Although I grew
up with Sim City and various Empire Building games, I had big
expectations for Cities XL and I honestly tried to like the
game. Unfortunately from the get go, I was riddled with a rough
gaming experience and whether it was Monte Cristo's attempt to
create something bigger and better than its predecessors,
something was severely missing.
At it's core, the game is a city builder
that allows the player to micromanage their city, whether it's a
realistic endeavor or something more akin to fantasy, the player
is only limited by their imagination. The game can be
played in single-player, however Monte Cristo have created an online
virtual globe which allows players to join their cities with
others which sounds brilliant on paper. More about this later
The first hurdle I encountered was the installation process
which did not allow me to install the program in the background.
Once I figured out that switching between windows was bad, I let
the installer do its job and when I came back, the installation
was almost completed.
Before you can play the game, you need to
register the game and create an online account. Although a
relatively easy process, it did not let me play until I
downloaded several large patches. Once the patches were
downloaded and installed, I was finally able to enter the game.
Although the box states that online activation is required,
games should work straight away without installing a patch of
100 meg or more.
Once I was in the game, I had to create my avatar which will
also be the Mayor of your city and boy are there some ugly
looking people in this game. Although the customisation options
are quite in-depth, creating your perfect avatar is a
frustrating and time consuming process and in the end, I finally
picked a random avatar who looked like something out of a horror
Funny enough, the random avatar before mine actually
looked like Michael Jackson which is spooky enough. Avatar
created? check! The next option was to engage in the lengthy
tutorial process which teaches you more than just the basics of
good city management.
Cities XL uses the traditional Sim City archetype created by
Maxis those so many years ago, however if you're familiar
with City Life, than jumping straight into this game should be
no issue at all.
The amount of control over your cities easily
surpasses anything out there at the moment as you need to
create, roads, industry, buildings, hospitals, entertainment and
just about everything and anything to do with a city has. You also
need to ensure that your cities have adequate resources such as
power plants and police stations plus other amenities.
plays a key part to city development and you really need to
think about your layouts to not only ensure a happy and healthy
city but ensure that transport does not become an issue. Another
key concept of the game is the different "casts" of citizens
that your city has from unqualified workers to executive worker
that must be taking into consideration when planning and
expanding your cities.
Economy and money
also plays a strong role in
Cities XL and you need to watch your economy carefully to ensure
that profit and citizen satisfaction goes hand in hand. Your
citizens will make requests of the Mayor which need to be
managed before something breaks out.
The single-player mode contains a plethora of cities that you
must create and are located in five different regions, each
with their pros and cons such as cities by rivers or cities
surrounded by woodland. As you do progress, you will soon
discover that everything is available to the player from the get
go and your
dream cities are only limited by your imagination.
For fans of
this genre, watching your cities grow and expand however is more
than enough reward and this is easily the most realistic city
building game to date. However unfortunately this becomes a
little lacklustre as you progress because once you have
successfully established your dream city, there's really not
much more to do.
What Monte Cristo are using for hook, line and sinker is the
multiplayer mode, more specifically MMO that allows gamers to
create their own cities via the Planet mode. The game does come
with a 7-day free subscription and if you're keen, you can pay a
monthly subscription where you can build up to five cities on
this online planet.
Where the online mode fails is the lack of
interactivity or communication between your cities and your
neighbours. Although the cool aspect of Cities XL online is the
ability to trade resources and if you manage to find a boom of
resources, your city might be quite a rich place. If the cities
had more connectivity between them, this would have been a
blast, however everyone is neatly divided by invisible borders.
Graphically, the game is quite detailed and features some
interesting effects such as water and lighting, however even at
the highest resolution, the cities look too perfect. The game
makes good use of lighting, especially as it moves from day to
night. At times your city is seems to be busy with people,
vehicles and you can even explore the world with your creepy
It's almost like a Twilight Zone episode as everything
is a little too perfect and you're waiting for those zombies or
aliens to strike. The soundtrack of the game is also reminiscent
of Maxis games and just quietly plays in the background and with
the perfect city, the city is also ghostly silent. I still can't
get over those creepy looking avatars or Cities XL people out of my
head, wow... scary!
Kudos for Monte Cristo for aiming high, however unfortunately
they missed that elusive mark with their latest city building
game. It does feature some cool micromanagement and even some
online features, however it feels like this game should
have been something more. The replay value is also limiting when
you've created your dream city and the online mode is lacking
that true connectedness between players. With that said, it
doesn't really offer the city building genre anything new
besides creepy looking avatars, ghost towns and a really
frustrating installation process that requires online