The only reason I’m not amazed that SimCity is still so broken is because of how broken it was when it was released. The latest patch, optimistically dubbed 2.0 as if to herald a rebirth, addresses plenty of issues. For instance, it’s nice to see the results of interaction with other cities in the region, even if it just shows how pointless they are. An occasional measly 100 simoleons to give up two ambulances for my neighbor’s city? I think I’d rather have the ambulances on call locally. But I do appreciate knowing that I’m earning money when I sell electricity to my layabout neighbors who can’t be bothered to shell out the cash for their own power plants. It’s nice to see more things finally working like they’re supposed to work.
But not all is well, after the jump
But tidying up loose ends can only get you so far when the ends are hemorrhaging game design. Among the deal breakers I saw after sinking six hours into the latest version were a couple of bugs — Bugs? Glitches? Oversights? Yet-to-be-implemented features? — that once again kill any desire to keep playing. At one point, every single garbage truck simply vanished, as if there had been some sort of garbage truck rapture. The trash piled up in my city. I waited for dawn when the garbage trucks leave their garages. No garbage trucks emerged. I let a day pass. Maybe it was a Sunday. No garbage trucks. Another day passed. And another. The trash piled up higher. I gave it another day. Maybe it was a labor dispute. My fleet of sixteen garbage trucks was nowhere to be seen. The city was choked with decomposing garbage. I finally had to raze all the garbage truck garages and rebuild them. The new garbage trucks scurried obligingly out into the city. They haven’t vanished yet, but a friend in the region suggested it could be a from a bug that destroys garbage trucks when they’re near a bulldozed building. You’d think the version 2.0 of a game would catch something like that.
The far more troublesome issue was trying to ship goods to a Great Work on the region map. I shelled out one million — that’s six zeroes! — simoleons for an international airport, because I need someplace to sell all the freight produced in my industrial city. I then set the Great Work to accept metal and alloy from my city, an industry I’d just spent several hours cultivating. Three smelters going full bore, producing metal and alloy, all ready to funnel their goods directly into the construction of an international airport. And if someone else in the region wouldn’t supply the oil, I’d start a dedicated oil city myself, because that’s how Electronic Arts designed this SimCity: as the collective effort of specialized interdependent cities coming together in a region.
And what a travesty watching the trucks of metal and alloy bumping around the region map like so many Roombas. At first, they couldn’t figure out how to reach the airport site. It seemed they could only turn left when they exited my city, at which point they would reach a neighbor’s city, hang a U-turn, and then come back to my city. This went on for days. I jiggered the export rules for my resources. I toggled the Great Works input button on and off. Finally something shook loose and the errant shipments of metal and alloy trundled down the freeway towards the site where an international airport would soon carry freight to distant buyers, making the region’s cities rich.
And as soon as the metal and alloy arrived, they bounced confusedly off the construction site and then came right back home. An entire long evening of SimCity 2.0 and it comes to this? A supply chain shunted into a dead end? The pinnacle of regional cooperation done in by bad pathfinding? An endgame that simply doesn’t work?
Fool me once, Electronic Arts, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on me doubly for thinking that SimCity would work properly, much less live up to its Polygon review.