When EA’s most recent rendition of the classic Sim City franchise came out back in 2013, we were treated to a customer backlash for the ages. Sim City came in like a wrecking ball…made of a balloon on some string, which bounced off our expectations and popped. It was like watching a trainwreck, except that it was by design.
Sim City’s creators had the brilliant idea to make the game online only; a move that frustrated buyers in and of itself. We all understand the benefits of online functionality, but why should the player need to sign in to create a sprawling, beautiful cityscape by him or herself?
The first problem was the “sign in” part, as the online servers were constantly broken. Even if, by some miracle, you managed to get signed in to the server, the game would often disconnect at crash when you attempted to launch it.
The second problem was that while “beautiful” actually came through for the fans, “sprawling” was intentionally sabotaged. The game imposes a city size limit that is crippling.
Fast forward to about a month ago when my friends informed me that the game was on sale for $5 on Origin, and my interest was piqued. So what does the game look like now, with a low price and 3.5 years’ worth of fixing time?
I can tell you the initial experience is far more acceptable than I had heard about back in 2013. While the connection process is still slightly confusing and the system has an inexplicable desire to log the user in to an Asian server for some reason, it actually does work. They even were so kind as to add an “offline” feature in 2014. Too little too late back then, but appreciated today. I was able to connect to the world my friend had created with only some minor manual intervention and mild head scratching.
Next, I moved on to the loading-the-game step….and was greeted by a friendly freeze, crash, and PC heart attack. I almost immediately gave up right then and there due to my preconceptions of the game. Turns out, Origin-in-game can cause some issues, so a quick disable of that feature and I was off to the races.
The game itself is actually really fun…for a couple hours. I rather enjoyed myself until I hit the all-too-restrictive size limit. Now, there’s a lot of optimization that can be done to make your city grow even further, but that’s not good enough in my mind. I always considered that the busy work of the Sim City games of old. Want you want is to grow and evolve your city, not just optimize and upgrade.
Now on to the “reason” why they limited the city size: co-op. I admit, the concept of building cities and co-operating with neighbouring cities run by your friends is a highly appealing one. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as interesting in practice. While you can share resources and the like, it’s a mostly automated process that lacks any excitement. Your only real method of expanding past that point is starting a new city in the region and working toward regional goals – a nice feature, but one that in no way excuses the severe kneecapping of individual cities.
In summation, the game has frustratingly unrealized potential in the co-op features that in no way compensate for its bizarre limitations in comparison to its far superior competitor in Paradox Interactive’s Cities: Skylines.