Huge Tracts Of Land: Cities XXL

Build a build.

As an admirer of cities, I enjoy wandering around a city looking for its history in little tells, in the curve of streets, in clashes of architecture, in demographics, transportation, building sites and boarded-up shops, guessing at its planning and improvisations. I like building my own cities in games too, thinking I’m so clever and know everything, then after a few hours I take a step back and realise “oh god it’s all just a huge horrible mess built by an idiot.” Still, I suspect the prettiness of the newly-announced Cities XXL might have me whipping out my t-square to try again.

Publishers Focus Home quietly announced Cities XXL in November but didn’t have much to say beyond that it exists and has multicore support, so I didn’t have much interest in posting it. Now they’ve made a formal announcement with details on everything it offers. In short, you plan and build from small towns up to big fancy cities on big fancy maps, playing with a thousand buildings, managing usual civic stuff as well as concerns like air and noise pollution, and following citizens their silly lives around if you’re feeling nosey. It’ll have mod tools with Steam Workshop support too.

Focus Home call XXL’s engine “vastly improved”, so perhaps it’ll break the series’ tradition of being a bit janky. City-building and management is a genre without much modern competition to make everyone try extra-hard, unfortunately.

In case you’ve forgotten what cities even are, here’s an example in the teaser trailer:


  1. Barchester says:

    Great, now I have to go and rewatch Holy Grail. Thanks a bunch.

    • Wowbagger says:

      But she’s got huge…tracts of land.

      • Barchester says:

        Now all we have to do is wait for John Cleese and his idiom to arrive.

    • teije says:

      You should be grateful for the opportunity to rewatch that classic gem. One of the best things about having a 13-year old son has been introducing him to Monty Python.

  2. Aydrian says:

    Hey Maxis…THIS is how big a city should be. Take notes.

    • Cinek says:

      Wasn’t this game more shallow than the latest SimCity (aka. the screensaver-game) ?
      From what I remember Cities XL felt more like a GPU benchmark than an actual game. There was so little you could do there.

      • Premium User Badge

        distantlurker says:

        XL is a fine game, basically Sim City 2000 in a prettier engine.

        The problem is, that engine has been *horribly* broken for years. Past a certain point, it slows to a crawl and dies. You can throw i7’s and 980’s at it, all to no avail.


      • AngoraFish says:

        When first released, Cities XL (originally Cities Unlimited) was an awful always-on Sim City style unnecessarily online MMO that worked even more badly than the latest Sim City ever has.

        The original devs over-invested in MMO features that nobody wanted, and neglected the simulation and single player aspects that everybody kept telling them that they did want (eg trains).

        The original dev then rightly went bankrupt because the original game was a total flop, and nobody signed up for a monthly subscription to keep playing.

        The game assets were eventually bought out by a new developer who stripped out all the janky MMO components and re-released the game as a standalone, with a small number of salvaged art assets that never made it into the original game, and charged everyone again for the same game minus the MMO componets.

        After that, every year the new dev scraped the cobwebs off a few more leftover art assets, re-released the game as a ‘new’ edition, and charged everyone again for what was basically the same original game, several years in a row.

        For some reason, possibly because game bloggers turn over quicker than pancakes on all you can eat night, the gaming press continues to let them get away with it year after year after year.

        This latest ‘edition’ will be more of the same recycled dross that they’ll AGAIN charge good money for, and people will again be suckered into buying.

        Please, everyone, stop giving this game any more coverage. It’s already done far more than it’s fair share of damage to the genre.

        • Cinek says:

          Yea, what you describe here is much closer to what I remember.

        • Joshua Northey says:

          This is all exactly right and the sad thing is that this is a great game that could be polished up wonderfully if it was actually owned by someone who was interested in fixing its relatively small (but severe) problems.

          • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

            Cities XL, in theory, is what someone playing SimCity 4 or SimCity 2013 wants. Do you want SimCity 4 with a fully 3D map and curved roads? Cities XL. Do you want SimCity 2013 with a large map size? Cities XL.

            The reality, unfortunately, is that the game suffers the death of a thousand small bad design decisions, and then the bigger death of the game crashing because it’s as well optmized as Doom for the TI83. But if you want to build a small city and watch it for a while I dare saying it’s more fun than SimCity 4.

        • Jimbo says:

          I was in the beta for that Cities MMO-wannabe. It was ridiculous – they had absolutely no idea what they were doing or how to make it work. The feedback was a pretty much universal “you need to cut that out and just make a pretty Sim City” but nope.

  3. Kollega says:

    I played Cities XL, and the problem of that game was that while graphically impressive, the gameplay was pretty boring. There was no way for the city to grow organically from small to big industries and from poor to rich neighborhoods, because the game mechanics had different-wealth buildings as separate entities. So unless they fix that, the game will most likely remain rather boring to play.

    • Artist says:

      Unfortunatly the series is haunted by this since its very beginning. The only thing that gets close to rebrand SC4 but still falls so damn far from it… =/

  4. atticus says:

    I wondered if this was the city-game I got really excited about a few months ago. Then I googled, and found out it wasn’t.

    BTW, Cities: Skylines has a new trailer, and it’s gorgeous.

    • The First Door says:

      Oh! I was just about to ask if this was anything like Cities: Skylines. I’ll have to go hunt out the new trailer, thanks!

    • RedViv says:

      Yeah, Skylines is the big horse to bet on, I would say. Monte Cristo has been disappointing too many times with each release.

    • 2late2die says:

      I heard about Cities Skylines awhile back, but just recently caught up on the latest dev vlogs and damn that looks impressive. It might be a bit early to declare it the true Sim City 2000 successor (IMO the best in the series), but it’s looking extremely promising.

  5. Synesthesia says:

    I’ve been playing Simcity:DRM lately, after a sale, and i’ve got to say… city size aside, it’s sort of brilliant. They finally solved the problems every simcity had with presenting information. It’s gorgeous, and quite soothing. Not simcity 4, but I really believe it doesn’t want to. It’s not hardcore, but hard. The maxisfolk really found something there. Shame they had to do it with EA. I’ve been playing with a friend who left the country, and having a blast.

    • Rindan says:

      Other than city size and people simulation it is awesome! And dog shit makes a great dinner if you ignore the taste and smell!

      Any city game that doesn’t focus on epic size and superb traffic handling and options has completely and totally failed. Sim City completely and totally failed. I’m glad some people squeezed some joy out of that DRMed up the ass town simulator, but as far as a city game, it is a pale shadow of Sim City 4. Hell, it is a shadow of Sim City 2000.

      • Synesthesia says:

        Haters gonna hate, i guess. I never said it even tried to be even one of those two. As its own, it stands relatively proud, if you ignore t he absolutely loathsome drm. I am having a blast with it.