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Featured PC Games Review

SimCity – My Impressions

Spark_2013-03-27_02-58-20If you are reading this, you probably know all the debates on the new SimCity, about always-on (and whether it’s needed), how scummy EA is, the stupid decisions leading up to the release of the game, and so on.  I’ll be touching on all of that, as well as the actual gameplay.

First, Origin.  I really don’t like Origin as a platform.  Steam already won out for me as far as a game hosting platform, I didn’t need another one with all different ‘friends’.  They also didn’t let you pre-load the game, which would’ve helped EA immensely when the release hit.  It’s also an extra layer of clcking to even GET to the game, as you click Play on Origin, but that doesn’t, you know, PLAY the game, that opens another window, which runs the updater, and then you get to click again.  Why?  Isn’t that the benefit of having an always-on client?  You make me use it, but it provides no convenience or benefit to me.

So, you’re in the game finally.  A note on regions:  forget, at least for now, trying to join random folks in a public region.  You can’t sort them by any means, or filter out filled regions.  They come up in the same order each time, so you’d have to page past every full region to try and find one with a city site open.  That’s actually just a theory, as I paged past dozens of regions and never got far enough to find one with open spots.  Hopefully you are playing with friends, and you can click their name and join their regions (or get invited to private regions).  I won’t tell you that sometimes friend requests are buggy, though.

Once you’ve battled past these issues though, and you are in a city site, and building…well, it’s just great.  The simplifications to zoning, power and water help to cut down on pointless busywork.  Curved roads can be difficult to work with, but can make for some lovely designs – I wish there were some oddly shaped buildings that could better take advantage of the space though.  At least for me, the game seems bring along something new to manage at just the right time, which is usually when I’m feeling pretty confident in my mayoral abilities.  It hasn’t felt particularly hard to me, even at 125k inhabitants, but there were a few touchy moments.  Usually they were caused by changes my region-mates made, like using up all the water or sewer capacity I was using while I was signed off.  That’s an annoying side effect of the asynchronous multiplayer, especially if you don’t have the money/space to easily fix the issue when you do jump back in.

Now, the question:  Should I buy this game?  Looking at just the game itself, and not the opinions on EA and Origin, it’s a qualified yes.  Can you get your head around building a smaller, focused city versus a huge sprawling megalopolis?  Do you have friends you’d like to play a SimCity game with?  Go for it.  If not, you may just want to play SC2k again.  This doesn’t replace that, at least for me.

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Featured PC Games

Old Game Tuesday – SimCity 2000

Man, how many hours did I spend on SimCity 2000?  More than my parents would probably like to hear about, that’s for sure. ;)  I enjoyed the original SimCity quite a bit, but was only dimly aware of other Sim games (I did rent SimEarth on SNES once, that was fun), but as woon as I saw SimCity 2000 (SC2k) in stores I HAD to have it.

Do I really have to tell you what SC2k is all about?  It’s a city building game.  It’s as simple and as complex as that, and SC2k really did have some complexity.  You could zone individual blocks now, instead of 9 at a time, you had more power plants, more infrastructure (schools, hospitals, police, fire), more detailed tax structure, dense or light zoning (if you want to keep nasty heavy industry out of your city center, for instance), highways, subways, and more even beyond that.  If you like, you can even modify the land directly as you can change elevation, add rivers and lakes, and plant trees.  I’m not the only one that created long ridges covered with waterfalls so I could make use of hydro power and wind power.  Your cities require planning – more than once when I was younger I would start a city, and just when I got it moving I ran into traffic problems.  So how do you fix it?  Do you bulldoze a few buildings for bus stations?  Might not be enough.  You can use a one tile space to put in a subway station, but the train tunnels are expensive.  You can build highways, but that takes up a lot of room.  That’s just one example of the balancing act of building a working city.

One strange thing that happened to me with these kinds of games when I was younger – my first city was ALWAYS my best.  I don’t know if maybe due to the learning curve, my first was built slower/more carefully or what, but future cities always seemed to fail.  Doesn’t seem to happen to me now, though.  I seemed to start out better when I wasn’t all worried about leaving space for mass transit, and planning for water power and all that.

SimCity 2000 remains an all-time favorite for me, and I come back to it again and again despite all the newer versions and competing games.