Relationships go through phases. The first is the honeymoon period. You spend the first few weeks in complete bliss. It’s that time when you can find absolutely nothing wrong with your significant other. Everything he or she does is magic. This usually ends the moment her usually “cute” reminders end up sounding like the nagging voice of death (or worse, your mother), or when his “adorable” hourly calls start giving you an insight into what it would be like hooking up with a power-mad dictator. It’s during this second part, this sheer stretch of truth, that people figure out if this is something they want to deal with until reaper’s icy touch (or till a good divorce lawyer). If not, they part on (not so, usually) amicable terms.
The same applies to SimCity. Yes, the phases of a relationship hold true for a game that’s all about building, managing and growing a city. The initial hours make for a compelling case in the study of seduction. Every small detail, every little embellishment from the nonsensical drivel your citizens make to the spreadsheets that showcase your town’s fiscal health is extremely well done. Maxis has liberally borrowed its UI cues from some of the best, including Zynga and Google Maps, and while the influences are evident, it’s obvious that their implementation is a cut above mere flattery. The interface and tutorial are so well thought out that you’ll be playing for way longer than you initially thought you would.
Needless to say, the honeymoon period is so good that you’d wish it never ends, but 10-12 hours later, the cold, hard truth kicks in. Size does matter. No, don’t bother getting your head out of the virtual gutter. You see, your city always is too small and doesn’t allow for addition of a slew of integral facilities. To make things work out, you’ll have to become the mayor of another city to borrow resources, or if you’re playing with friends, hope they’re the sharing kind. By this time, you’ll feel that much like that annoying ex who never gave you your space, SimCity leaves you feeling cramped or at least having you deal with an extended family of cities that make things way messier and more complicated than they should be.
SimCity leaves you feeling cramped or having to deal with an extended family of cities that make things way messier than they should be.
And way before you’re trying to come up with semi-coherent relationship-based analogies for review purposes, you’ll be simulating the creation of a city. Every detail, from creating factories to electricity, is in your control. You’ll soon realise that everything depends on roads. In fact, you can’t begin the construction of even a mere kiddie pool without the right amount of asphalt. So much so that if and when you end up running multiple cities or play with friends, you’ll find that linking your city to highways across the region is crucial to keep you from going bankrupt.
Once you’re done with cobbling together of bare necessities to keep your town functional, you’ll realise that the game has a nasty habit of throwing you problems that really don’t exist. You’ll be greeted by angry Sims telling you that the crime rate is out of whack even when there’s a police car on every block. Sometimes you’ll be asked to zone more areas for housing or commercial properties when you have more stores going out of business and houses running empty. Zoom in a bit and you’ll see the odd missing texture, roads overlapping on sprawling complexes of buildings, and Sims squatting in random houses after a hard day’s work instead of their own.
However, these are minor issues compared to the game’s bigger problems. Intercity deals don’t work as they should. You might call in for garbage disposal from a neighbouring city or distribute power to another, but these acts actually getting executed is a thing of rarity. Furthermore, there’s no way to undo your actions as I’ve learnt the hard way, messing with the various shapes for roads only to realise I planted a roundabout right where a lovely garden was. The moment I realised that this relationship was dysfunctional, I managed to keep the populace of an entire city happy by just having a lot of parks, a handful of basic services like clinics and schools, and zoning a few residential areas. Looks like fancy additions such as casinos, stadia or high-tech education aren’t useful at all.
The biggest challenge facing SimCity is the astounding closeness between realising that there are some major deal-breaking issues and actually stop playing it. While the previous games in the series had you clocking in triple digits in terms of hours spent, that doesn’t seem likely this time around. It does a good job of making you a commitment phobe, and I haven’t even got to the always-online gameplay yet.
For all its odd design choices, if you’ve spent Rs 1,499, you should be able to play it regardless of the status of your internet connectivity.
As stated by everyone and their grandmother’s cat, SimCity features always-online DRM. This means that even when you’re playing by yourself you need to be online. Even when it works (which it does by the way, flawlessly), it’s an unneeded hindrance. It’s not like Maxis really needs you to be online to play the game. For all its odd design choices, if you’ve spent Rs 1,499, you should be able to play it regardless of the status of your internet connectivity. And if EA & company are hell bent on having us kicking and screaming into the digital future, it would be nice if they understood how the internet works in different parts of the world. With most of India on internet plans that have strict data limits, it would be nice if they let us know how much bandwidth it consumes.
So is SimCity a game you can get married to? No. Not a chance. Especially not in the state it is currently in. The opening few hours are fantastic but the excitement and enthusiasm fizzles out long before you have a chance to think about a serious commitment.
- Motherboard: Gigabyte B75
- Processor: Intel Core i5 3470 @ 3.2 GHz
- Graphic Card: Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 7950 3 GB
- RAM: Corsair Vengeance 16GB DDR3 @ 1333 MHZ
- Power Supply: Seasonic 620W
- Keyboard: Razer Lycosa
- Mouse: Razer StarCraft II Spectre