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SimCity BuildIt Review
Two Worlds Collide?
SimCity has received a lot of flack in the past few years. 2013's SimCity was plagued with server problems at launch, and Maxis simplified many features in the game. City sizes were smaller, all items had to be connected by a road, and it was impossible for cities to be self-sufficient. This created discomfort among SimCity fans, who were disappointed by the new release.
Mobile games have also gotten a bad reputation. Dungeon Keeper Mobile, another game published by EA, barely functioned as a game. Many actions, such as digging, were put on a timer to facilitate micro-transactions. The game could take 24 hours to dig out a single tile of land. Almost everyone who played the game was shocked by the micro-transactions in the game.
The new SimCity, SimCity BuildIt, is a mobile game. This could either be a mindless, incredibly dull chore, or be an entertaining experience. I decided to play it for a week to try it out. The fact that Maxis has been disbanded should say a lot about this game. My interest in this game waned in less than a day.
After accepting the Terms and Conditions, the game introduced me to Eva, my City Advisor, and I started the tutorial. I learned how to connect roads to highways, build houses and buildings, and that my citizens are afraid of the dark. I think the game had a bug because it kept giving me the same information about residential areas. The game was fairly logical. After I named my city, I was dropped into the regular game. It decided that I needed more residential areas, so I built them. I learned that I needed to be level eight to haul sewage, but that parks could be added to my city in level three. Garbage removal could only be implemented after I reached level fourteen. It seemed a bit disgusting, but I ignored it. Giving a player too much to deal with at once can make them extremely confused.
Putting on Demands
That's when the first problem with the game started to emerge. A little hard hat icon popped up over each of my residential areas to inform me that the buildings in that area needed upgrading. I wouldn't mind these little bubbles were it not for the fact that they all come up at the same time. This was also too much information to handle. I had no idea where to start.
To upgrade residential areas, I needed to create factories and produce goods like logs, metal, or plastic. The goods can be refined into products like nails or measuring tapes. Goods and products upgrade residential areas, which make your citizens happy. Happy citizens will pay more in taxes. Keeping citizens happy is a must so you can improve your city.
There are two types of currency in SimCity BuildIt. Regular currency, called Simoleons, is earned by upgrading buildings and selling items on the in-game Global Market. Premium currency, called SimCash, is earned with a credit card. The game came with fifty SimCash, but since I have a no-spend policy when it comes to premium currency, I never bought more. I waited for the ticking clocks to reach zero. These clocks range from one minute to over an hour depending on what is being created. Paying some SimCash can end the waiting time.
Simoleons are used to buy government buildings ranging from a university to a big ball of twine.
The gameplay is extremely limited. A typical session of SimCity BuildIt gameplay works like so:
Step One: Create Goods in Factories
Step Two: Wait a While
Step Three: Profit
Step Four: Reinvest
There is very little depth or strategy involved in the game. Once the smog-spewing factories are kept away from the high-rise condominiums, there is nothing else to do. You could help your friends on Facebook with their cities if you're not antisocial like me. If the game was to replace factories with crops and residential areas with animal pens, SimCity BuildIt would be so similar to Farmville that Zynga could send EA a cease-and-disist letter.
Earlier, I said the Sims were horribly afraid of the dark. That was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to ridiculous priorities. Homeowners will cheerfully inform you that they love going to the park or that they saw the mayor walking to work. At the same time, their next-door neighbours complain about the fact that fire trucks apparently can't reach them. One non-playable character informed me repeatedly that the Farmer's Market was available as my city struggled to earn enough money for a better sewage treatment plant. Access to fresh fruits and vegetables is nice, but getting waste out of the city is more immediate. This behaviour doesn't even make sense with Sims logic. The Sims react with just as much shock to an overflowing toilet as they do to a house fire.
This game is benign, but ultimately not worth the data it's stored in. Its biggest crime is wasting the player's time and, if they let it, their money. It has no real purpose. Nobody should have this game on their phone. Even people without any way to play SimCity would be better off without this soulless mess of a mobile game.