CitiesXL 2012

It’s been over 8 years since SimCity 4 was released by Maxis. Die hard fans will also mention SimCity Societies, which wasn’t created by Maxis but by Tilted Mill Games, released in 2007.  It’s been a while since we have seen something as complex as SimCity, and something as innovative as SimCity Societies released in the genre. I would like to introduce all you city builders out there to CitiesXL 2012, released by Focus Home Interactive. It was released as an Expansion to CitiesXL 2011, but for those of us that don’t have that, it was also released as a stand alone game.

How does this city simulator stand up against the behemoth that is SimCity? You know how to find out by now.

Among the hardcore city building sim players SimCity is held upon high as being the ultimate in the genre. Even though most called it one of the best games out there Will Wright, creator of the franchise, said that it had gotten a little too complex, which lead to Tilted Mill’s SimCity Societies. But what does this have to do with CitiesXL 2012? Quite a bit actually.

Originally, when CitiesXL was released it was supposed to be more of an MMO style game in which you set up your city on a planet, with other players setting up cities on the planet as well. You could then travel to other people’s cities to get a look at what they are doing, to bring back ideas to your own city. You can also negotiate different trade deals, for more than just electricity, water, or waste, like you could in SimCity. The only issue was the game was shut down shortly after it’s release, due to lack of subscriptions.

Need a coffee?

It was later bought out by Focus Home, who took the concept of the MMO and paired it all down into a beautiful single player format. CitiesXL 2012 takes things a step further by giving it’s fan base the ability to openly modify the game, and by helping those new to the series with a starting tutorial that allows them to get a feel for the intricacies of the game.

The interface and gameplay are a simpler form of what you would find in SimCity, except nothing is lost from the depth of the game. In fact, I dare say it, there is more depth in this game than in any SimCity game I have ever played. You aren’t just given a simple plot of land and told to build a city.  You are given a plot of land and you are told to sculpt out the best city that would fit the land you have, be it some place on the coast or mountain town looking to capitalize on tourism, or a land that is in the middle of a fertile plain, begging for man to till and grow food.

Yes, I am saying that you can actually have a city specialize in one specific thing, and you can build other cities around it to help that city survive. The farming city can trade the food it produces to other cities, in return getting some other resource it needs.  Each city will have it’s own set of resources from farming, to oil fields, all of which can be traded between cities.  Not just the industrial things either, but also something as mundane as office space, and manufacturing.

Look at all that farm land.

This gives a unique spin on the genre in turn giving a load of depth to the game that I had never expected. Not only that, but a lot of the more tedious functions that you would find in SimCity have been removed from the game.  Having to lay down power lines, water pipes, and subway tunnels piece by piece have been made a thing of the past.  I hated nothing more than going into “underground mode” only to screw things up.  CitiesXL stream lines it and makes it easier to manage.

Some of the depth it has to offer comes from the placement of the different zones you have access to. Things aren’t just as simple as residential, commercial, and industrial any more.  You know have different types of each zone, from different “classes” of residential zones, to different types of industrial zones.  It gives you the ability to even further specialize how your cities are built, and what their function is.

Not only do you have the ability to say what goes into what zone, you can also set up special buildings from different cultures and time periods.  I have an old world section of one of my cities that is all medieval style residences and shops.  The city itself isn’t American style roads either, I’ve made it almost as confusing as it is to drive around the English Country side.  I just need to figure out how to get the roundabouts working within the game (oh yeah they are in there and they do drive on the left!). There are a few different themes of buildings based on culture and just where they are located.

Old School buildings.

While it does have a lot of things going for it, it does get a little lonely playing it. I know that I am shaping the entire game world, but having a friend or two be able to join me would be nice. I am not looking to have hundreds of people come into my world to set up their own cities, though I do regret not playing it when it was an MMO, that would have been awesome if you ask me. I would be more keen about it if i could show my friends more than just a few screen shots, and have their cities right there next to mine.

It doesn’t do one thing that we all loved with SimCity, there are no destruction tools. We can’t summon up UFO’s to abduct our people, or cause meteors to hurl themselves from space into the middle of our city.  I loved that about SimCity, and I wish it was in this game. Even just deleting the entire city was more epic in SimCity when you could here the screams of the people. And with that, I truly see how twisted of a person I am.

Overall I am enjoying the game and I don’t see why most of you, and I’m not just talking about the people that love building cities, would just pass this one up. The game is really accessible and has an easy to manage learning curve.  I am also looking forward to seeing what comes out of the modding community for the game.

With 100s of unique buildings and plenty of game play elements the price is right for this style of game.  If you are into this genre, looking to try this genre out, or are just tired of SimCity 4, give it a go.



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