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SimCity: Limited Edition

Score: 78%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Maxis
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 ( 1 - 16 Online)
Genre: Simulation/ Strategy/ God Games

Graphics & Sound:

SimCity is back! It feels like forever has come and gone since SimCity 4 spun across my hard disk, so SimCity: Limited Edition is a very welcome addition to the family. That saidÖ letís talk about graphics.

On my test machine, the default graphic settings that were given ran perfect with no noticeable slowdown whatsoever. As I increased all of the settings and unleashed a much better graphical experience, however, I did see some slight slowdown during movement of the screen, but it was easily remedied by dropping the lighting and shadow qualities a bit. The main noticeable issue was that the mouse was slightly less responsive when clicking objects.

The main reason I bring this up immediately is that I really wasnít all that impressed with some of the graphics of SimCity: Limited Edition upon first launch. The developers have gone to lengths to allow the game to run on as many machines as possible, so at first launch, the graphics were pretty basic and underwhelming. However, once I tweaked with some settings a bit, the game ended up looking beautiful. Everything from the construction of new buildings to the thousands of vehicles that lined the roadways looked marvelous.

Itís not to say that SimCity: Limited Edition isnít without its problems, however. Due to the new spline creation system (see Gameplay below), there are some issues of overlap and interpenetration that present themselves, but they are more than forgivable in the grand scheme of things.

The audio does a fine job as well. The music is once again soothing and after a while, you probably wonít even realize itís onÖ which is definitely a good thing. One thing I love about the SimCity universe is that as you zoom in closer, you gain a more personalized audio vantage point of the action at street level. It should be noted that when I noticed a bit of slowdown in the framerate graphically, I also had a bit of static audible while zoomed into street level.


Gameplay:

With each new release of one of my favorite franchises of all time comes graphical improvements, gameplay enhancements, and more love for the devoted fans. SimCity: Limited Edition is no stranger to innovation. There are a few big things to mention about this latest metropolis.

First and foremost, SimCity: Limited Edition now requires an Internet connection and the running of Origin, EAís online service. While completely free to use, I must say I have mixed feelings about this. First, it is a bit annoying to be forced to be online to play because now the game isnít quite as potable as its predecessors. Also, there were a few times when connecting to Origin became a problem, making it impossible to launch the game. On the plus side, being online allows you to now jump into a region with other fans and friends. Also, because the game syncs with the server at launch and shutdown, presumably the save file is not local, meaning you can resume building up your cities from anywhere you can log in and install the game. (Iíll test this soon and post the results after I reformat my computer and reinstall SimCity.)

The second major improvement to gameplay comes in the form of the building up of the city itself, including the designs that you want to undertake. Virtually anything is possible now when constructing the transit architecture of your city because SimCity: Limited Edition allows for spline-based construction of roads and rails. What this means in lay terms is that you can literally "draw" a road with your mouse. The beauty is that streets and tracks are no longer constrained to a grid-based system, so connection points can be at angles, as well as allow connections between high-traffic thoroughfares and low density streets with ease. Because of this, you can design the way you wantÖ use the guide lines provided to help build out a more efficient layout, or let your inner artist flow with curves, roundabouts, and "Y" intersections for more visual appeal.

In a similar manner, the design of specialized buildings takes on an upgrade-type system where you can build the base, then add on components as your city grows. For example, a police or fire station would start as a basic building, but you can add more patrol cars or fire trucks to the fleet as you grow. They will need to be placed at certain "plop points" nearby, which works out to be a very handy system for placing things. Youíll also now be able to mine, drill, and produce technology in your cities and increase their production (within limits) by adding on as needed. The same goes for parks, airports, schools, mayor houses, and other special buildings. If you need more space to house students or prisoners, that is an additional expense, but offers a nice way to balance the gameplay without getting too complicated or technical for newcomers.

With that said, hardcore fans that have always loved to get into the deep details of running a city may actually be a bit more disappointed with SimCity: Limited Edition. The tradeoff for the new system keeps the complication level down by really giving slightly less uber-control. While at first I have to admit that I felt the game was too simplified, I still find the game very enjoyable in a new way and the pluses far outweigh the minuses.

One other point of mentioning brings us back full circle with the online play and being able to invite friends to join your region. The nature of this is a great concept in that you can actually get in and trade resources and exchange services to help your individual cities, as well as the region as a whole. You can also work together to build what the game calls "Great Works" areas, which can expand the regionís overall benefit as a whole by bringing in more people. The unfortunate side effect of this new multi-city region play (which you can be the mayor of all cities if you choose to play solo) is that each city truly has a restricted land area for expansion. As such, SimCity: Limited Edition feels exactly thatÖ limited. The only choice is to build up, not out, and to get the cities to work together to grow the region. Hopefully future versions will allow purchasing additional land to expand into the wasted space that currently exists around untouchable interconnecting freeways.


Difficulty:

As mentioned above in the gameplay description, the difficulty of SimCity: Limited Edition doesnít feel as technical as its predecessors. For this reason, this new addition feels a bit easy on the surface. In fact, with a few basic, common-sense moves as mayor, you can easily build your starting town into a city of 100,000 Sims with relatively little challenge. I suppose one should consider this a benefit to the community as a whole, because it truly does mean that anyone can pick up and play without much of a problem, getting their feet wet as they go.

It really isnít until reaching the threshold where you canít exactly expand your city to any more land area that the challenge comes into play. As you build, youíll want to keep future progress and additions in mind because what looks like wasted space between barren roads in the beginning will allow for larger developments to move in, in the future. However, like everything, there is a balance due to the fact that you want enough zoned areas to initially grow your population too.

When all is said and done, however, the technical nature of the game has been diverted into the add-on/upgrade system instead of managing every dollar spent. The inclusion of water, electrical, and sewage being automatically "built into" the road system also lessens the burden on the budding mayor, but that is just one more element of past game mechanics that has shifted to a more simplified system, for better or worse.


Game Mechanics:

As mentioned, the default settings out of the box ran perfectly on my machine. Upping the specs a bit in the settings visually helped the game noticeably, and due to the more passive nature of a game like SimCity: Limited Edition, I wasnít bothered much by a bit of the slowdown.

The controls of the game are spot-on, combining legacy screen-based movement with left-, middle-, and right-mouse clicking as secondary move and rotate controls that come quite naturally. Interactions are all left-click based, and the icons and symbols generally are relatively self-explanatory, so anyone should be able to easily pick up and play this fun title.

A few connection issues did happen with EAís online Origin platform, which unfortunately means that you canít play at that time. However, I was pleasantly surprised that because the game does communicate with the server, even after my battery ran out on the laptop, the game re-synced (from what I could tell) upon re-launching Origin and the game, allowing me to begin exactly where I left off. So while Iím sure many complaints will happen, there are some benefits to being forced to go online as well.

All in all, the new system that SimCity: Limited Edition uses with the spline-based creation and pre-connected land areas for building cities within regions works fairly well. There were some graphical anomalies and interpenetrating objects, but for all of the positives of the game and gameplay, those things can easily be overlooked. Fans of the series may have mixed reactions to some of the simplified features, but at the end of the day, there is no reason not to spend countless hours becoming the best mayor that money can buy.


-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP, Vista, 7, or 8; AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core 4000+ or better or Intel Core 2 Duo Processor 2.0GHz or better; at least 2GB RAM; DVD Drive; at least 10GB of free Hard Drive space; ATI Radeon HD 2400 or better, NVIDIA 7800 or better, Intel HD Graphics or Better, with a minimum of 256MB of on-board RAM and Shader 3.0 or better support; Minimum 256 kbps download, 64 kbps upload Internet Connection
 

Test System:



Mac Book Pro with the following installed as a dual-boot:
Windows 7 64-bit (NOTE: SimCity: Limited Edition installs only in 32-bit mode) with Service Pack 1 installed; Intel Core i7-3720QM CPU @ 2.60GHz 2.60 GHz; 8GB RAM; NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M

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