Cities XL


posted 11/13/2009 by Tom Bitterman
other articles by Tom Bitterman
One Page Platforms: PC

Of course it's not just a matter of sitting back and letting the money roll in. The city needs to provide services – police stations, fire stations, schools, and ferris wheels. Yup, ferris wheels. One would think entertainment buildings would be a profit center, but they are an expense. I guess the game designer needed to suck some money out of the player for balance reasons, or maybe carnies are paid better in Europe. I know mimes are. 

Information about your thriving metropolis is laid out clearly. Each building, house or business, has a list of demands. Clicking on the building tells you what that building wants and whether it is getting it. Some buildings even have flashing “help me” icons over them to help you know which ones are in trouble. This is not a game where a problem will sneak up on you.

Although Cities XL plays in many ways like a simplified SimCity, it has a few novel features. The big banana is online play. Monte Cristo is really pushing this, hoping to build an online community of city-builders. The main advantage seems to be inter-player trade. Players are able to trade stuff with each other in a similar manner to the single-player game, but can make their own contracts. The interface for doing this is clunky (some transactions can involve leaving the game and going to a website) and the monthly subscription fee is, IMHO, steep. Still, there may be merit in the idea. Apparently one can also walk around in other people's cities, if that sounds like fun. 

There is also the idea called GEMs (Gameplay Extension Modules). The idea is: downloadable content. One would pay a little extra to build, say, a ski resort in your city. The resort itself would be a sort of mini-game where you set prices, make money, and generally manage stuff. The resort would also produce a specific ski-resort type of stuff that you could trade. Many of these are still under development. 

This is not unusual for the game as a whole, however. It is still somewhat buggy, and some features don't appear to work at all. While this is par for the course for an online game it can be jarring in single-player. 

Graphics are clear, informative and pleasant. The ability to zoom to street level is nice, but ultimately not that useful. Cities look good, especially with the ability to draw non-straight roads.

Overall this is just a standard city-builder. There is nothing wrong with it, but nothing really makes you want to play it rather than, say, one of the SimCity games. The mechanics are basic and the graphics are functional. The new features that are intended to set it apart are not fully-baked yet. This would be a good first game for somebody new to the genre but cannot be recommended to the experienced city planner.

This is a solid city builder in the SimCity line with a clean interface and good underlying mechanics. The online parts, which the developer hopes to use to set it apart, require more work and thought.

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