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Updated: April 24, 2013 19:10 IST

Brilliant when it works

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SimCity is unbelievably addictive, but you are at the mercy of the game’s servers

It gives me great pleasure to assure everyone that SimCity, in fact, has been rebooted with great success. Let’s ignore the elephant in the room for one second here and congratulate the team that developed this magnificent city-building simulator — if one were to measure addiction potential, quirky aesthetic appeal and the game’s astounding level of detail on any kind of scale, EA and Maxis’ latest instalment in the series would score perfect marks, and then some. The social features and pseudo-multiplayer (when working like they’re meant to) really make you feel like you’re a part of your own little world full of other cities and people who (are forced to) care about their neighbours. Everything is just groovy when SimCity’s servers allow you to enjoy the little worlds you’ve created. But that’s not very often.

Remember that kid in your class with the really cruel parent? Not the kind who wouldn’t let their kid have any fun at all, but the one that would buy him or her, say, a cool bicycle and then take it away during exams? Now imagine SimCity’s servers are that cruel parent and you’re the kid — the only difference is that you’ve got exams every two hours. Since literally everything is “stored in the cloud”, not only will you require an awesome Internet connection to connect to the game’s servers and download frequent, large updates, you’ll also literally need to be connected to the Internet at all times to play, enjoy, share, save, and eventually, load your game of SimCity. The sad part is that playing and enjoying SimCity are so ridiculously effortless, but made atrociously difficult by the (let’s not lie about it) copy protection. There’s nothing worse than not being able to play SimCity when you want to — not even seeing ten hours of hard work amount to literally nothing on reload.

The DRM-bashing hasn’t ended, I assure you, but let’s briefly explore the various things that make SimCity as addictive as it is. A deceptively simple, logical user interface lets you tweak every aspect of your city — the economy, plumbing, sewage, electricity, zoning, law and order, healthcare, and pretty much everything else associated with city management. “Logical” is the key word here — want to know why your middle-income citizens are unhappy? You’ll know in a couple of clicks. Are your factory owners dissatisfied? The interface guarantees you’ll know what kind of manpower they’re looking for. It’s largely the same SimCity you played in your younger days, but the intuitiveness of the UI cannot be overstated — it’s very 2013 despite seeming overwhelming at first. The game’s new social functions and “forced” multiplayer do add some value to the experience as well. SimCity allows you to share resources such as power, water, police vehicles and fire engines, or volunteer garbage and sewage disposal services to surrounding cities if you have additional capacity.

All of this is easily done in a click or two — it’s not live and immediate, but it’s a neat little addition that will see you through a period when you’re low on Simoleons (that’s the currency in case you’re wondering). Add some cool new on-demand disasters like zombie apocalypses and meteor showers, and you’re left with one of the best SimCity games to date in theory.

But the servers don’t always work. Your cities don’t always load, and when they do, they’re not always in the same state you left them in, causing you to lose several hours of play. The area-per-city that you’re allowed to play with is small as well — but this incentivises the player to develop more cities in a given location, arguably, as well as “ease” the load on SimCity’s servers. The bottom line, however, is that the overall experience is only adversely affected by the always-on requirement, which, let’s not kid ourselves, exists only to prevent piracy. But by the look of things, like Diablo III, it worked in curbing piracy, with SimCity selling over a million copies within two weeks of release. SimCity is available on PC and Mac.

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