aNewDomain — I’ll put the stadium here, the high-rise next to the city fountain, the … wait, what do you mean I can’t put it up now? I’ve got a deadline! I thought I was building a city?
Hello, it’s Puching Zhang back again for a review of SimCity BuildIt by Electronic Arts (EA). For those of you familiar with the SimCity franchise, you know that EA can successfully crank out games. Sure, the gameplay doesn’t always hold up, but it usually looks great. Well, EA knocked it out of the park with SimCity BuildIt, the first mobile version of the legendary franchise. SimCity BuildIt is free to play and available for both Android on Google Play and Apple iOS.
A Mobile SimCity
I played SimCity Creator for the DS, so let me say first off that BuildIt is a different version of the classic.
Unlike Creator, BuildIt begins in the Modern Age; there is no advancement through society. Also, BuildIt has only one type of main building: residential. Commercial buildings have become individual stores that the player can construct, one at a time. They are used to build secondary products from items manufactured in factories, which, in the end, allows the player to build the final building.
Factories replace industry and work in the same way as stores. Factories are constructed one at a time and build primary products, such as wood or metal, which are then used to make secondary products or upgrade a building directly.
The game also includes service buildings, which allow the player to give the Sims their daily needs, like water or electricity. The game tries to mirror the real world, so that is satisfying and makes sense. Services will increase with population, so it’s important that you keep up with demand as you expand your city.
Micromanagement at Its Best
I have to commend EA for incorporating services because it includes a good bit of realism in the game and makes it more challenging. Also, it forces the player to micromanage. Personally, I believe the ability to micromanage is what makes a great gamer.
The micromanagement in BuildIt goes beyond power and water, though, by including a system of roads. I know what you’re thinking now — it’s just roads, big deal. Not so fast! Sims go to work every day on those roads – there’s a night and day with work hours and home hours in the game — and the last thing they want is a traffic jam. Having seen firsthand the traffic messes in downtown Chicago and New York, it’s definitely one of the worst problems a city can have.
Fear not. As your city expands, the game will give you the option of upgrading your roads in order to smooth the flow of traffic. The player can also organize his or her city in a way that minimizes the congestion on one road. If the game’s mechanics are about anything, it’s balance. The city has to be arranged in a way that maximizes the happiness of its citizens.
I also love how EA made the residential units function in the game. When you first build a residence, you start out with a trailer, but then upgrade your way up to a condo (which is as far as I’ve gone). Every step of the way I can see my house growing, which makes me so proud. The best part is, when you upgrade your house, you can see the construction workers build it up in an epic animation. It’s a small thing but goes to show the level of detail and graphics that go into BuildIt, along with every other SimCity game.
If I had to make one objection, I would say BuildIt starts out rather slow. A lot of the buildings that you can unlock aren’t available to you in the early levels, which means if you want to thoroughly enjoy this game, you’re going to have to make a sizeable time commitment. That said, I would recommend making that commitment — this is a game worth investing your time and effort in.
Overall, I would give SimCity BuildIt a 9/10. The graphics are fantastic, it contains an excellent challenge and the city you build really comes to life. EA brought the franchise to mobile in a great way, and if you’re a veteran of the series or a newcomer, you’ll be impressed.
All screenshots: Puching Zhang courtesy of Electronic Arts
Featured image: Future city by Neil Kremer via Flickr