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The new, virtual, world order

March 8, 2013

Nothing gold can stay.

For decades, SimCity has entertained would-be mayors and city planners with complex simulations that approximate the actual running of a city. Sonce the beginning, SimCity gave players dictatorial control over the destiny of a small settlement, letting them grow it into a sprawling metropolis, and then watching it crumble into ruins with a spate of natural disasters once players got bored. It was and is a winning formula, the ultimate power fantasy.

Enter SimCity 2013, the first proper game in the series since Sim City 4, nearly 10 years ago.

Everything players love about the game is still there, upon first inspection. Zoning, streets, power plants, a ludicrous amount of detailed graphs, everything is accounted for. Indeed, it could be argued the removal of the tedious water pipe and power line requirements was a much needed improvement.

Take a closer look, however, and SimCity transforms from a utopia into a dystopian, bizzaro world where everything is just wrong enough to cause that twinge of discomfort.

The most crucial of components, the absolute control you could wield over your city, is gone. Instead of an infinite variety of choice in choosing a location for your municipal empire, you are told to choose one of a half dozen regions in which to build. Also lacking is the ability to reshape the land itself, forcing your city to drape itself across the landscape rather than integrate itself in its hills and valleys.

The space in which you are allowed to build has been limited as well. Instead of spreading to the farthest corners of the map, an ugly white line serves as a constant guardian over the “city limits” that arbitrarily prevents you from crossing. This results in the almost comical patchwork nature of the region, with a massive residential or industrial complex existing adjacent to pristine, untouched land.

Most damning, however, is the fact that your city is anything but. Instead of a grand, self sustaining megapolis, SimCity now limits you to one section of a “greater metropolitan area.” Cities are forced to specialize, as the space you are given to build in is too small to create an independent settlement.

SimCity is a game about communities, but was never meant to be one.

That is where the development of this game went so horribly wrong. At some point, someone (cough EA cough) decided that the focus of SimCity should be on multiplayer, on cooperative building, on community. That flies in the face of anyone who enjoyed the previous entrants in the series.

SimCity is about being an almighty tyrant, not about being a helpful group member. It is sad that SimCity itself has forgotten that.

Instead, the creators of the game are the tyrants. Forcing the userbase to connect to a server system that currently barely works, refusing to give out refunds for a game that people can’t even play, forsaking the infinitely creative modding community in order to send out carefully focused grouped DLC packs; all of these thing hurt so much more because players remembered a time when they were the ones in control.

Now, they can’t even control their own game.


From → Video Games

One Comment
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