SimCity 5 – Hype or the real deal? Beta Impressions

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When I was younger my first dive into Sim City was on the SNES, back when the only PC game I recall having been able to play on my parents computer was Commander Keen.  I was a bit young to really get fully enthralled with my first Sim City but as I grew up the name and genre stuck with me, which led to me later picking up Sim City 3000.  This along with the original Counter Strike mod were the only things I ended up playing for at least a  simcity_snesyear straight.  There was just something about building, managing, and watching your own planned city grow or die as the “fast-forwarded” years go by.  Many years go by and I stopped playing.  Maybe it was the lack of a really good refresh in the franchise or just simply many other things grabbing my attention more.  Earlier last year when the new Sim City was announced, my interest level peaked back up to how I felt when I first heard of Sim City 3000.

So let’s get right down to it, no matter how anti Origin/EA you are, there is still a part of you that is either a fan of SimCity or you’re slightly interested in picking up this title.  The closed beta provided me a better look into the new Glassbox engine.  EA/Maxxis could have went two directions with this reboot; they might have simplified the game or made the game revolutionary for SimCity fans.  After spending approximately 6-8 hours in beta itself, I came to the conclusion that I think there was a good compromise on both fronts.  Removing complicated and hard to read charts/numbers/and data and replacing them with easy to read infographics used today made things a lot more user friendly.   At the same time, tasks that would take an extremely long time to plan out were removed such as laying down power lines and water piping.   For the beta, every hour, the city you build gets wiped.  So that means, once you get the hang of the mechanics and going about learning every little thing you can do in the beta, you have a one hour speed run to build up everything you can.   My first hour defenitly consisted of admiring the great use of tilt-shift.  If you are’nt familiar with tilt shift, it is an editing method that provides a very specific type of feel/perspective on a photo making things appear as if they were toys.

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Despite some of it’s obvious flaws you might take notice of (if you are a die hard SimCity player), such as not including Subways, and the new zoning system; you’ll quickly realize that SimCity is a rich experience layered with information that anyone can consume. There are bars and graphs for virtually any statistic you might want to know; your citizens’ happiness, the value of their property, whether they’re within reach of your city’s bus network. The list goes on.  While I personally enjoyed a lot of aspects of the beta, there were quite a few things glaring out to me.  Although the graphics were turned all the way up in settings; I noticed lighting issues, texture problems, AI weirdness, and quite a few other things I managed to include in bug reports.  Could these things be patched and fixed later? Sure, I completely think so, but realistically we are only a month away from launch.

One big problem I had with the beta throughout this weekend that may or not be a sign of things to come on launch were the server downtime issues.  Oh god, not another Diablo 3 launch day experience.  To be quite honest with you readers, I almost was put off to the point of not picking up this title on launch.  Why on earth would I want to spend $60 on a title I can maybe play a few hours before getting disconnected, asked to patch multiple times, and experience lag while trying to build a city by myself.  Do I think there will be issues on launch?  You better believe I do.  With the amount of people attempting to get into the beta on Friday from all the tweets and subreddit postings , you better believe this title will have a lot of people picking it up.  Sim City is a title that even non hardcore gamers would be considering picking up and enjoying, which means the demographic for this title is a lot larger.

I already feel Im being very negative about a title that I can honestly say I enjoyed…when I was able to play.  Expandable building units, road construction, watching individual Sims go about their day, or people simply commutting to their jobs brought a smile to my face.  Each and every time my map was reset and I got a fresh drawing board to build my city, nothing ever was the same.  This game has most of the features that made Sim City 4 fun, and it also took some unpleasant and mundane things out.  The game’s complexity is slightly lower than Sim City 4, and I think that was intended.  Even from the title screen, you can tell EA’s objective is to hit as many gaming demographics as possible.  I think the game has a good balance of complexity.  Removing power lines and water pipes was a good move.  Some people may enjoy making sure all their buildings have water, but I think I’m with the majority in that laying down power lines and water pipes was nothing but tedious and boring.

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When it comes down to really reccommending picking up this title on Day 1, I just think it’s a bit too early to tell.  I forsee SimCity getting a lot of DLC enchancements and add-ons into the future to keep the title fresh.  Do I think that EA might not provide good DLC in the end?  I’m a bit optimistic (although being in the minority).  My viewpoints are very different on DLC than most people and I tend to not hop on a hate bandwagon at the first mention of it.  Either way,  I’m really hoping that there are a few more closed or even open betas to come before launch.  Hopefully my article gives you a little more insight on the title.  Along with that here is a 15 minute video with no commentary showing off the beta itself along with the menu options, etc.

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21 responses to “SimCity 5 – Hype or the real deal? Beta Impressions

    • Hey Douglas, just fyi, the beta had a very limited space to build your city. What is shown in the gameplay only represents a small portion of what is actually available in the full game.

      • ‘very limited space to build your city’
        You’ll have exactly the same city size in the full game.

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