Busted servers, bad DRM, superficial simulation By neurotome

I have been playing SimCity since 1990 – that’s right, the original. I was really looking forward to this release; games have improved since 1990 in general and I was hoping to say this was the best SimCity ever. It’s not.

Everyone knows about the server problems. I actually got on, early on release day, and had a fun singleplayer experience learning about curvy roads and getting frustrated at the tiny size of your allowed city footprint. Now it’s a 45 minute exercise to get on, and even odds whether you stay on or not. Assume that’ll eventually be fixed – it’s not the source of most of my frustration, but it makes it a one-star game this week.

The graphics are beautiful and mainly why the game gets 2 stars from me instead of 1. They are just gorgeous – at least the city rendering. Many of the building models have generic signage – “Low Cost Apartments,” “Mid Cost Business,” I mean, come on, that was not intended. Those models weren’t ready to be released to the public. But you can zoom down to street level and drive down the street of your city with the camera at about the height of a streetlight and just get a feel for what it must be like to live, walk, drive and work there, and it looks and feels like a real city, and that’s just awesome.

Much has been made – by Maxis – of the fact that every single Sim is persistently simulated. Who cares? This part of the game is not interesting. I clicked on about 50 Sims and vehicles and never saw anything that interested me. Pathing and traffic are especially stupid; 100% of vehicles will ignore a highest-density road in favor of a dirt path if the highest-density road is 0.01% longer. That’s stupid. Unfortunately, all the simulation that I bothered to investigate is that stupid. And the obsession with ploppables and sewage is frankly disturbing; if the rest of the game had had the same level of obsessive detail as the sewage simulation, I think it’d actually be a six star game. Sadly for the star count in this review, I don’t care that much about sewage.

You can’t run the game at all without pinging the servers repeatedly; you can’t save a game, Origin (EA’s stupid Steam clone) decides what gets saved and what you are permitted to resume; and you can’t revert to prior if you do something dumb and wreck your city. These are choices made by EA to force you to use Origin and to prevent pirates from playing. They are stupid choices.

Also, did you know you were buying a game lease from Amazon, not a copy of a game? It’s in the first paragraph of the EULA; you agree that you are allowed to play your leased game until EA says you are not allowed to play it any more, or until you want to uninstall it. Period. I don’t know about that; I’m not Richard Stallman but I think this is a little ridiculous. If EA didn’t make a big deal about it, maybe I wouldn’t; but their servers are busted and they can’t even make their stupid idea of a game lease WORK. That’s a big deal, it’s a big deal EA made, and they now have to eat the fruits of their stupidity, which is the fact that they are getting panned across the entire globe for something that probably half the gamers in the world were ready to get totally excited about.

I expect EA to roll out updates that will fix some of the above; I doubt the superficial quality of the simulation will get fixed, and that’s too bad. I never played SC4, so I find that my experience with this version of SimCity has encouraged me to boot up Steam and buy a copy of it for $19.95. I don’t think that speaks very well for this game.

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