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Cities XL 2012 Review

Cities XL 2012 Review

 

  It has been a long time since we have had a Simcity game released, in fact Simcity 4 was published back in January of 2003 ( I am not counting Simcity Societies from developer Tilted Mill Entertainment as it was a different beast entirely).

 

  In 2006 French videogame developer Monte Cristo took up the city simulator torch with the release of their game City Life. Like many game companies Monte Cristo wanted to get a piece of the MMO subscription pie and redeveloped City Life into the MMO Cities XL, with disastrous results.

 

French videogame developer Monte Cristo rides off into the sunset

MMO development does not always equal success.

 

  With Monte Cristo closing their doors Focus Home Interactive acquired the license to the Cities XL franchise and released Cities XL 2011 to replace the failed MMO. Going with the Madden route of game development we now have Cities XL 2012.

 

  At its heart Cities XL 2012 is a city simulator, you are the mayor of a new city and you manage various types of zoning to attract new citizens to move to the city including housing, industry, and commerce, while providing city services such as utilities, health care, education, environment, security, and fire and rescue.

 

Cities XL 2012 World

Is this Fractal Mapper 8 or Cities XL 2012?

 

  You select the map that you would like to build your city on from the not quite earth really globe, some of the options do include real world city terrain however for some reason all of the roads that would be found in say New York city are already pre built for you which is kind of strange.

 

Cities XL 2012 Silverwood

City planning is not always the easiest thing to do.

 

  At the beginning of the game you must first lay down a road that connects to the edge of the map, how else are people going to move to your city? Then you have to place the town hall.

 

  I tend to like to place my city hall in the center of the map which was inconvenient as that meant building additional roads that I would have to pay upkeep on very early in my cities development.

 

  The next step is placing a Utility Center that is a combination solar power plant, water tower, fuel storage tank, and trash incinerator. Once you have done the steps above you will unlock the ability to start zoning some low density housing, commerce, and industry for your city.

 

  One of the game's greatest strengths is the 3D engine that was originally developed by Monte Cristo. The game's cities and landscapes look absolutely gorgeous. You can scroll out for a very high aerial shot of your city or scroll into street level view where you can see the citizens of your city walk around.

 

Cities XL 2012 Extreme close up

Cities XL 2012 Extreme close up edition.

 

  The games soundtrack is pretty good too and I never felt the need to shut it off while playing the game.

 

  One of the differences between this game and the Simcity franchise that I liked was not having to place ugly utility poles all over the place to keep my zones powered, no water pipes to worry about either which was a huge plus in my book. Just make sure that each city has enough of the required resources available.

 

winter wonderland cities xl 2012

I am sure those bendy roads will prove to be no problem in icy conditions.

 

  Unfortunately Cities XL 2012 is like dating a really hot girl only to find out that she is not the brightest bulb in the room. The game is filled with game crashing bugs and the auto save feature loves to kick in when you are trying to carefully zone large sections of the city which causes the game to freeze for several seconds.

 

  We tested this game out on a high end game machine with the latest drivers and found that the game poorly utilized the systems power and resources often slowing to a crawl or freezing for several seconds when you try to add things to your city once a few thousand people have moved in.

 

  You have to be very careful when switching between zoning tools as you will have to click down into each submenu or else you will find yourself zoning the area with what you previously had selected wasting tons of hard earned tax dollars.

 

  If you suffer from OCD and love symmetry this game is not for you! It is incredibly difficult to zone long straight areas without using the square zoning tool as the other tools like to drift as you lay them down. Even the map is often slightly cockeyed when you first start out and I found it a real pain to square it up.

 

  Even if you use the square zoning tool you will often find that do to terrain or close by roads that the zones are a bit different in their orientation compared to ones you may have placed only a few minutes ago.

 

  There is no grid option to help with planning out your city and linking up zones to existing roads or even placing new roads to connect with existing roads can be a very frustrating experience.

 

  I love to have farms in my cities but the zoning tool for farming leaves a lot to be desired. First farms can only be zoned in special fertile areas of the map. So take that into account when selecting the map you want to play on. Second the zoning tool lets you lay down points that link together to form the farm zone, however you will find that the zone is often too small or too large for a farm, you have to constantly go back and try to rezone at a different size until you guess the correct dimensions for a farm.

 

  Because of the 3D terrain you have to build tunnels and bridges to link various parts of your city together. The bridge/tunnel tool is extremely difficult to use. On top of that only certain types of roads will connect with certain types of bridges and roundabouts. It becomes a game of experimentation that will often lead to failure.

 

The bridge is a lie!

There will however be cake at the end of testing.

  

  No city can be completely self sufficent in this game, forcing you to create multple little cities in order to advance the main city that you are working on. How many real world city mayors do you know that are elected to be the mayor in multiple cities at the same time? I know that the Simcity franchise also suffered from this problem but it would have been nice to have the option of computer controlled cities available for you to trade with so that you could focus on the main city.

 

  Too many of the zoning tools are locked when you first start out, you will constantly be demolishing and rezoning areas as higher density zones become available not to mention new transportation options such as highways, and rail travel.

 

  Electronic Arts announced at this year's GDC (Game Developers Conference) that a brand new Maxis built Simcity 5 is in the works. If you are looking for a city simulator game I would suggest waiting for that game to release. If you want to fuel your city simulating needs until then I suggest picking up Simcity 4 and heading over to the fantastic modding community over at Simtropolis for a few upgrades that they have made to that game.

 

City by the bay Cities XL 2012

All that pyramid needs is the all Seeing Eye...

 

Final verdict for Cities XL 2012 5/10 As beautiful as the graphics are they cannot hide the underlying problems that hinder the fun factor for this game.

 

~Professor

 

 

 

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