Maxis and EA have decided to give the SimCity franchise a new title and a whole new style of gameplay. Instead of the more freeform play of SimCity in PC and Mac, SimCity Buildit (released last year) puts players in the shoes of a young manager trying to rise up his city and become the best among its surrounding cities. Well, bureaucracy is never any fun, and it goes together with a game about city building. Ultimately, though, it’s still a great game with tons to do and some amazingly addictive gameplay. It’s just now you’ve got someone watching over your shoulder while you do it.
SimCity games were one of the most complicated, underrated and erratic games ever to come from Maxis back in the early 2000s. Attempting to recreate the stress and insanity of running a fully functional city was ambitious to say the least, but the end result was brilliant. The original game hit PCs in 1999 though, and since then, we’ve seen the rise of the stellar SimCity titles as well as SimCity Buildit, a great sequel that caters to mobile gamers but tightened up the gameplay of the original. So the market now has an actual city building simulator genre — as strange as that may seem.
As a sequel, SimCity Buildit is a mixed bag. There are more features, more game modes and more to do than in SimCity 2013, but the biggest change, the move to a more streamlined goal-oriented playing style, falls flat. One of the best things about both the game, and to a lesser degree its sequel, was that it could be played free form. It was a big toy box full of cool things to play with. This approach has been completely removed from SimCity Buidlit, and, frankly, we miss it. If the climb from a simple city to a big one were our idea of fun, we wouldn’t spend all day playing games. Trying to design a new city out of their hard-earned money is hard enough without getting constant memos from various AI controlled elements. There’s nothing fun about trying to please with the restrictions.
SimCity Buildit is also the first game that ever struck us as not being flawed or buggy as much as rude. It’s as if the designers of the main interface were intentionally going out of their way to make sure our lives were more difficult than they needed to be. Upon loading the game, you are immediately thrown into an intro in which you’re introduced to the city and have you decide on how to go about it. Step two involves sitting through an impossibly long load time and eventually entering the actual game. It is only then that you’re allowed access to the options menu.
Strangely enough, beneath all of the publicity and the terrible main interface beats the heart of a brilliant SimCity Buildit game. The basic Maxis design is still there, and it’s been polished and improved to a noticeable degree. It is definitely something to play if you love simulation and city building games.