Well, where do we start? Like Diablo III before it, SimCity launched head first into an array of DRM-related issues that were a consequence of the game’s always-online requirement. In the months leading up to release, Maxis seemed to have laid every rocksteady foundation imaginable prior to the return of the franchise after a ten year hiatus and yet, much to the disappointment of the fans, the game was borderline unplayable during its early stages on the market. Like a burst water main that couldn’t be tamed, the online outage spanned for days on end and, without an offline mode to compensate, gamers were understandably pissed.
To put things into perspective, SimCity currently boasts close to 1,700 negative user reviews on Metacritic. It was an unparalleled backlash that has stigmatised the game since day one; a dark cloud that will forever loom overhead the towering skyscrapers of Maxis’ city-building simulator. It’s a shame, really, that the much-anticipated reboot of the studio’s prestigious franchise was handicapped by the always-online DRM. While it may have been originally implemented to combat piracy, it effectively tainted the return of SimCity and ruined a potentially excellent release; heck, before it launched, there were premature talks that this title could be a candidate for Game of the Year. Oh, how things change.
At the core of the buzzing metropolis, though, is an addicting, complex title that implements interconnectivity between cities masterfully. When it’s fully functional, and you manage to access the game’s temperamental servers, SimCity excels at presenting the complex minutia of your budding cityscape. Core systems such as power supply and traffic are easy to coordinate and manage for weathered architects and newcomers alike thanks to the intelligent AI. But perhaps the most impressive cog in SimCity’s multi-faceted system is the Glassbox game engine. The company’s in-house simulation engine acts as the foundation for the game and allows for an incredible amount of detail across the four corners of your urban environment. The fact that every individual sim can be accounted for and tracked, even as your population balloons past 75,000, is a testimony to Glassbox’s innate capability.
The recently released Cities of Tomorrow expansion pack proves that there’s still a healthy audience for Maxis’ simulator. Granted, it may forever be tarnished with those initial launch woes and server outages, but SimCity is still a remarkable time-sink that is accessible yet challenging, simple yet complex; one which can stand shoulder to pixelated shoulder with the other great offerings that the RTS genre has to offer.
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