Maxis is at it again, bringing back one of it’s most prestigious franchises, in it’s most revolutionary change yet. If everything in the current closed Beta test moves forward into the final version, due out March 5th of this year, fans of the series will feel right in place, as newcomers start up quickly – but not without a cost to the game’s more traditional features.
As a SimCity traditionalist, walking into the new title might seem like easy going, but you may be quickly put in your place in an all-new system. Stepping straight into the new Maxis title, expect a somewhat prolonged tutorial breaking this system down. Simpler city management, with obvious visual displays of the once complicated charting and numbers. Laying the land is as easy as it ever was, zoning it out and watching the people pour in. Easier work with utilities joins this time around as well, not having to worry about the tedious tasking out of water and power. So how does this all feel so different in round 5 of SimCity? Roads.
In this year’s SimCity, you can forget about any of the laborious work. No power lines. No pipes. Just roads. Connecting your city with the main highway will start your city-building experience, bringing in new families to build on your land. Placing down a power station in your town will power all of your city, so long as you’re generating the juice, and again connected to a road. Sewage, garbage, water – you get the idea. Gone are the days of zoning out your residential, commercial, and industrial areas in three distinct ways as well, making the game again simpler. If you’d like to see larger buildings and vertical growth in your town, all you’ll need to build is a “high density” street, 4 lanes wide with traffic lights at the intersections being the largest, and watch your buildings scrape the clouds. Higher density streets cost more money than lower density roads, but you can expect to actually SAVE money over older SimCity titles, as zoning on the roads is totally free.
You can expect the typical sort of revolting city if you aren’t being a great Mayor, but you should also expect that to happen a lot in your first town. That happens as part of experimenting with the new building system. We’re going up this time, not out.
Sure, there are loads of good things that you can say about the next SimCity, such as the beautiful curved roads, with simple layout options, but there are a few negatives. If you have played an older SimCity title before, you may be sorely disappointed with the size of each town. Don’t expect your typical expanse of city, because Maxis takes SimCity  further in the direction of the last SimCity. Nearby towns work with each other a great deal, which is actually a positive note, but the smaller scale to force the idea hits hard when I can’t build any more schools. Do you have crime in your casino city? My crime rates can go up. On the other hand, I can buy your police if you have extra and I don’t want to “waste space” in my town. This makes for terrific interactivity, and some fun, but when it requires an always-on internet connection, we jump from one problem to another.
Much like the launch of any online-only or online-DRM service, don’t expect to be able to login as soon as you install SimCity on launch day. At the end of day one in the closed Beta test, the servers became so overly populated with users trying to login that you simply could not. Maxis is pumping out a 3-15 minute queue timer, just to attempt to login and create a new local SimCity environment. Going further, the server itself may appear to be online until you reach the end of the queue timer, then show a “network error” and restart the timer. Of course, this is a Beta test and stress testing the servers is essential, so take all of this with a grain of salt.
The new SimCity is as fantastic of a game as ever and shows itself as VERY PROMISING as a pre-order worthy title. Despite it’s minor arguable flaws, there is no denying that Maxis has been working the kinks out over the near decade since it’s last ‘City launch. Take advantage of hours of fun and undeniable replay-ability. Get on this one as soon as possible – then get in line to login on launch day.