Something that needs to be clarified: Cities XL 2012 is simply an expansion pack to Cities XL 2011 that doubles as a stand-alone game. Because of this, the review technically is reviewing both, but more emphasis is placed on 2012, mostly because I never played 2011.
I think my editor is trying to destroy my social life. I am addicted to simulation games. Needless to say, anything with Sid Meier or Sim in its title tends to eat up more of my time than I’d care to admit. My editor is well aware of this and decided it would be a fun idea to offer me first dibs on Cities XL 2012. I accepted.
It’s a few days later now. I’ve built a half a dozen cities and can’t seem to pull myself away from this game. Put simply, it has caused me to suffer from a disease I like to call Five More Minutes Syndrome.
I’ll be honest. It’s not the greatest game in the world. It’s more or less a generic city builder that focuses on players constantly expanding a city while trying to prevent an economic collapse (Congress should play this game). However, it’s a very well-designed city building game that has some of it’s own unique quirks.
The first notable bit about this game is how it works. Unlike some simulation games, the controls are rather simple and require little to no time to get used to. Simply click what you’d like to build, then select from a list of options. These options include building square areas, single areas, curved areas, and lined areas. After that’s done, you select where you want to start building, and get to work. It’s simple, but it’s almost necessary in a game as demanding as this.
The biggest strength of Cities XL 2012 is also it’s biggest weakness. The game is always asking you to do something.
“Wait. Isn’t this what a simulation game should do?”
Yes and no. A good simulation game makes the player want to expand. It says “Yeah, sure. You have twenty Ferris Wheels, four international land marks, and a dozen top secret research facilities, but that fifth dinosaur park couldn’t hurt.” A good simulation game makes hard work and expansion something the player decides. It does not tell you what to do.
This is the issue with Cities XL 2012. I always felt like I wasn’t doing enough. Every time I made a housing lot for unskilled people to live in, I would receive a pop-up saying my people felt there weren’t enough police stations nearby. It was like I was a child who kept trying to earn his father’s approval. Though, my work only made him angrier and angrier.
I suppose in the long run, it’s not even a very important draw-back. The game is solid, and a beautiful mess. Granted, it’s an incoherent, beautiful mess. But it’s a beautiful mess.
I don’t know how any computer is expected to sanely run this game. I own an Asus n53 series rig and the game lagged on me. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, then you probably only play PC games casually because this laptop can handle Crysis 2 with absolutely no problems whatsoever (hell, it can handle Rage with no problems whatsoever). It can run one of the most demanding games on the market right now at 60 frames per second and this game caused it to lag.
I don’t even know if that’s a good thing. Nothing really seemed too impressive when it cam to the graphics sides of things, so I’m honestly not sure what made the game lag whenever I zoomed in close. Either way, the game is going to be eating your processor if you zoom in to look at it from a street feature.
This brings me to another point: The game has a hilarious little thing added to it that took me a good couple hours to even realize. Ninety nine percent of the game is done in a bird’s eye view. However, after a few hours, someone may want to just enjoy their work. At that point, they can zoom in to street view in order to receive a pleasant and hilarious shock.
I’m not sure who was put in charge of the character designs, but they must not have taken their job seriously. Half the children look like little goblins, and most of the adults look like a racial stereotype. If I wasn’t staring at an African woman wearing modern tribal, I was staring at a little goblin child. It wasn’t anything really unique, but it made me laugh.
The last thing I suppose worth mentioning is the sound. It will drive you insane. Actually, the sound isn’t terrible. It’s actually not dissimilar from anything else you’ll run into while playing a simulation game. The only issue is that, like most simulation games, they seem to think a forty minute soundtrack on loop is enough to keep gamers occupied. This would be the case if they were playing a shooter or a Pokemon game. However, this game is meant to take at least 30 hours of your life. The same shite for thirty hours is enough to make almost anyone mute their game.
At the end of the day, Cities XL 2012 is a solid simulation game. It feels like it’s meant for players who have been playing simulation games for a long time. I don’t suggest it for people trying to get into simulation games, but it’s definitely worth being in the collection of anyone who plays them frequently. It’s not the most amazing thing since Sim Ant, but it’s fine where it stands.
Cities XL 2012 was released on October 20, 2012. This review is based on a copy of the game which we received for review purposes.