It is said that all great towns start from a dirt road. Cities XL 2011 thrives on the simple mechanic of starting from nothing, and building that up into something. Ditching any form of missions or objectives, you’re simply tasked with creating a town and making sure it thrives.
Laying down the foundation is easy. You start off with limited funds, build connecting roads and low class housing, and wait for money to start rolling in from factory jobs. Unlocking buildings and structures is measured by population. As your neighborhoods grow and more people move in, new buildings become available, including ritzy apartments and houses for executives, leisure establishments like bowling alleys and basketball courts, and more demanding jobs that bring in more money, but in turn require higher class citizens.
Cities uses an achievement system which rewards you for increasing your population and keeping citizens secure with low unemployment rates, police stations, and more. As you level up and unlock these achievements, blueprints for Megastructures become available. These gigantic and visually impressive buildings help your city’s popularity and ensure people flock to your metropolis.
It’s very important to keep a close eye on your virtual ecosystem, since everything is connected. Unskilled workers will happily move elsewhere. Meanwhile, executives can be very picky, and prefer to live near their offices and a wide selection of shops, and as far from the factories as possible. Most shops, however, require unskilled workers, which the executives won’t live near.
The challenge of strategically placing these different establishments makes up for not having any objectives to clear. Menus for economy, satisfaction, population, etc. are highlighted in red, yellow, or green, depending on how well they’re doing, and how they should be improved. It’s a system that is both easy to understand and streamlined enough to ensure that less time is spent in menus, and more time pleasing the populace.
Everything from the structures to the cars lining the streets looks great from an overhead perspective, and it’s best to leave it that way. Up close, the textures are grainy and the stylized, curved buildings become noticeably jagged. Allowing players to explore their cities from street level is an interesting, but feels unnecessary given the view, let alone the lack of activities to pursue..
In many ways, Cities XL 2011 is similar to Civilization V. Although not nearly as grand in scope, there’s a sense of pride after taking a squalid ghetto and nurturing it into a pristine metropolis. While the lack of a game-winning goal or story won’t sit well with some players, it by no means disrupts the addictive nature of Cities XL 2011.