by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Back to the future
It has been awhile since I’ve played a full blown city-building game, the last being Sim City 2000. Sure, I’ve played games that require certain design functions similar to those of city builders. Games such as Roller Coaster Tycoon, that need you to place objects in the mini-city known as a fun park. But of course, these games are a bit more basic compared to the Maxis classic city simulation. So, when a copy of Cities XL landed on my desk, I had a small amount of apprehension as to how I would go about playing and reviewing the game. But, I did want to see how city builders had changed since my city building hiatus.
I need not have been worried, because although there are a heap of nice new functions, the core gameplay basically has not changed. Having not played a city builder since Sim City all those years ago, I did think it wise to go through the tutorial. The tutorial itself does a decent job of explaining how to lay down roads, build houses, factories and offices and in general, showing how each of the functions of the game work. The bi-play between the tutorial’s two advisors is quite dreary but it gets the job done in the end.
Welcome to Utopia
After completing the tutorial, I wanted to get straight to business of creating my own little metropolis. And the first thing I wanted to try out was the curvable roads. The curvy roads are certainly fun to create and add some flair to the city design, with the option to build cul-de-sacs or winding motorways. But I eventually realized that, in order to make everything run smoothly and fit better, the tried and true rectangular block city works best. Another thing that I noticed straight away was that there was no need to create power lines and waterways as was the case with Sim City. This certainly gives the game a more simplistic feel than the old city builder.
As with most city building games, it does take time to grow your city from a one-horse town to a thriving metropolis. Cities XL does make it a little bit interesting by unlocking new building types, new industries, more leisure activities and more civil utilities as your population grows, so you’re always striving to get your population to the next achievement level. Once your city population gets quite large, though, the game can be as interesting as watching grass grow as you wait for that next new building to be unlocked.
Just like Google Earth
But having said that, Cities XL has included a Google Earth-type function to zoom in to your city and view it from the street view. Watching you town’s inhabitants walk along the streets as they go about their business is quite a nice touch. Just prior to writing, a Christmas pack even became available, allowing city designers to add a touch of Christmas to their streets. It is definitely nice at this time of year to see the residents' houses decorated with Christmas lights, the streets filled with decorations and trees covered in tinsel. I’m sure I also saw Santa walking down the road (albeit without a sleigh or a sack full of goodies).
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.