Server issues aside, this is a brilliant game. By Jade

I am an old-time middle-aged gamer. I have played a lot of sim games, including Civilization, the original SimCity, SimCity 2000, and SimCity 4, Roller Coaster Tycoon, the Sims franchise including the Sims 3. I’ve played other online-only games that have had intermittent and frustrating server issues, and single-player games that require saves in the “cloud” via Steam.

I’ve been missing something recently and that is having a game with enough complexity that I could really sink my teeth into. This game delivers. Even with the server difficulties, I have managed to play for at least 15 hours or more. Yes, it’s frustrating that there is no offline mode. But I don’t share the venom that most have expressed here: in the scheme of things, a week of incredibly rocky launch is a blip… if they sort out the server issues (and it appears they are, as last night getting on went much more smoothly) then what’s a few days? Honestly, online-only/DRM doesn’t bother me and honestly I believe they will get the kinks sorted out. As it is, after getting onto the servers, when I’m playing the game plays surprising smoothly. And before you ask, no, I don’t work for EA.

Now onto the game itself. This is my initial review after two long nights of gameplay. First off… it’s gorgeous. There’s a bit of similarity of the Sims 3 in the graphics, in the lighting and the scenery. This is not cartoony though, in my opinion it’s the perfect blend of realism with a touch of humor added. On my computer, the camera moves smoothly and the ability to zoom in and see the amazing detail (the actual Sim agents!) is fantastic. The whole Glassbox engine really changes the game. It makes the city feel much more alive. I had to chuckle when I saw two houses pop up next to each other… one family had my surname, the one next to it had my maiden name. They’re still there, and pretty happy in their middle-income neighborhoods.

At first despite all the surface complexity I thought the gameplay was turning out to be easy. I zoned for RCI demand and followed the mini-missions and added all the services when requested… water, sewage, fire, police, etc. Money was pouring into the coffers, the city was growing quickly and the map was filling up. But then around 39,000 population things changed. Businesses weren’t thriving, and although I could easily add more population and increase density, the city wasn’t going in the direction I wanted. That’s when I started looking deeper and realized there is a *lot* more going on under the surface.

This game isn’t about just plopping more and more RCI zones and having a huge dense city that looks cool on the surface. If you do want that you should stick with SimCity 4. This game is about creating balance (or imbalance) and seeing the implications of all the choices you can make as Mayor. For example, blindly adding more moderate-income housing could push out the lower-income families, which will affect who is working at the factories, which will have a ripple effect throughout your city. I spent many in-game months with the population at the same level while I was trying to stabilize the economy and make sure when I did plop down a building, it wouldn’t close within 2 months due to “not enough workers.” For this reason, although the city maps DO seem small, I am not sure this is as negative as people are making it out to be. The region play does somewhat counteract the smaller city sizes and adds another whole dimension.

Now the simulation and gameplay isn’t flawless. I have run into what appear to be a few bugs (why is only 13% of my population working? and my gift of simeoleans to the neighboring city seemed to disappear). Fortunately nothing show-stopping yet.

TL;DR? This is a beautifully executed game, both to look at and play, with seemingly enough under the surface to keep the fun going for at least a while. If the online-only/DRM issues are not a concern to you, don’t the let the mass of 1-star reviews deter you. You’d be missing out on an awesome game.

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