Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cities XL 2012 Review in Brief

I was gonna do the weather guy sketch from Family Guy and just say:

It's Good!
and move on but I suppose a bit more of an actual review is necessary!

Your starting map...one of scores available

I started my city/empire building games at the very beginning: Sim City. That first Sim City was an addicting masterpiece. I remember the 'computer room' was a closet in a two-bedroom flat I shared with my friend. It was so small we had to sit in it one at a time. I'd load up my city, make sure everything was running smoothly, and then we'd take off to the pub for a few drinks while the money in my city's coffers grew.....mwuahhhhaahhaaa.

Over the years I have re-visited this genre in the form of Sim City 3000 (the underground water works ruined it for me), Ceasar III, Tropico III (I love the III's), and now Cities XL 2012. If you've played any city building games in the past you will be on familiar ground with Cities XL- and that's a good thing. It is the classic formula of design and balance. You build houses for the people, buildings for them to work in, leisure for them to play, police/fire to protect, schools to educate, offices/factories to work in......... well, you  get the idea.

There is a lot of customization available in the game with 'packs' that includes mountain buildings, beach buildings, American buildings, and European -style buildings. I am assuming the designers are planning on adding more in the form of downloadable content, but I have no idea. It would be cool, though, and if implemented I'll take a 3% cut on profits for the suggestion, thank you very much. You can see in the picture below that I have created a very inefficient and congestion-building medieval village in the midst of my modern city on the edge of my farmland (agricultural industry).

Loving the Medieval Buildings
 The game is easy to pick up and extremely hard to put down. I have always found these games to be quite addicting (well, the good ones anyway) and Cities XL does not disappoint. It is graphically pleasing with the ability to zoom down to street level to see what your minions, er citizens are doing in the city you have built for them. There are also several views and zoom levels available for general top-down play. Placing zones (residential, industrial, commercial) is easy and cusomizable (square, single, free-mode, or linear zones). Many road options exist including roundabouts, free-ways, one-ways, overpasses, etc and you can (and should) build bus/metro/trams and plot the actual routes (easier than it sounds).

Postcard View

There is a progression element to the game as you need a certain population in the city to unlock new buildings, roads, services and neighborhood types. Flashy 'achievements' pop up when you reach these milestones and handy map filters allow you to check on everything from vacant jobs to traffic congestion.

One feature I've not encountered before, and quite like, is the fact that you city is on an earth-like planet with all the others cites that you choose to build. Gone is the old 'build this city then move on' concept that I'm used to. Each city can trade with others so if you have an oil-rich city you can trade that black gold away for food, vacations, or waste-removal. As I am only on my second, very small city (less than 50k populations in both) I haven't fully explored this. Until you build your own trading partners you can trade with the AI Omni-Corp for cash and resources. My current city is raking it in from oil revenues.

I'm not very far into the game but I am really liking what I see so far, and I find it extremely hard to stop playing once I load it up. The only drawback, thus far, is it seems to be a bit of a CPU resource hog. I am finding the delays between clicks (to change from certain views or to select construction tools) unacceptably long in some cases and it appears to get worse as the city grows (and more CPU resources are used I assume). I know I read a review somewhere (sorry I can't remember where) that pointed out this problem and stated the game was not optimized for newer quad core machines. If at 50k it's a few seconds of lag I'm wondering how things will run when I get cities of 1 million.

I'll be posting on this again as I progress but so far I say it's definitely worth a play.


  1. Hmm, well, SC4 had the option of establishing trade agreements (trading money for trash that is) with any neighboring city you'd built. I'm not sure if the other town would actually have to deal with the ups and downsides of these agreements however, nor was I ever very interested in finding out.

    Thanks for letting me know this exists.