By Dalai 3 Comments
It's hard to believe the last proper city-building sim came out over 6 years ago and as a huge fan of the SimCity franchise, I was disappointed that we're still waiting for SimCity 5. SimCity Societies you say? I'd rather lick dog shit! City Life? Eh, closer yet the focus on that game was more on social aspects, too. I'm more into the actual building and maintaining of cities and not who is living there. Cities XL tries to do that with a SimCity 4.5 of sorts. It's more about keeping taxes low, the people happy, the traffic flowing, and the city safe... my kind of game.
So can Cities XL compete with the likes of SimCity? In some ways, a resounding yes! In other ways, not just yet.
- It's very close to the SimCity formula in so many ways. You've got your traditional RCI zone placement in various densities, your basic services (power, police, fire, hospitals, etc) to keep your city growing, and a robust road selection to mix things up and keep traffic levels to reasonable levels. However, they definitely went a bit more on he realistic side in some ways. For example, you're unable to zone medium or high density zones until you reach a certain population eliminating the chance of building the tallest structures early on. So no massive skyscrapers in a city of 25,000. That means you've gotta work for those bigger buildings. That also goes for civic buildings and utilities.
- There is a happy balance that allows for a challenging experience. It's easy for your city to go off the rails if you're not careful and on the flip side, you can make a ton of money if you exploit your resources and carefully plan your cityscape. And not every city will have access to specific resources like water or farmland which presents some interesting scenarios.
- Goodbye to the grid... sort of. One of the biggest improvements is the dismantling of the grid system allowing you to build winding roads at almost any angle. You can still stick with the traditional grid for the best, most efficient results, but straight roads are boring. The only gripe is that like the RCI zones, you have to unlock the various road types as your population grows, including highways. I can see why they did it, but even small towns have access to major highways these days.
- The graphics are pretty damn good and in glorious 3D. It's not a huge graphics powerhouse, but they've done a great job making some aesthetically beautiful landscapes and buildings. There's a lot of detail the makes your cities lively and bustling. You can zoom to ground level to hang out with the residents walking around and the cars driving to work and back or go full zoom out to get the Google Earth perspective.
- SpeedTree. Just had to add that.
- One of the major draws of Cities XL is the Planet Offer mode which is a MMO-like experience. You're able to build up to 5 cities on a planet of your choice, visit the cities of other users, text chat with others online, and trade with other users which I'll get to next. Sounds alright. The main problem is the steep subscription fee for the Planet Offer mode. It might not be worth the 8 euros per month especially since there are in-game ads, but I'll likely be subscribing because there will be some incentives in the coming months. By the way, I'm fine with in-game advertising this time. It's one of the rare times where it fits perfectly.
- Trading online still needs some work. I totally expected some inflated prices for certain precious commodities like oil, but the prices can be all over the place. Even worse, the trading system is still a bit buggy and laggy and was down for a brief period over the weekend. Cities that depend heavily on trading with other cities can go downhill fast and can mean the end of your work if not careful.
- Cities XL did the unthinkable and didn't add any mass transit in the package. No trains, no subways, no buses. It's all coming later, but it'll cost ya. Paying for a feature that should be in the game automatically smells of milkage.
- One of the great things about SimCity games was the terraforming tools which allowed for a variety of unique city layouts and landscapes. Unfortunately for Cities XL, terraforming is seriously lacking. You're given a decent amount of options (up to 50 maps if you subscribe) but I would have preferred at the least a much larger selection of maps to choose from.
Cities XL is my guilty pleasure this year and one of those games that I can't help but love, but at the same time there are a number of issues that keep me from fully endorsing it. If you've been waiting for the next SimCity for the past several years and dying to play a good city-building sim, you can't go wrong with Cities XL. With that said, it also feels a bit incomplete if you directly compare it to the SimCity games of the past. Personally, I'll play it and enjoy it greatly, warts and all.
Below are some screens of a city I'm working on offline. It's not very big yet, but I've been working on some other cities which are much bigger.