I had plan to make a review of Sim City 2013 has soon as the launch fiasco would be over. I was lucky enough to be one of the few to play during the first launch night, with every features enable and a lot of bugs, but I still managed to get a good glimpse of what the game should be all about. Unfortunately I also replayed the game yesterday and it seems the game is still so far from being fun to play. Half of it is because of features which are not re-enabled yet and the other half comes from the incredibly small size of the maps and lack of customization.
First let me say that I’m not one of those people raging about the always on feature of sim city. While it is true that the game could be played without it, it would also create a lot of problem for the challenge and leaderboard. The always on make sure that no one will bug the game and take advantage of features to cheat their way on the top of the leaderboard. For those reasons I have no problem with that design decision, after all the leaderboard and the challenge are what makes the game for me.
Sim City is now more multiplayer than ever with the addition of a leaderboard and challenges every week. The leaderboard let you compare your city to everyone else and give you a nice idea of how well you are able to manage them and how well you are doing in different department. Competition is always something that creates a lot of interest and replayability in video games and I don’t see why it wouldn’t do the same for Sim City. Problem is, both the leaderboard and the challenges have been disabled and they have yet to be re-enable months after the release.
The challenges are objective set for regions and the 10% fastest region to achieve the challenge are rewarded unique achievements as token of their victory. I love the idea of weekly challenge to accomplish, to have your region be modified each week to manage the challenge and therefore it keeps you thinking of new and better way to rapidly modify your objectives. The very first challenge for my region is called the Baby Boom, which requires a region to get to 2 500 000 millions people. That number is quite easy to reach (needing only a bit less than 170 000 people in each city for a 16 city region), A played a region with 2 friends and we managed to get that many people in 3 days by creating the region from scratch. This means that it is quite the reasonable achievement for a 7 days period and the race could be interesting. Yet it has been over a month and the challenges has yet to be enabled. At this point we all stopped playing because it seems that until we can actually have either a leaderboard to worry about or until we get credited for our achievement in this challenge, we just don’t want to build anything anymore as it seems pointless.
Another huge issue with the game is cheating. I mentioned earlier that I liked the idea of an always on drm because it prevented cheaters from entering the leaderboard. Yet it seems that most people I know had so many game breaking bugs that the always on drm loses is purpose completely. The very first region we created was named 0-Gate, but we had to abandon it because a city became corrupted and impossible to join anymore, also for some reason I couldn’t invite some of my friends to join the region while other could join. This means that if you are unlucky you might have to restart a whole region because a single city gets corrupted. Another major problem is that inter-city exchange, especially gift of money, is extremely buggy and prone to bugs. I once sent over 40 millions simoleon to a neighboring city and even after 10 hours of play only 10 million of those 40 millions ever went through, everything else was somehow stolen by road bandits or something.
This is already annoying, but it gets worse, all those previous bug make things much harder, but they don’t completely break the game, but there is one bug, that is easily repeatable and that also happens to be easily done by mistake, that completely ruins the game. If you are to send money to a neighbour and it never gets there, if for some reason your town hall get destroyed, either intentionally or by cause of meteor or giant red lizard, the next time you will reload the game you will suddenly be richer than you could have ever hoped for. One of my city was victim of the bug and suddenly it received a little over 400 millions when I logged back in (keep in mind that the maximum money that can be traded at once is 10 millions, so I imagine that 10 millions is supposed to be impressive by the producer’s scale). Now suddenly I have 400 millions in a single city that I can send everywhere else in my region. It takes about 7 millions to make a city from scratch and build it into a finalize metropolis…this bug is game breaking.
Even if somehow you manage to create a whole region and it doesn’t bug, making money is so easy in Sim City that it has become a non-factor. I don’t have a single city in my region that has any taxes at all. The tax rate is 0 everywhere because the trading specialization is completely broken and it will make you richer than anyone should have to be. I previously said that to build a city from scratch until it is finalize cost about 7 millions. Well a not really specialized city that aims to work in the trading department can make 4 millions in less than 20 minutes of real time. Yes that does imply that in 40 minutes you would have enough money to create an entirely new city in one go because money is already a non factor. The game is simply too easy when it comes down to managing money. Just make such a money making city (it takes about 2 hours) and once it is done leave your desk for an hour, go take a walk, play a better game, go and finish your medical degree. When you come back, you’ll have over 10 million simoleons accumulated and it will be more than enough to start your next city and maybe even another one after that. So guess what, in about 3 or 4 hours of gameplay you can already make money something trivial and completely useless. What a great game really when the center of it is broken to this extent.
What is more, frustrating even with this game is that there is currently no competitive challenge since the leaderboard are still closed even if much time as passed since release day. Now what is there to do in this game? Well a big nothing. After 5 days you’ll have built city in every townspot of your 16 city region, you’ll have completed all the research that can be researched in the university, you’ll have completed all great project and you’ll be left wondering what the hell to do now. The maps are so small that it doesn’t matter if you want to build a village, a metropolis or a casino strip, your city will all end up looking the same in the end. The size is so limited that by the time you build your school, your police station and your garbage facility, you will realize that you need population to have those functional, that population will need jobs and place to work, so you’ll want to build some commercial and industrial zone and by the time you are done doing that your city will already too far from village and never big enough to be a true metropolis. But wait ! One of the beauty of the new Sim City is that you can share commuters and service between city. So you can have your residence in one city and your industry all in another one ! Perfect isn’t ? Well, perfect until you realize that now everyone in your city has to take the one exit to the next town and that the traffic jam between your city become so huge that the firetrucks can never get to your city anymore. Now suddenly the whole city is burning down and no one is here to save it because the stupid highway is jammed 24/7.
Sim City was a game with so much potential and yet it is all gone to waste because of stupid design decision. The game tried to be more multiplayer than before, and well the launch says how well that went, furthermore even ages later the competitive multiplayer aspect of the game as still yet to work. Meanwhile people are pissed because the game can’t be played in single player and I don’t understand why they would even want to do that. The game is so easy and quick to finish that if you remove the multiplayer aspect there is no point to buy the game in the first place. You can’t make a huge region for yourself like in sim city 4 and create huge megapolis and farmland around in the huge map you created. This is a different game where the only appeal seems to be to complete the challenges and gain higher ranking in the leaderboard, everything else is so ridiculously easy that arguing that you hate the DRM because it stops you from playing single-player is laughable.
The only time this game was worth is price tag was when it came with a free game, now that this offer is over there is really no reason to buy Sim City for a while longer. They might have to take another full year before this game is playable and fun again.
ZeroGhj signing off