by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Keeping an eye on everything
In addition to the building part of the game, there are other factors that need to be taken care of. Funding is an important part of the game. You won’t be able to build anything once you run out of money, so it’s a good idea to keep track of how much you are spending compared with how much income (from taxes and trading with other cities) you are making. If you spend too much on services that are not required, you’ll find that it begins hurting your bottom line. This is especially true when there may be something else that the inhabitants require more urgently. If the population starts getting unhappy, they’ll leave, further lowering your income base. Taxes can be raised or lowered to help encourage immigration to your town or increase your coffers.
To help with determining how the population is feeling about the current mayor, the game comes with a multitude of statistics and displays. There is information about everything from the percent of employed inhabitants to the number of citizens happy with the amount of retail outlets. There are also colour coded overlays of your city showing such things as retail coverage, the areas covered by the local fire brigade, bus routes (buses have been included in a patch since release – not sure they weren’t included in the first place, though) as well as the areas of your city that have pollution problems.
Visually, the city design from a bird’s eye view isn’t all that different from Sim City. The housing and other building are pretty standard (well, house design hasn’t really changed much in 10 years). What I was impressed with was the view from the ground (I know this has been done before - in Monte Cristo’s City Life, for instance - but it’s a great concept). Looking at your thriving community go about their lives, although the avatar detail is not the greatest, gives an extra dimension to the game. The buildings from ground level and from a zoomed in top-down view also have their own unique style – not every building is identical. In fact you can clearly see the difference between a middle class home and an upper class home. The interface too, is pleasing to look at. It is tidy, everything is labeled clearly and is easily accessible. For someone who hadn’t played a city builder in years, the interface was quite intuitive.
An attempt at multiplayer
One disappointing feature of the game was the multiplayer aspect. Firstly, to access this part of the game, a monthly subscription must be made. This in itself isn’t that bad, but the main problem I found was the lack of other ‘live’ players. It seemed as though many cities had been built and then simply abandoned. You do get the chance to display your own metropolis or view others players cities. You can also trade goods between cities. It certainly seemed like a good idea on the part of Monte Cristo, but just didn’t work out that way.
Overall I must say that I was impressed with Cities XL. Sure, the city design phase has changed little from my past city building exploits in Sim City. But I certainly like the feature of the unlockable buildings and services as your population grows. This helps to keep the gamer interested until their city has grown large enough to accommodate all the structures and civil services. As mentioned previously, I was also impressed with the street view zoom function. It is wonderful to be able to walk down the streets you have created. The information available in-game on your performance, and the ease of use of the interface make Cities XL suitable for those new to the genre, or those such as myself who have been away from city building sims for an extended period. So, if you excuse me for now, I’m going go back to my city and watch my little inhabitants celebrate the festive season.
The interface is well laid out and very intuitive. The ground view is a great inclusion.
Although it was a nice idea, the multiplayer just doesn’t seem to work all that well.