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1 star PC
The problem with SimCity isn’t just the launch issues, which are bad not just for locking people out of the game they’ve bought and implementing one of the worst server queues I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen so many of them). The mismanaged launch also impacts the people actually able to play SimCity. Electronic Arts has addressed the server load by literally slowing the game down for everyone and disabling significant social features that are supposedly a selling point.
But the bigger problem to me — these launch issues will presumably go away soon enough, right? — is how the basic design of the game is broken. Everything that I was worried about here…
…is still a factor. I want to play the game that Electronic Arts designed. I want to drop down into a region consisting of several city nodes and set up their interaction among each other. I want to roll up my sleeves and dig into this rich alluvial deposit of detailed data, massaging it, shaping it, surfing it, sculpting it, admiring the slick anodyne laboratory overlays, marveling at the interplay of numbers and graphs, peering down into this cleanly bustling, lushly drawn antfarm of activity. This is a game I want to play, possibly as ambitious as Anno 2070 were it not for the ridiculously tiny boxes into which you must squeeze each city, cramming buildings up against that draconian border simply because there’s nowhere else to put them. “You shall not pass!” EA bellows to my tiny trailer unable to expand itself to a middle-class home because it would then spill out into the vast no man’s land of ruthlessly enforced empty terrain between each city.
But first SimCity must work. And it must work better than it would work even if it were working now. I shouldn’t have to sit through a loading screen to get money from another city, which currently vanishes when I send it. I shouldn’t have to load up another city to tweak how many ambulances are coming from my upper class hospital town to my ore mining facility, which the upper class hospital town has no incentive to do. I shouldn’t have to load my cities to remind myself which town has the processor plant for the arcology I’m trying to build, which is a ridiculous proposition considering how many things are going wrong on the way to the Great Works. And am I really supposed to hunt and peck through road upgrades as the primary means of optimizing my city? Is this what the developers had in mind when they sacrificed the traditional sprawl of any great citybuilder in favor of optimizing small patches of ground? Clicking small segments of road one at a time? Is this the best gameplay expression of optimization? And with that stupid dialogue box constantly in the way of what my clicking? To think that I’d pine for the halcyon days of making sure everyone in Anno 1404 has enough tea to drink.
Furthermore, so many of the city interactions smack suspiciously of smoke and mirrors, especially on the strategic layer where everything matters all the more because it’s a harshly limiting factor at the street level of each city. In a game based on data, I’m not going to take it on faith that goods, people, and money are flowing as they’re supposed to, especially given how many obvious ways the game isn’t working. Show me the goods. Show me the people. Show me the money. Please show me the money. The bottom line is the bottom line. If you can’t get that right, SimCity, nothing else matters.
But what rankles most of all is that I shouldn’t have to put up with a game designed around the concept of being always and only online when the online is fundamentally broken. If Electronic Arts is going to make a game with the basic premise being that no city is an island, if they’re going to stress the interaction among cities, if they’re going to make playing alongside other people a cornerstone of the design, if they’re going to force my creations into tiny boxes that cannot exist past a certain point without the help of other tiny boxes, they’re going to have to do the hard work of making it actually work. And ideally, that hard work should be done before they sell people the game, not after they’ve been caught flat-footed for botching it so completely.
Ouch. So…should I just load up SimCity 4 as my first City-builder since Caesar 2? Is Anno 2070 still stuck behind Ubi’s always-on DRM?
You should get Dawn of Discovery (Anno 1404) or, heck, just fall back to Zeus. Both are better than SimCity 4, in my opinion.
This is the most entertaining review, in terms of bang for buck, I have ever read.
Ubi hasn’t saddled new games with always-on DRM since, I think, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. They still force you to use uPlay, and there’s still a server check, and you have to deliberately turn on an offline mode if you want to play offline, and they use all this even on services that are already DRM and client-based like Steam. But you’re not actually required to be online throughout nor is game code run on external servers.
Please note that this doesn’t mean they’ve turned off all of the always-online DRM they did inflict on the world. They turned it off in Assassin’s Creed II (to the extent above), Splinter Cell: Conviction, apparently HAWX 2 and maybe one or two other games but as far as I know Silent Hunter V, Settlers VII, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands and possibly one or two others have never had this level of lockdown rescinded.
Bravo Tom, you nailed it.
Just to add Driver San Francisco to that least of online DRM-free games, as it was unplayable to some of us because of the constantin pinging to Ubi servers, which seemed to have been removed lately.
You can go for Cities XL and Anno 2070 for modern settings,any other Anno for colonial-like,Caesar IV or Imperium Romanum for roman,Tropico 4,Stronghold,Settlers…lucky you so much new games to play.
Great post! It would be great if you post it in the article too.The vibe I get is most people think that there is great game behind the DRM,but the truth is,there is a lot of problems with bugs,mechanics that just don’t work and questionable design.
Diablo suffered from similar issues at launch, and yet scored here a 4. Talk about double standards.
Rarely have I ever been happier that I decided to not buy a game based on DRM and associated BS.
I wouldn’t mind hearing Tom’s response, but in the defense of his scores, at least when Diablo 3 worked, it actually WORKED. It sounds like Tom’s complaints about SimCity stem from the fact that a lot of the promised content just isn’t working, even when you manage to get on and play.
Aren’t you guys hip to the gaming ‘bidnezz’ these days?
Anyone still supporting these ‘Triple A’ developers are, well, you guessed it, f-f-f-f-faggots!
I bought the Battlefield 3 Premium Edition for PS3 recently and was shocked that the thing didn’t even have a manual.
Not only that, on the black and white leaflet it says about there being no manual as “going green”. I guess it takes more trees to print out a color leaflet.
Stay classy, EA.
I was able to play Diablo 3 within a couple days. IT’S SATURDAY. I just tried to log in and I couldn’t. Even if you can play, half the features are removed.
They disable gameplay features if you play offline. Still unacceptable. This is the case in Anno 2070 and Heroes VI.
No, but it does require certain other things, depending on the process used. Short version (I work for a printer, so I can give the long version if needed) there is a certain amount of fixed material cost in adding additional colors. So if you are talking strictly in terms of environmental impact, yes, that 1 color leaflet on uncoated paper is greener.
Now when you multiply that out across the number of them made (in the 100′s of thousands, if not millions) then those fixed material costs are negligable (for 100k in the order of ~.5 cents a piece for color, 1-2 cents a piece coated paper).
So yes green would be a legitimate reason, if I trusted EA. Knowing EA it probably wasn’t the rationale, their reasoning would strictly be monetary.
I know that, but that’s not the same thing as forcing you to play online. I don’t think it’s -much- better, but it hopefully means there’s some version of the game that will survive the server shutdown, and it’s up to the individual consumer whether the locked features are critical to their enjoyment of the game.
To me, it’s the difference between never buying the game at all, and being willing to buy the game at a steep discount well after launch.
If you read his review he is not giving it a 1 star for the botched launch, but b/c the game itself just does not work as intended. Diablo had the botched launch, though not as bad as this, but the game itself was not broken in any major way, besides the RMAH.
I hope you didn’t take down the review because of EA pressure…
This review is just designed to get some publicity. You obviously have not tried playing in the last couple of days where you would find (mostly) playable servers. The situation has improved since day 1.
Why one star?
It’s the best business move in history: for the first time, EA has finally managed to let go of their costly game development activities, to completely focus on their core mission of robbing customers.
In the future, I expect them to be able to drop their marketing efforts too: the company will instead dispatch armed men that will directly rob people at gunpoint.
Here here! I wonder.. are we (aging gamers with some disposable income) IE people who would still use PC as a primary platform to blame for some of this? “those ol bastards’ll just click buy if we throw this old school IP in theyre face all gussied up” hope not.. But I for one am guilty as charged.
I wish the launch had gone smoother if only so that people could focus on the problems that Tom points out. Even had it been a problem-free launch, the underlying gameplay mechanics of the new SimCity limit its fun. It’s as if this software toy is missing half of its bit; it’s like getting a new, improved Lego set with more colors than ever before, but only half the pieces of before.
I could not agree more Tom. You have really hit the nail on the your Halo 4 review is insane and has ruined this website.
da fuq is this crap??? This is a Sim City review you idiot.
Electronic Arts doesn’t design jack, son. That’s Maxis. EA just publishes the game, markets it, packages it, hosts the servers for it, and determines when it’s released and in what condition.
Maxis is only a name now, they are just an EA puppet these days…
this sums up EVERYTHING i feel about this game. i want bigger cities, i hate my money disappearing when it goes to other cities, and i want the game itself to actually work and be fun. and im so over having to bulldoze things just to make room for new things an hr into starting the damn city. maxis has really destroyed this franchise, and to top it off they are talking down to us like we are 10 year olds with their half-assed apologies
This is what TFS got when they tried to do the Two Saiyans play video. So yeah Vegeta said he’s going to kill EA but I think EA has already killed themselves. The old EA games were good like the Need for Speed series (I haven’t played the new ones, Shift & Shift 2 are newest I’ve got but I don’t think they’re as good as the old ones) & Road Rash for Windows 95 was good. They now do Real Racing instead of Firemint & now they have this realism thing where you pay real money to have your car fixed & then you have to wait a couple days for it to be ready, it’s that stupid freemium crap if they just made it a paid one then hopefully it would be like the old ones. Also EA has this code thing so you can’t even sell the game second hand & not to mention sometime the code they give you they think it’s a pirated copy even though you paid for it.
Sure, and because of that we know the simulation itself is a fraud and doesn’t work properly. The game at it’s core is fundamentally broken, and people are seeing absolutely insane things happening as a result of it.
lol, after a week of reading reviews and reactions, this is by far my favorite post.
I noticed on Metacritic you give every game a 20 out of 100. Is this a fucking troll site?…