SimCity‘s post-release coverage, including our own, rivals that of twenty-four hour news networks after a national tragedy. At first we shout about it at the top of our lungs, then we banter about it for days and weeks until eventually we just sorta deal with the fact that this terrible thing happened. I was reminded of this today when Polygon slipped out their fourth score for the game at a time that could not have been more arbitrary, right as a big patch to (supposedly) fix many of issues with the simulation. Games releasing in a terrible shape is nothing new, but when all the patches are issues and DLC released, will SimCity ever be a game we can tell our friends to go out and buy?
As it stands today? Probably not. The game’s crimes are two-fold:
Those Damn Servers. While largely mitigated now, they made the game virtually unplayable for nearly a week. This is where the fuel of our fire for the fire came from. It formed the pickets and the large sheets of foamcore that made up our signs of protest. Professional reviews made before or on release day seem relatively glowing compared to the ones that would follow as millions of players would struggle to play the game at all. These issues, for the most part, have been resolved and players are now able to boot into a game, which is a problem all its own.
That Damn Game. As many other reviews have noted, SimCity rides heavily on the massive simulation that makes the game so special in the series. (Unfortunately, I was surprised to learn it was a lot more smoke and mirrors than I was lead to believe.) I wasn’t sure why my city magically became unsuccessful and financially unstable as I reached an endgame, but it would turn out that because of a variety of bugs and the game’s dreadful AI, SimCity becomes a shambling mess despite whatever epic plans you had in mind to make it successful. Whether it’s traffic that won’t seek an easier route, clogging the heart of your city, an industrial section that won’t ship goods, then complains about being unable to ship goods, or a list of other inconsistencies, it’s obvious that the game needed an extra four to six months to even be fun. Then there’s the always-online component, which doesn’t bother me so much as the mandatory multi-city play makes multiplayer useless when players abandon their cities, demonstrated very easily by friends who have simply gotten over the game and its endless issues.
In defense of Polygon, I really have no issue with changing review scores. We have no official policy on doing so here at FleshEatingZipper, but I’ve given Hotline Miami props when they fixed their Steam release and I bumped up SimCity‘s score when the server issues resolved themselves. A seven is the best that this game can earn at this point because I’m honestly tapped out on keeping track of when the game will be fun.
If Maxis manages to fix the game and then some, are we so scarred at this point that we could never recommend it? I wager it’s possible, but unlike a full platform like the Xbox 360, a console that had the absolute worst word-of-mouth as the ‘three red light’ mess hit a stride and had multiple venues (good games, good online service, etc.) to recuperate their rep, SimCity is merely a cog in EA’s overall sad story.