The launch of EA’s SimCity Buildit is here, and with it comes a delightful adventure. SimCity Buildit, a city building simulation at heart, certainly fits the innovative bill with down and dirty gameplay and attitude enough to fill a spare. When lined up against some of the admittedly more complex launch titles, this game doesn’t have quite the same visual panache — but the devil’s in the details, and the finest aspects of this game reveal themselves after considerable in-depth play.
SimCity Buildit is as straightforward as many as SimCity classic — and we don’t mean this as a criticism. As the newest member of a pack of city builders, the player’s mission is to create the best city possible — usually involving a lot of work and a solid strategy. In addition to the game’s mission mode, there’s a multiplayer mode (which allows for tailor-made one-game match-ups). Unlike those in so many other similar games, the mode here is a useful tool for gaining familiarity with the layout, as well as a pleasant way to create without time limit or interference.
Set in a beautiful terrain, the game takes place in three entirely realized worlds, each spanning over 25 square miles. And when we say spanning, we really mean it — it’s a little difficult to convey other than to say that these levels are enormous. Given enough perseverance and successful elusion, any point visible can be driven to, and this is no gimmick. Later levels are increasingly difficult, and successfully completing these simulation really does rely on a sense of familiarity with the lay of the land. Visually, the game is a mixed bag — draw-in, textures and smoke and animation effects are excellent, if a little unspectacular. No one thing in particular is lacking or flawed, but the emphasis on real-world action lacks the dazzle of other, less earth-bound titles.
While a fine coat of detail has been applied to the game’s sprawling environments, equal attention has been lavished on the physics engine under the hood. Different surfaces affect weather, while less-than-cautious gaming leads to the loss of less-than-essential elements. Better yet, skilled mayor can deftly level off their overall strategy. We’ve seen this sort of attentive balance between real-world physics and exhilarating arcade fun before, but that was in less flamboyant gamers. Still, for as detailed and intricate as the physics may be, everything about this game is refreshingly simple — a rarity in these highly complicated next-generation times.
Even the controls are a refreshing throwback to simpler times. This simplified control scheme lends itself well to third-party controllers. Which is not to say that this is an easy game. Time and mission limits are finely tuned to make for a progressively challenging career.
SimCity Buildit is just the sort of innovative title that every launch needs. We hadn’t played anything like it before, but it will be instantly comfortable to budding cons of all ages and skill levels. While it won’t blow anyone’s eyebrows clean off, dedicated gamers will find that developer Maxis has really made the most of the mobile graphics engine in creating such thorough playfields. Entry-level gamers will be impressed with the easy learning curve and intuitive gameplay, while the hardcore among us will appreciate the innumerable thoughtful details and nuances that help bring the wild and rugged world of Simcity Buildit.