might have been.
Once I could finally play SimCity, I was excited. Having spent some time with the Beta a few months back, during the server fiasco I always like once people could play the game, they’d get over it and be happy with the amazing treat that was waiting for them. For the whole first week of SimCity, I couldn’t find my way into a game until 4 days after release, and even then my time was sparing. But even in those first couple of nights of play, I started to notice a few issues, namely with the way social interactions are handled.
For one, the game seems to require two people to be in the same server at the same time before you can even invite a friend to your region. This may not be the exact case, but who knows with how wonky the game’s network has been. But when I attempted to invite a friend, it was a 40 minute process while he logged onto the server (not always reliable) and then was forced to play through the tutorial again, since the server considered him a new player. On top of that, I had to log out of my own game in order to invite him – and couldn’t log back in when I was done since the server was busy. How these kinds of issues are even possible in 2013, I could never tell you. It reminds me of being back in Quake 2 or CS 1.3, writing down server IPs and sending instant messages or calling friends so we could try to meet up. Except worse.
But that’s not even getting to the game, which I noticed was behaving strangely after just a few hours of play. Utilities didn’t seem to work the way they were supposed to, with houses and businesses unable to receive water or electricity. Nobody seemed to shop at the casino on the other side of town, even though I had plenty of public transportation. The game always thought I needed more workers to fill jobs, more industrial zones even though I had zones without factories being built on them, more shops and then some, without any explanation or any results when I made changes. Come to find out, the game has some major traffic and population glitches that are virtually game breaking once your city starts to grow. This makes sense, seeing as how my first few hours with the game were bliss… and everything after that has been one giant bug jam.
I wanted to love this game, and I keep hoping for a patch. But right now, it’s one of the worst video game purchases I’ve ever made, and I’m deeply regretting the fact that I can’t get a refund for it.
SimCity starts out with hope and promise, the tantalizing view of a city packed with skyscrapers barely visible from the shores of your town hinting at better days to come. Building you city from the ground up and watching it sprout its first highrises is the single shining spot on this shallow, deceptive, broken mess of a game.
I knew something was fishy when I had to meta-game my sewer outflow pipes to prevent them from overflowing while I waited for enough money to build a sewer treatment plant. Instead of dividing the task of pumping out crud between the two facilities, I was having to close one and open the other when the amount of sewage they were trying to handle was too much. Even when I built my treatment plant I kept one pipe open just in case, but the way that Glass Box handles “agents” meant that it would always try and go to the nearest applicable service, regardless of how ready and willing my shiny new plant was.
This is just one example of the dozens of ways SimCity’s facade broke while I was playing it. My Sims protested germs and crime at my City Hall while over-staffed police stations and hospitals and clinics sat unused. My biggest frustration came from upgrading roads to handle increased density. The game’s tutorial doesn’t tell you how to use the road upgrade tool, and even when I figured that out I still had to tear up most of my roads so I could build even bigger ones.
SimCity constantly tries to hold your hand, but given the way that nothing works the way it’s supposed to, your advisers yelling at you to zone for more high-wealth residential comes across as a slap in the face. Your city will scream at you for dwellings and services you have in spades that they just can’t get to because Glass Box can’t figure out what to do with itself. Even hours after I built a ferry terminal, Sim thought bubbles were popping up telling me how much they wanted one.
You can legitimately build a city consisting of nothing but amphitheaters and high-density housing with one single road. This isn’t a simulation game, it’s a battle against fundamentally broken mechanics.
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