Written by  :  Rendorax (7)
Written on  :  Jul 19, 2006
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars

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A difficult but engrossing game.

The Good

SimCity 4 is a beautiful, complex game that offers you the ability to go in any almost any direction: sprawling, dirty metropolis; bustling city; or beautiful, scenic village. You control the growth, what kinds of residents are attracted, and how the city responds to these changes. There's always an interesting puzzle or problem to solve, such as fixing a traffic jam or creating incentives for commercial expansion. The game rewards you by showing your plans for the city coming to fruition. You also receive special monuments, which increase residential and/or commercial desirability. Finally seeing skyscrapers sprout up makes all that effort worthwhile.

The graphics and sound are both good. You can, of course, toggle off any tracks you dislike, but -- surprisingly -- I found them all quite listenable.

If you play The Sims 2, then you can take advantage of some integration between the games. You can import Sims to live in your city, and you can import city blocks into The Sims.

There are also minigames you can optionally choose to play. Completing a minigame often gives you a small reward, while losing costs you some popularity or money.

The modding community for SimCity 4 is alive and moderately talented. Creating mods doesn't seem very difficult, though I never got around to doing anything, myself. Most mods are essentially eye candy, though gameplay tweaks do exist.

The Bad

Well, there often truly are problems popping up constantly. If you plan well before-hand, you can avoid many of these issues, but you'll have massive growing pains until you finally learn a good strategy.

Also, certain aspects of the game are very difficult to understand, either because the concepts are fuzzy or the tutorial doesn't explain well enough how to use the feature. Though the tutorials are, for the most part, helpful, you'll even run into bugs here. When you're just learning how to play the game, this is disheartening and frustrating. I imagine there are some people who quit playing the game, once they couldn't complete the tutorial.

I personally didn't like the minigames. I found them distracting and silly. Apparently, they are popular with other players, though.

I wish the manual and/or tutortials had been more comprehensive. I played the original SimCity and loved it, but, having not played any of the other games in the series, all this unexplained complexity was often frustrating. Many of the gameplay questions I had were never adequately explained anywhere. Maybe I was supposed to buy a strategy guide of some kind.

Many flaws in the game can be fixed with mods, but this is another source of frustration. Why should we need mods to fix faulty game design? Also, there was but one patch released for the game. After playing a few Blizzard games, I'm used to more post-release bugfixes and gameplay tweaks. Leaving such things to the modders is sloppy, in my opinion.

The Bottom Line

SimCity 4 is complex, challenging, fun, and difficult to master quickly. Players new to the franchise or genre may find themselves way over their heads, however. For this reason, I'd probably say that this game was made more for core fans, rather than newer players. Hopefully, the next iteration of this franchise will be better documented, have better tutorials, or introduce a better user interface (from which many of my problems stemmed).