Let’s Fight: SimCity’s Cities Of Tomorrow Expansion Is Out

By Graham Smith on November 15th, 2013 at 5:00 pm.

This might be the wrong crowd for this, but I thought the recent SimCity was a good game. I’m looking forward to playing the Cities of Tomorrow expansion. I’m glad it’s out today, and I like this intro trailer.

Come on Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Want to fight me? Let’s take this below.

Released in March, SimCity was released to considerable controversy, which was covered in great and unrelenting detail on this very site. The criticisms were fair: the marketing around the game’s simulation was misleading; the online mode was inhibitive and the reasoning behind it dishonest; the queues to access the game upon launch were frustrating and shortsighted; the limited city size was a disappointment. I do not deny fans their anger.

But I had fun playing it.

I like city building games. I prefer them to play it straight, with a modern day setting. In other words, the often excellent Anno games can only scratch that itch so much. But I like watching an ant farm teeming with simulated life, and sticking my finger in to watch it shape around me. The queues went away. The worst of the bugs were fixed. The simulation was limited in much the same way as the previous SimCity games I loved – there’s a reason SimCity 4‘s first expansion was called Rush Hour and devoted solely to traffic – only now its machinations were more visible, more mesmerizing.

Eventually, when I began to bristle at the small city sizes, when I felt like I couldn’t be creative any further within its confines, when I started to fall through the remaining holes in its simulation, I stopped playing. And then I looked back and realised I’d had more than 30 hours of clumphing entertainment out of the game. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful either. Not as awful as the issues that swirled around it.

Cities of Tomorrow’s future setting makes it a little left of what I want out of the genre, but its new building types and resources may prove a neat solution to the small area size of each city. As in, by tossing reality out in favour of science fiction, you can have buildings that link together in new ways and make more interesting use of small spaces. But who knows. It may also come soaked in a thin coating of old lady’s blood, smelling of death and haunted by ghosts.

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39 Comments »

  1. Deathmaster says:

    Has EA ever responded to any of the reports / accusations, mr. Smith?

  2. subedii says:

    Want to fight me?

    I don’t like to fight people who hurt themselves so much. :)

  3. mtomto says:

    Maxis has confirmed that there will be no larger maps – ever.
    …this game is dead to me.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Rizlar says:

    7/10?

  5. Jockie says:

    Sorry Graham, games journalists aren’t allowed to like generally unpopular titles from large studios without accusations of taking bribes, bias and/or demonic posession, thus:

    “I cast you out! Unclean spirit!” etc.

  6. DonJefe says:

    I won’t fight you, Mr. Smith. You seem like a nice chap. We can agree to disagree.

    The size of the cities was the real clincher for me. All the other stuff was eventually fixed, but the small cities are just too limiting. Very disappointing. I had looked forward to that game for ages. *Sigh*…

    • Solidstate89 says:

      This. Did I mind that people didn’t go back to their original homes? Nah, not a big deal. Did I mind the always-online aspect despite being totally and completely unnecessary. Yes, but I have stable internet, I only play PC games on my desktop and if it was a good game, I could overlook such nonsense.

      But the inexcusably tiny fucking cities just ruins it for me. I expect cities at least, if not larger than what I could build in Sim City 4. Without that kind of expansion of functionality and capabilities, why should I even play Sim City over Sim City 4? Pretty visuals only do so much.

      • Flammablezeus says:

        Having not played Sim City 4 until after seeing Sim City 2013, I feel like I can say that Sim City 4 is objectively better. I’d been watching videos of Sim City 2013 and thought “well that’s a fair bit of money for me to sell out and buy an online single player game, I’ll just see what Sim City 4 is like instead.” I now cannot see any reason to play SC2013 over SC4.

  7. Discopanda says:

    i liekd the part where the cloud maed teh game werk rite.

    • mr.ioes says:

      Can’t wait to see cloud computing (sic) (c) by Albert Penello to be the next big thing on the XBone. I wonder what games are going to be “boosted”. Hopefully he’ll still be active on twitter by then.

      • Baines says:

        Microsoft’s already implied that the Cloud will make games look better. They haven’t explained how, though.

        Forza uses the Cloud to get data for its “learning” AI, which is something the Cloud is suited for. (It is something that could have been done without Cloud support, but when you have Microsoft already supplying the infrastructure, and an online connection was mandatory back when the game was in development, it becomes silly to not just use the Cloud.)

  8. Trespasser in the Stereo Field says:

    Man, I am so buying this game when it hits $1.99 on GOG.

    • Siannah says:

      No you won’t.

      • Stromko says:

        He may entirely intend to, it’s just that EA will never sell the game that cheaply and still be running servers for it. No servers, no game. It absolutely can run online if it were coded differently, but they’ve imbedded the DRM so deeply that doing so would be more work than EA would pay for, and they’d have to admit they lied for years about it needing servers.

        • montorsi says:

          So deeply ingrained that it in the first few weeks after release a user edited a line of code and had the game running offline, albeit without saving, and a fully offline DRM-less version exists today if you poke around under certain rocks. An offline mode is clearly utterly impossible.

          • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

            You have to applaud the pirating community, having the will to pick the sweetcorn out of a turd!

  9. Premium User Badge

    lowprices says:

    BURN THE WITCH!

    Or, y’know, don’t. Because having a different opinion about the quality of a videogame isn’t worth getting angry about.

  10. SuicideKing says:

    What is this, Rock, Gravel and Concrete?

  11. cpy says:

    SC is a great game. Don’t get me wrong i love mechanics and how it is designed. Now the reality: mechanics are broken, trucks get bugged stuck, get lost or just stop working. People are dumber than swarm of insects. 1 entrypoint per city (cities don’t live in a bubble yeah), city specialization? Broken! 1 city full of people 1 city full of shops and jobs, they are built like 100 meters from each other. Nobody even gave a crap about getting a job 1km from home in another city. So yeah, if everything they promised was delivered, it would be worth calling SC5. Since plots are small, with worst possible connections and paid airship fix, that is just a money sucker for their poor design, this game verdict is: FREE TO PLAY CRAP.

  12. Triplanetary says:

    Yes, they fixed most of the bugs and the most glaring problems. Yes, the servers are stable now. And yes, it’s even fairly fun in short spurts. But as far as I’m concerned, SimCity is broken in ways that can’t be fixed by any number of patches, because it’s fundamentally broken, from the drawing board on up. It’s a broken idea for a game.

    Not to mention that they straight-up lied about mod support.

  13. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    This is still my favorite review of the new SimCity:

    http://scientificgamer.com/thoughts-simcity/

    • LionsPhil says:

      Wow, that is pretty great.

    • Haplo says:

      The thing that stands out in that post for me is the pathfinding problem, with all the agents setting a location and calculating the shortest path.

      There’s actually something akin to this in real life called the Navigation Paradox, which states that as long-range navigational equipment and methods become more precise, the greater chance there is of accidents. That doesn’t seem to make sense until you think about it: if all the navigational equipment is becoming more precise, then the chance that they’re all using the same route goes up too.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navigation_paradox

      • Premium User Badge

        FriendlyFire says:

        This is quickly becoming a non-issue though as GPS navigation starts to factor realtime traffic reports into its route planning, thus distributing commuters across multiple pathways as the preferred route becomes slowed down by traffic.

  14. satsui says:

    Despite many of the bugs, I have really enjoyed about 8 hours of the game. However, I can only fill up an entire map and start a new city so many times. I even took a few failing cities and recovered them.

    The game is just not enough…

    Meanwhile, I have about 100 hours on Football Manager 2013 and another 100 on games like Dota 2 and Civilization V. They must be doing something right.

  15. Kollega says:

    My take on the issue is this: the new SimCity is a bad SimCity game, and not only because of always-online DRM. The biggest problem with it is that it doesn’t allow you to indulge in creating pretty-looking megacities with dosens of neighborhoods. As it is, the new SC tends to devolve into a bunch of skyscrapers terminating into nothingness up untill another bunch of skyscrapers poking out of the ground in another spot pretty far away – and that just sucks for a game where enjoyment is not only in mechanics, but also in aesthetics.

    Of course, the opinion that a city-building game should have not only interesting management but also allow the player to create good-looking, realistic cities is a pretty niche one – but it is my opinion, and one of the main gripes with this game.

  16. Didden says:

    That sound you don’t hear, is me not rushing out to buy it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Jackablade says:

      But if no one is around to hear it, do you really not buy it at all?

  17. Lanfranc says:

    Like Graham, I generally enjoy SimCity when I play it… at least for a while, until I run into one of the (many) boneheaded design decisions that undermine it. I think my favourite is the completely arbitrary cap on how much of a utility you can export from one city to another – seems to be no reason for it, and it makes it very difficult and fiddly to implement the specialised-cities-supporting-each-other playstyle they were supposedly aiming for.

  18. bar10dr says:

    This is probably going to be the last big expansion to SC to ever be released… just saying.

  19. Shiloh says:

    Sorry Graham, much as I enjoyed PCG under your late editorship… I like contrary when its funny (i.e not Charlie Brooker) but this article is self-contradicting and basically nonsense.

    Good luck with the freelancing or whatever you’re moving into, but seriously…

  20. Awesumo says:

    I admit that I too enjoyed sim city…. but then I managed to play for around 10 perfect hours before the USA woke up, logged in, and nuked the servers for the rest of the first week.

  21. Premium User Badge

    Hypocee says:

    Your buildings will link together to synergise!

    It will literally be Triple Town!

  22. silverjam says:

    Forget SimCity. Since I first saw Cities XL, I’ve never looked back: http://store.steampowered.com/app/231140/

  23. boats says:

    Simcity 39.99
    Expansion 29.99
    What?

  24. phroggie says:

    I’ll fight on your side Graham!

    I waited for a month or two after release to get SimCity, I knew all the problems but it just looked irresistible. And yes, there have been problems and bugs… but once I started learning how the game worked (traffic management especially and then the next big step up was learning how to size the roads for max density). As of this posting, Origin tells me I’ve pumped 179 hours into this game… which is massive value for money in my book.

    The things that still bug me, is online DRM, and the very inconsistent use of shared regions by other players (I’m now managing my own 11 city sized region). The game also tends to slow down for me after a while, I can’t tell if it’s performance or server slow down. I also still can’t get a single-function city who relies on other regionites to really kick of very well – you still have to supply all the basic infrastructure of every other city.

    The biggest plus I really like, and issue that does not bother me – is city sizes. I couldn’t see the point of near-unlimited size in SC4, cities start looking very much so the same I loose track of where the essential services are… This SimCity I can return to a city I haven’t played for 2 months and pick it up again very easily. I love it, it’s a design limitation that forces you to really design your city – rather than just do whatever and mistakes mean very little. The limitation of city sizes is also a reflection of many modern cities around the world having to face this very issue of density and long term city planning.

    Been playing Cities of Tomorrow for a few days now, the towers weren’t really working at first but now I’ve been making each one fairly single-sided and all the same kind of density and they’re working much better. I like the style of the expansions and buildings, the idea of building more and taller but so far my population isn’t really peaking much higher, feels harder to know what is actually going on in the towers. So in some ways it feels a bit one-dimensional – if you enjoy SimCity you’ll like having more, you’ll have to strongly redesign your previous cities or take a whole new approach with a new city… but if you don’t like this SimCity as many don’t – this isn’t going to change your mind.

    So I love it, of course I’ve been frustrated by the border sizes but that’s just forced me to gradually redesign and remodel parts of my city to be smarter – and I would never do that in previous SimCity games. It forces me to work differently to how I traditionally would and I love it for that.