If you’re in any way connected with the gaming community, you’ll have heard of the disaster of a launch that EA’s latest instalment in the SimCity franchise suffered. The simply named SimCity brought a fresh new look and feel to the iconic simulator but server stability issues and game-breaking bugs plagued released.
Now, it’s coming to the Mac. Five months later, EA’s provided the game with a slew of major updates and officially released a native OS X version of the game. In this review, we’re going to take a look at the game in the state you’d pick it up on today’s OS X release, irrespective of historic problems with the original Windows iteration and its launch-day woes on OS X.
SimCity: Founded 2013
SimCity was released in March on Windows and — to put it simply — it wasn’t good. In the immediate days following launch, SimCity’s servers were either over capacity, unavailable or prone to data loss and the game itself was fundamentally broken in a number of key areas, such as transport. I invested about 25 hours into the game in the weeks following initial release and, while it did provide some fun experiences, it was very clear how broken the game was.
It was a PR nightmare for EA too, that ultimately pushed the publisher to offer a second game for free to users and forced some retailers to take the game off their shelves. Since then, EA and developer Maxis have issued a number of major updates to the game and a mixture of server upgrades and the natural decline of hype have provided Windows users with more stable, bug-free gameplay.
On August 29th, Mac users joined Windows user’s initial launch-day woes, with installation and full-screen display issues, among other problems. EA was quick to get those problems wrapped, though, and now is reporting that “We are pleased to advise that the installation-related issues some players experienced with SimCity on Mac have been resolved.” Simcity for Mac may have not provided a great Labor Day weekend gaming experience, but it should be ready for prime time now, decidedly quicker after launch than its PC counterpart.
Fresh New Architecture
The 2013 reboot of SimCity puts a fresh new slant on the basic formula of the city building simulator. Rather than a aerial, strategic system of zoning and managing taxes, SimCity puts you up close and personal with your citizens. You’ll be called up by individuals who will make you zoom down to their level to answer queries. You can track individual vehicles as they move about your town, serving as utilities or carrying sims to your leisure attractions. Every sim and every house reacts to your decisions and you can find out what they’re thinking and base future calls on that information. It’s a really fun system that brings the game closer to The Sims than an anonymous metropolis builder.
All the basic necessities of any city — real-life or ones situated in previous instalment of the franchise — are catered for in a sleek menu covering the lower-half of the game. You don’t need to dive in with state-of-the-art emergency coverage in your first year, but eventually you’ll be campaigned to upgrade when the situation deteriorates. Capacity of utilities and services can be nominally improved by adding new departments — such as additional jail cells or more towers for burning coal — to existing structures to expand capacity. This is a neat way of being able to build with futureproofing in mind and is most certainly welcome in the developing stages of a city.
Your city can also sponsor specific categories of revenue-generating ventures. You can attract tourists with new points of interest like casinos or opt to mine for and refine metals and fuels, which can then be exported. You don’t ever need to use them, but they provide important jobs and can make up the bulk of your revenue.
When your city begins to generate surplus resources, or require more for utilities than you can provide, the global market becomes an important factor in your game. Your utilities can choose to import fuels and resources at additional cost from a world market if your mining operations doesn’t cover your material expenditure or, if you’re fortunate enough to have a surplus roaming about the city, you can sell it back. This adds a new dynamic to your financial goals in a city, offering you motivation to maximise your income beyond the mere needs of your city.
Each city populates one area of a wider region, which is comprised of multiple cities — the exact amount depends on the region chosen during a new game’s setup. When you’re done with one city, you can back out to region view and establish a new one, offering a pleasant boost of fresh appeal when gameplay in one city gets stale. You can run that city independently or speed the process up by sharing the surplus cash and resources of another, a really cool mechanic previously unseen in the series.
What’s even more cool is that these cities can be ran by other people through multiplayer, either by invite only or through opening it up to the Origin-using public. Personally, SimCity remains a solo game for my personal preference but the multiplayer option is nice to have, providing your have friends that didn’t get turned off with the reception of the Windows version.
SimCity is a downright beautiful game. Each building is fully detailed at street level, giving every structure in your city a personality of its own, even if it does come under a generic name. This contributes to the feeling that the game is more about creating beautiful cities to your design than just generating a strategy to perfect the mix between revenue and happiness. SimCity manages this without the majority of major graphical glitches evident in the early Windows releases, although, naturally, not all Macs will run the game with the highest graphical settings due to hardware limitations.
Hidden in the settings is the option to add a filter to the presentation of your city, offering gorgeous styles such as swapping all your colours out for just a contrast of orange and black. These add a great way to customise the game to a theme of your liking and something that I think we’d all like to see in more games.
Bugs No More
When SimCity was released back in March, server stability wasn’t the only problem. The game suffered at the hands of major bugs that broke core elements of the game. I played for significant sittings when the game first came out but each of my cities quickly became crippled when demand called for more than one emergency vehicle on the road at a time. This was certainly not the only issue with the game and it eventually caused me to give up on playing.
The Mac version’s delay has made it the product of a number of major improvements, the most recent of which culminating a season of fixes that have solved most of the game’s major problems. SimCity isn’t entirely bug-free, but it’s now more than playable and the general reception has been positive.
SimCity’s new direction might not be for everyone and the longtime fans of the franchise can be forgiven in their upset over the change of pace. However, the game stands on its own as a both beautiful and fun, with the Mac version releasing with the added benefit of over five months additional QA time than the Windows launch enjoyed. You will still need a persistent internet connection, though, so be warned!
If you already have a copy of the Windows version of SimCity tied to your EA/Origin account, the Mac version will be available free of charge. If not, take note of heavy discounts of the retail release in stores as the serial code can be used to unlock the digital-only Mac version on Origin too.