Cities XL (PC)

By Steven Marsh

Published on Saturday, October 24, 2009

Graphics: 6.50
Sound: 6.50
Gameplay: 7.00
Replays: 9.00
Gamelength: 9.00

“Cities XL” could have been the “SimCity” killer, but a few major shortcomings make this game one of the most disappointing city builders out there.

If you take the idea “SimCity” and throw in a potentially awesome massively multiplayer component, you’re not far off from Monte Cristo Multimedia’s latest, and very ambitious project. with a promised set of features set to rival those of “SimCity”, as well as plenty of new promised features, this has been one of the most hyped city building games of all-time. I myself was excited to install the game and build my life away for a while, but not everything works out as intended. For several important reasons, this is a very flawed game that’s best left untouched for the time being. To find out exactly what went wrong, read on for my review of “Cities XL” for the PC.

At the very least, the visual quality is far from terrible, although admittedly, it could have been a lot better. In this day and age, I expected much more realism. The graphics cannot be tweaked very much and even with the settings jacked all the way up, nothing looks very wonderful. Many textures seem blurry unless the camera is moved up close, but to be fair, when the camera is at the “sweet spot”, the sprawling city landscapes look pretty damn good.

There’s not a whole lot of sound that hasn’t been used in the past. Everything here sounds very basic, with bustling sounds of city life all over the place. When the cities are large enough, the sound quality does seem to stand out a bit more, what with tons of random things going on all over the place. Aside from that, though, there’s not much else to talk about in relation to the overall sound quality.

Obviously, the big draws of “Cities XL” are the overall city building gameplay and the all new MMO component. The city building itself is very basic, with no real additions that haven’t been seen in any other games of the genre, but a few things annoyed me. For starters, while the user interface is very easy to work with and the tutorials are very extensive, it seems to be an extreme pain in the rear to build a nice city. This is due to the odd city and road structure, which is very clunky and seems to be an afterthought. Rather than allowing players to simply click and drag anywhere they want, the game is very picky about where roads can go and how things must be shaped. Also, although this is more of a personal nuisance and may not bother some people, buildings must be connected directly to a road. This means that there can not be any huge blocks of buildings in any single spot. Everything has to be touching a road and that’s just how it has to be. Otherwise, the process of building things and managing a city is generally very simple. Even compared to other games of the genre, there’s not much difficulty to be seen. In fact, there never seems to be a serious goal or objective aside from keeping your citizens happy and raising money to make the city even better. I suppose it’s safe to say that some of the city maps are a bit small, but that’s not a huge problem. If you’re into that sorta’ thing, there’s not really anything wrong with this game once you’ve taken the time to get used to the odd road and city building restrictions. The disappointment really starts to settle in when the MMO component of the game is launched, which is questionable at best. The only real things there are to do involve viewing other cities and trading blueprints at this point in time, with very minimal interaction, despite the potential massive scale of the “Cities XL” universe. That wouldn’t be as bad, but there’s a monthly fee in place that’s comparable to a low-end full-blown MMORPG, such as the original “EverQuest” or Sega’s “Phantasy Star Universe”. The pricing model is absurd, to say the least. If the pricing model was heavily altered and a good bit more interaction was patched into the game client, maybe the online component would be worth some play, but until then, it just isn’t worth the time, money or effort. At the end of the day, “Cities XL” is a game for casual fans of the city building genre who don’t mind a solid, although mildly flawed single player experience. Just don’t buy into the ridiculous online component.

Overall, Monte Cristo Multimedia did a fair job with the overall game design, but the MMO portion has a lot of untapped potential. Maybe in a year or so, if the online component is heavily expanded, it could be something magical.

Pros:
-Solid single player experience.
-Potentially endless city building gameplay.
-Simple enough to stink in new gamers.

Cons:
-Horribly executed multiplayer component.
-The fact that any monthly fees exist to play the game online is extremely screwy.
-Visual quality could be greatly upgraded to take full advantage of modern hardware.
-Roads can be annoying to build, especially during the learning portion of the game.
-Everything must be directly touching a road of some sort.

Bottom Line:
If you want to play a fresh single player city building game, this is definitely the way to go. If you were hoping for an awesome MMO experience, simply forget about the game and wait for some massive updates.

Overall Rating: 7.50

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