SimCity: Cities of Tomorrow Review: Can the future mend the past?
As a child, I loved visiting Disney World and looking up at all the marvels of Tomorrowland. In my childhood youthfulness, I would ignorantly ponder how long it would it be until architecture and life would be like that in this section of the amusement park. Then I would eat ice-cream and forget about all that deep stuff. My point, if there was one, was that while our current society may not be at the Tomorrowland level yet, SimCity has taken us there and beyond with their newest expansion Cities of Tomorrow. So in a way, my inner child is getting that shot at the architecture that he always dreamt about.
In this new SimCity expansion, we’re handed a slew of tools to make our cities stand out, be more spatially efficient, become more green, have more robots, and well, be more futuristic. While the future tech comes at a financial cost, you can’t make a superfast monorail line without breaking a few eggs. These new options both figuratively and literally take you to the next level in your city design.
You can’t have a city of tomorrow without some eggheads calling the shots in your city. When your city’s greatest minds come together, s#$% gets done. Once your city shows advancement promise and you have an educated populace, you can build the academy. I think of this structure as a green university for environmentalists. Only the most powerful, safe, and environmentally savvy technologies are discovered here. Wind turbine/solar panel upgrades, hydro-wave power, and fusion power are all just examples of what the academy can do for you.
Omega Co is a massive corporation that wants to improve the lives of all your populace through robots, steel, and ingenuity. These robots can fight crime, take care of fires, make your city cleaner – you know, make your people generally happy. Of course, this all comes at a cost. These bots will devour resources, pollute, and well, you know, make a risk of having a *cough* giant robot attack. I don’t know what sort of sci-fi movies you watch, but killer death robots are bad.
For all of you SimCity players that like to complain about plots being too small, I feel like that has been somewhat addressed in this expansion. No, the plots didn’t get larger. Instead of building out, you now have the option to build up. MegaTowers are exactly what they sound like, giant all purpose, and in many cases self-sufficient, skyscrapers. You build these bad boys in segments. With these, you can build low, med, high wealth apartments, malls, and work offices. If that’s not enough, you can build park, education, and power layers. The very tops of these towers, known as crowns, give a special bonus that travels across all regions. I am a huge fan of these MegaTowers; I love how they look, what they do for your skyline, and how efficient they are for your city. At $120,000 for the cheapest base, it takes some time to get one down. They look like something out Shadowrun or Total Recall.
While those are the major three features, there are a lot of other changes going on in your city as time progresses. You’ll notice a very slow transformation of high tech buildings and vehicles start appearing. As you research and place down monorail tracks and witness bots whizzing past the skyline, you’ll come to the conclusion that this isn’t the exact SimCity you’re used to.
However, there are inescapable reminders still present in some of the gameplay and mechanics. With the rail lines, I had all sorts of issues. It’s incredibly neat that you can raise and lower them to fit the needs of your city’s layout… but they often wouldn’t connect correctly when they showed that they would. So while the game told me they were connected, I could clearly see the rails were an actual death trap and no transportation occurred on them. Removing the rails was difficult as well. Since they are always on top of other structures, one wrong click and you bulldoze a potentially important structure – whoops. The Simpsons would be proud.
In a nut shell, I dig Cities of Tomorrow more than vanilla SimCity. While the game has been massively patched to fix many of the release issues, the game is still not without its frustrations. The new expansion tackles some of these problems by giving players more options, and even provides game fixes. Still, my personal traffic problems will always be inescapable. As with vanilla SimCity, I still strongly suggest you play with other people. The game really wasn’t designed to be a single player experience. Plus it’s always better with friends – always.
Historian, teacher, writer, gamer, cheat master, and tech guru: follow on Twitter @AndrewC_GZ