Remember how excited you were for the PC release of the new SimCity? The wonderful promises of an online, interconnected neighborhood in which you and your friends would have to interact and work together for the benefits of society quickly turned into a nightmare. The launch was a complete nightmare marred with connection issues, poor AI, and the inability to even enjoy the game offline.
The good news is, SimCity BuildIt has no upfront cost. The latest entry into EA’s all-new city-building game is completely free to play.
When first booting up the game, I was quite surprised to see just how similar SimCity BuildIt is to the latest PC game. Sure, it may not have the graphical horsepower or technical prowess as the PC counterpart, but for a mobile entry it’s pretty sleek-looking. And it runs quite well on iOS (I played on an iPhone 5C).
The concept of SimCity BuildIt is just like every other entry in the series. You have a plot of land, you section off some zones for residential, commercial, and industrial, and you start to grow. Like SimCity on PC, the limited size plot means you’ll be spending most of your time building vertically and upgrading the zones and roads you initially lay.
The game holds your hands fairly tight during the early portions of the game, introducing you to the various in-depth layers of managing a city in steps. As you expand your city through building, you gain experience which in turn increases your level. At specific levels, new services like water, sewage, fire, police, etc. are introduced. The problem is, these service buildings cost Simoleons and the game does a poor job preparing you for the heavy down payment you’ll need to place one of these structures. Once you unlock a specific service your city immediately demands it and will become unhappy if you don’t deliver it right away. Unfortunately, unless you’ve got a stack of Simoleons saved up or SimCash to buy it with.
Speaking of SimCash, I suppose now is a good time to introduce you to SimCity BuildIt’s microtransaction system. Despite being labeled as “free-to-play,” this is still a game intended to generate revenue. Enter, SimCash, in-game currency that can be used to buy more Simoleons, purchase missing items needed to upgrade buildings, or speed up the construction of things. SimCash can be purchased with real life money via an in-game store, or can be earned through Achievements accomplished in City Hall (at level 5).
But can you actually play SimCity BuildIt without throwing tons of money at the game?
For me so far, yes. Though my progress has slowed tremendously, I’ve yet to spend any real money on the game. If you don’t mind waiting around for things to complete, then you’ll be fine. But what exactly are you waiting for?
As I mentioned, SimCity BuildIt requires you to build residential, commercial, and industrial zones. Unlike the PC games, though, you’ll actually need to interact with your buildings. Constructing and upgrading residential buildings requires building materials. Basic building materials (metal, wood, plastic, seeds, etc.) are built for free in your industrial buildings . Each industrial building as a queue and each material takes time to build. As your city grows, the materials required to upgrade your residential buildings become more complex. You’ll take those initial building materials and combine them into more complex supplies at your commercial buildings. Again, this takes time. These complex materials are also used to upgrade your residential buildings. It becomes less of a city simulation game and more of a time/resource management game. Again, this is fine for someone like me who plays occasionally and doesn’t mind the wait, but players always looking for something to do might get bored.
Most of what you’ll be doing in SimCity BuildIt is queuing materials and supplies and then using them to upgrade your buildings. Eventually, you’ll specialize your city, but these require Golden Keys which are earned by completing Shipments or Disaster Challenges in the later levels.
I’m sure SimCity BuildIt will continue to grow and evolve in the months/years ahead. Right now, it’s a more simplistic version of what we’re used to, which is totally fine. It’s a free-to-play alternative that you can take with you and play on-the-go. I’m okay with that. I love watching my city grow, despite the time it takes. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your city won’t be either. It’ll take time, or a ton of SimCash.