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SimCity (2013) PC Review

We take a spin in the latest city builder from EA

If I said the latest entry to the SimCity series was overdue, that would be something of an understatement, with ten years between this latest entry to the series and the last entry, SimCity 4, and it’s safe to say that EA and Maxis were in absolutely no rush to bring us the new one. Yet here it is, in all its glory and with it comes an exclusive offer with AMD that sees this city building blockbuster bundled with a range of AMD APU’s, so there are not one, but two questions that I hope to answer today. The first is, is the game any good? Secondly will it add value for money to the purchase of an AMD APU?

The game comes bundled with the AMD APUs found here and given that this game costs £34.99 on EA’s Origin it’s certainly a tempting proposition given that I’ve been a fan on the Sim City series ever since the original release back in 1989 and the offer of a free game that could save me nearly £35 sounds like a pretty good deal, so long as you want the APU as well of course, but we’ll leave that topic for another day.

The first thing that stands out about the new SimCity is that it is a complete departure from just about every core aspect that made the series what it is, even from the first five minutes of gameplay it was clear to me this was nothing like SimCity 4 and while on the surface it may often look “like” some of its predecessors, the SimCity experience has always been dictated by the under the hood stuff, the hard-core mechanics and rules that govern it’s world, all of which have been thrown out and replaced by new, friendlier interfaces and concepts.

SimCity has often been regarded as a hard game, maybe not in the same class as things like Dark Souls, but still challenging and it was clear within an hour or so that SimCity has become childs play in terms of offering a challenge. Sure the game is still complex to understand and it can often take a bit of forward planning to make a truly great city, but you have to be completely stupid to make one that actually fails. Sure you can make mistakes and go bankrupt, but I can’t help but feel my hand was held throughout the entire game, with almost endless options available to make lots of money and ease me to success.

An easy game is no bad thing, so long as the game is still fun and that is something that holds true here, sure EA have stripped out most of the hard core economics of the game that made SimCity 4 a test of your micromanagement skills, but it is still highly rewarding and making your first million on a thriving city is a lot of fun, with plenty of rewards and fun challenges along the way.

There is however one big issue, the plot size, which has been condensed by a HUGE amount, making all cities cramped, limited and well bloody tiny! Even more so when compared to the ultra-sized landscapes you had in SimCity 4, now instead we have regions, which is basically several smaller cities on a larger map, the idea being that you build multiple cities that feed off each other. I don’t like this idea that much, I want the option of building a mega city with winding motorways, rivers, mountains and more, just like I had in SimCity 4. Instead you feel your cramming large buildings like a university into a map that wasn’t designed for such big assets, making most of your decisions about what to remove, rather than what to actually place.

Graphics have been given a huge overhaul and the new game engine is a real treat to the eyes, of course it doesn’t take a huge amount of look better than the last game given that there is a 10 year gap, it’s safe to say technology have moved along a little since then. Gone are the isometric grids with full 3D models and worlds taking their place, you’re free to move the camera around, pan down to street level is take an eagle eye view from above, allowing for great flexibility when building or looking around your city street.

The online aspect of the game are quite interesting and while many have wrongly labelled this as “DRM” the game is more akin to an MMO of sorts, although I will admit it certainly does have some of the same side effects are DRM, especially for those who have no interesting in joining forces with other players on the EA servers. The feature allows you to pick a spot within a region, where other people are building their city, sharing resources such as medical care, fire engines, police, water, oil, gas and workers between you, a system that not only benefits them but also your own city and it allows for a much more dynamic and natural city building experience.

Overall this game is far from perfect, but EA have been quick to release patches for the game that have long since addresses many of the issues that plagued it at launch and while there is still a little way to go, it’s a welcome step in the right direct. Should EA bring in larger cities to the game and maybe even bring back the difficulty level adjustment to take the “ease” off the title, then sure, this could be one of the greatest Sim games in the series although I’ll still always have a soft spot for SimCity 4.

Is it worth paying £35 for this game on its own? Yes and no, if you’re a hard core SimCity fan then you may find you’re not such a big fan of this game, but if your new to the series this is certainly a great place to start and the game can be a lot of fun.

Does the game add value for money to the AMD bundle? Of course it does, the game comes free with the hardware and since the APU’s are powerful enough to run this game it means you’ve got a fun game to play as soon as you’ve built your new system.