Sim City is a Winner

After all these years, Sim City is still fun, but the latest edition is not without flaws...

Last night I downloaded a copy of Sim City. I loved this game as a kid, and have played every version that’s come out. This new version is exactly what I hoped it would be: everything I love about Sim City, but taking advantage of modern hardware capabilities with deeper, more granular simulation and beautiful graphics. A few observations:

My iMac (running Windows 8 via Bootcamp) was more than capable of running with every setting fully maxed out, always at full frame rate. (For reference, it’s the Core i7 with 32GB RAM and has the upgraded video card with 2GB RAM.)

There’s a lot of complexity here, which I’m very happy about. One thing that will be interesting is having cities specialize within a region. For example, I set up an industrial dystopian city that was heavy industrial, power generation, strip-mining, waste and sewage disposal, etc. It was providing electricity and waste/sewage disposal to my main city, freeing up land and ensuring there was no polluting industry to damage my tourism and high-wealth residential. Pretty slick… you have to make sure you keep track of wind patterns, though– air pollution will come in from an adjacent city if the wind patterns are right.

The road system is incredible. You can build any pattern you want and it will help you grid it out to maximize density. Really nicely done, and will be a blast to play with and build up neat looking cities. Traffic appears fully modeled. It’s kind of amazing– you can watch an individual sim go from their home to work. I am really impressed by the modeling here, but sim pathfinding seems a bit flawed. They need teeny, tiny GPS systems. Sims seem happy to take advantage of mass transit if you make it available, but you have to plan your roads and stops in a way that maximizes efficiency to really get the most bang for the buck.

I still have to get used to the buildings (like fire stations, police stations, etc.) and giving them enough room to expand. The expansions take space, and need to be connected up in specific ways (example: adding a gymnasium to your high school.) It’s very easy to accidentally hem yourself in so that you can’t expand a building. I did this with my city hall and was unable to add a department of transportation, etc. because I didn’t have any room on adjacent tiles.

The city tiles are really small– I’m sure they did this to maximize performance, but you really wind up needing to build a couple of complementary cities because you can’t build a single city that’s large enough to satisfy.

Everyone is complaining about the always-on requirement, but I don’t see it being a big problem. I’m very rarely in a place where I don’t have at least cellular connectivity available, and if I am I’m usually camping or hiking, not gaming.  I understand the objection, but it doesn’t impact me in the slightest. More importantly, it seems most of the bugs have been worked out by the early adopters. (I’m sure my reaction to the connectivity requirements would be different if their servers were down most of the time like they were in the first few weeks of this game.)

A good friend of mine bought the game as well, I’m looking forward to building up a region cooperatively. I suspect I will get hours of entertainment out of this game.