SimCity review roundup: Bigger, better, and a whole lot busier

The latest version of SimCity ships today. We've combed through reviews so that you don't have to.

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    The new SimCity has arrived.
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SimCity, the sixth installment in the SimCity franchise, debuted today on PCs in the US (a global release will follow on the 7th, with a Mac launch sometime after that). Because SimCity requires an Internet connection to play – or at least to save your progress – many outlets have decided to hold their reviews until the Electronics Arts servers are really up and running.

But a few reviews have trickled out nonetheless. Here's what we know. 

The graphics 

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Thumbs up, says Dean Takahashi of Venture Beat. "The 3D graphics for the game allow you to maneuver and view your city from any angle," Takahashi writes in a generally enthusiastic review. "When buildings appear, they magically rise from the ground in an animation that is fluid and fun. And the buildings aren’t just generic. Each building home, and store is different. They have unique names and you can drill down and find more information about them. You can insert beautifully rendered landmarks into your city. You can make streets that have curves." 

The world 

IGN has published a "review-in-progress," at least until the launch is complete. Still, that "review in progress" is pretty dang positive.

"SimCity is super-dense with rich art and style," writes Dan Stapleton of IGN. "It starts with the elegant, mostly intuitive interface, and extends to graphical nuances like sunlight reflecting off solar panels and the unique ambient sounds that play every time you select a building like a police station. The music that accompanies everything is delightful, a cheerily optimistic and industrious tune that shifts enough to avoid becoming monotonous. It all made my first hours after founding a city a constant stream of astonishments at the level of attention Maxis has slathered over every inch of this thing." 

The gameplay 

"SimCity is self is deceptively easy to use," raves Russ Pitts of Polygon. "The user interface is intuitive enough to make finding what you need amidst a potentially complex array of options easy even at the most frenetic of times. I only very rarely felt lost for what button to press or which menu to find what service under. And while you can access fairly detailed tabulations of how much various things are costing versus how much benefit they are providing, if you don't ever want to see those things, you'll never need to." 

The gameplay, part two 

Penny Arcade, like IGN, has declined to publish a full review – their take on SimCity is more of a hands-on test. Again, though, Sophie Prell of Penny Arcade seems to like what she sees. 

"It feels good to stretch out a piece of road and connect it to that new shopping district you’ve been working on," Prell writes. "It’s satisfying to click, click, click, and zone out new residential, commercial, or industrial areas. When your citizens come to you with a complaint about the lack of access to education and you plop down a school and then extend said school’s influence with bus stops, happy faces sprouting up in a ripple, you can’t help but feel pride."

The gameplay, part three

Mashable's Chelsea Stark is equally excited about the possibilities inherent in the SimCity experience. But she warns that gamers should be prepared for some frustrations. 

"Players might find some of the construction tools a little unwieldy," Stark writes. "Roads don't always want to connect because of proximity to another intersection, or crowded terrain, so you may have to occasionally bulldoze and redraw a few areas. I found placing the largest structures often difficult. Objects can only snap to existing roads, and have arbitrary points where they want to connect. It can mean clearing a larger area than you need to set down late-game objects like a stadium or municipal airport." 

The bottom line

Writing at Slate, Farhad Manjoo says SimCity is the "best urban-planning simulation ever created." He admits he had "many moments of frustration in the game—times when I rushed into action to fix something terrible in ManjooVille only to be stymied by the inherent inertia of civic life. I would do bold things, like taking out a huge bond issue to fund several new schools, and then see my efforts wither. My people were slow to figure out how to get to the schools I’d created; it took me many months of game time to get my population educated enough to sustain a high-tech economy. Sure, I got annoyed by this," Manjoo adds. "But never, ever annoyed enough to quit playing. As a wise man once said, It’s all in the game." 

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