SimCity - The Return of the God Complex
One of my favourite forms of game are games that give you a God complex, the large scale real time strategy games the likes of Command and Conquer and Age of Empires. Alongside these I guess my crowning favourites are city building games and so it is with great excitement that I am awaiting the first week of March for the release of the new SimCity.
At the end of January Maxis opened the doors for a select few to enter the closed beta of the game and I awoke on the Saturday morning to a login key in my inbox. I am surprised I didn't wake the whole house as I shouted 'woohoo' like a crazed sim and started running downstairs at 5.30am!
With this only being a beta it had very restricted content which of course keeps the download time down and it also comes with a one hour time limit for each go - but that did not sway me from spending the whole weekend building city after city, perfecting the art of mass building to see how far I could get within the allotted hour. The game runs at three speeds - turtle, llama and cheetah with turtle likely to be the speed I play the finished release at but for sake of testing (of course!) I ran it in cheetah so I could open a few more buildings and expand further.
There are many extensive reviews, how-to's and guides to the new SimCity and so I am not going to add to the plethora here. Instead I wanted to just briefly talk about the genre and where I hope it is heading. City building games have generally all down the same the route, albeit with different engines/building trees but with the arrival of SimCity Societies in 2007 that direction started to change. The game focused less on intensive city management and more on the social side and whilst the idea was sound, the execution was terrible and the game was received poorly. In 2010 it looked like that was going to change with Cities XL - a game that promised so much. Myself and many of my gaming friends where excited by all that was promised from the game and we all pre-ordered.
Cities XL offered cutting edge graphics (compared with the previous SimCity games which were looking extremely dated) and a multiplayer element that allowed you to visit other cities, create trade agreements with other players and take control of your city to a whole new level - it sounded amazing. This all came crashing down when the developers of the game where forced to release the game before it was anywhere near complete and it was broken from the outset - it wasn't even in a beta state. The devs worked hard to fix it but the damage was done, consumer outrage had people leaving the game en masse and the game crashed and burned as quick as it was pushed out.
The new SimCity is on track to redeem the city building game and I for one am excited again. There is more work being done since the beta but from just what I saw in the limited offering the game is going to be awesome. Multiplayer elements such as trading are there alongside region play where you and your friends can create cities side by side that work together on every level, even sharing elements such as emergency services, utilities and social aspects such as education. Maxis have clearly been paying attention, looking at what people want and learning from the mistakes of past offerings. The game is scheduled for release on March 6th and I for one cannot wait!