As expected, the graphics in SC are very nice. On my almost 4 year old iMac, I was able to set everything at High (not Ultra, bogged down then) and have acceptable performance. Zooming in and out is often seamless and it can be fun to zoom right in a watch your city in action. At these higher graphics levels the game was prone to occasional pauses between clicks and actions and trackpad delays in zooming and scrolling. While these could be annoying, they weren’t bad enough for me to turn the graphics quality down. And on those lines, the game provides all the settings you’d expect and several levels for each so you can fine tune the graphics to fit your machine.
While it can be difficult to remember, you should take at least some time to zoom in and enjoy the pretty things. As someone who remembers SC2000, it’s something to see where the graphics are now and how they help gameplay even more than in the past. Aside from the contextual popup bubbles that let you know at a glance when something needs attention, it’s generally easy to see at any zoom level whether a building’s in good shape or needs help or even bulldozing. Zooming in lets you see if you really created that beautiful neighborhood, while zooming out allows you to get a meta view of your city to see if the parts make an attractive whole. It’s generally easy to tell which zone are which by the type of building, dialog boxes are easy to ready, and landscapes are rendered very nicely. The whole game provides a realistic feel that is a pleasure to enjoy, although the need for constant attention makes it difficult to remember to stop and watch the roses.
The sound in SC is nice as well, though perhaps not quite up to the standards of the graphics. In part this is a limitation of the game design itself, where your sims don’t speak a real language, but a languagey gibberish. Seems to me we’ve reached a point where if you have the text on the screen that your sim is speaking, they could actually speak that text rather than Simmish.
Ambient sounds, on the other hand, are realistically rendered, from car swooshes to nighttime crickets, sirens and rampaging monsters. How much you hear changes based on your zoom level as well, which is a nice touch that helps make the game more immersive, especially as you zoom in. Overall the sound in the game adds to the experience though not as much as the nice graphics.
Well, I’m frankly torn, and I didn’t expect to be. Having avoided the launch snafus, I was left to deal with the game as the creators intended. Having read about it plenty in advance, I knew what I was in for, and was prepared to be mighty annoyed at the limitations imposed. And I was, but not as much as expected. This version of SC feels closer to my beloved SC2000 as either of the following versions. Gameplay seems to have been rebalanced, most of the good stuff is still there, and the game has built nicely on its foundations to make it in some ways more realistic, or at least to provide you with more options (curved streets being one of the marquee features promoted in advance of its release).
That said, those limitations I knew about in advance severely limit my enjoyment of the game and its ability to pull me in for hours when I should be doing other things. Small city size is the biggest drawback to this game and something that was complained about before it was released. These complaints have not ceased with the game’s release, and just yesterday it was confirmed that there will be no increase in city sizes. That’s really a deal breaker for me; it only takes a few hours of playing to fill up a city, and at that point you really only have two choices: start bulldozing and reshaping your city to get the most out of it, or move on to gripe number two.
And gripe number two is the multiplayer requirement. OK, technically not required, but to get to the equivalent of larger city sizes, you need to either claim and build the other cities in your region or open it up to allow others to claim and build those cities (or some combination thereof). The game setup requires this for you to be able to unlock its more advanced elements; you need to be able to share and trade resources and workers and this is generally how you’re going to be able to accumulate enough money to start on the Wonders or more expensive elements of your own city.
As far as gameplay goes, those are my two biggest gripes, and they’re pretty big. The always on requirement is annoying, but this actually seems to be something they’re trying to address, so offline mode may be coming. Some smaller but still significant gripes are the limited starter city options, no terrain modification options, and the focus on DLC to get some of these options (although I’ll grant them that they don’t really nag you to buy the DLC like some games do).
So all in all, I’d say I enjoy the game more than I expected given the excoriation it received in the press on release, but the limitations I knew of going in truly do cripple the game for me. It’s frustrating to really get your city humming and be accumulating cash and then run out of room. If you love multiplayer and were hoping for a SimCity where you built little cities in cooperation with others and linked them together, this may be the perfect game for you. If you just wanted an update to SimCity that basically kept things the same as your perfect edition of it, just better, this isn’t your game. The creators may have succeeded in rebooting SimCity while keeping it true to its roots, but it’s not the rebooting I had hoped for.
• Most of the basic familiar elements are there
• Good gameplay balance
• Nice graphics
• Multiplayer if you like that sort of thing
• Small city sizes
• Multiplayer required, whether you like it or not
• Always-on required, though this may be changing