Publishers: EA Games
Just to clarify, this is not a review of SimCity. We can't provide you with a value judgement on the finished product just yet, and we certainly wouldn't feel comfortable picking apart the nuances of the city-building experiences we've been enjoying.
Mainly because there haven't been any.
Put simply, EA's launch of SimCity has been an embarrassing failure for all concerned. First of all, there was the pricing. A quick pop into your local GAME will see SimCity listed for sale at a price point of £42.99. That's more than most console games! It's been dictated by a digital price point on Origin that is frankly ludicrous. But don't forget, that's not for the full game. You see, EA pulled a bunch of stuff out of the game so that they could make gullible folk shell out for a Super Bumper Wicked Awesome Digital Deluxe version of the game. Don't be fooled. That's the full game. For £65.
Secondly, there's the small issue that once you've sold your grandmother for the privilege of dabbling in virtual civics, the game doesn't work, not reliably anyway. The chief concern for EVERYONE when it comes to this game has persistently proven to be the always-connected requirement. We will readily admit that we loved the idea of connected cities co-existing with one another, but let's be honest, Maxis could easily have bolted on a little offline sandbox mode if they'd wanted (or been permitted?) to. But tales of gamers waiting for hours just to unlock the game that they've bought, then sitting in server queues for long periods of time, before finally (if lucky) reaching the main menu of the game itself only to be told that the servers are once again offline and cities can't be loaded, make for a situation that has only gotten worse since Tuesday morning.
Hilariously, some sites have deemed it acceptable to run "reviews" of an always-online game conducted in a closed environment on private servers that no consumer has access to. We strongly advise you to ignore all of them. Just look at Polygon's yo-yo-ing score: a prime example of a clusterfuck conducted by veterans who really ought to have known better.
Worse yet, those reviews refer to a game that doesn't exist! Much as you might throw suitcases and seats and fat people out of a damaged plane to try and prevent a spiralling deadly descent, EA have been ripping out game features in the hopes that it might alleviate the hopelessly inadequate server-load. To be honest, we reckon it would be easier if they just took everyone's money, and then banned anyone who complained. The real problem, you see, are the players. Thin the herd, then everything will be fine.
We joke, but then a chatlog with an EA rep went viral and revealed that not only are the company refusing to reimburse disgruntled gamers who decided to buy the game digitally, but many retailers are refusing returns on opened copies of the game. To be fair, that's been standard procedure when it comes to software for a long time, indeed protocol is the only thing EA have been hiding behind; but when you're shipping an unplayable game it becomes incredibly contentious.
Oh, and if that wasn't bad enough, if you don't like it, you'll probably get banned. EA have denied this on Twitter, but one wonders why on earth the rep would possibly have gone off-book with talk of the banhammer.
To tell the truth, the EU experience (that we've had) has been touch and go. At times we've logged on absolutely fine, and managed to play for anywhere between 10-100 mins without getting unceremoniously booted. At others, it's been a gruelling process of frustration. The inconsistencies are such that, more often than not, cities and regions we've been working in have completely failed to save if the connection drops, and the game is riddled with little bugs.
Things could be worse, though. Spare a thought for the poor souls in Asia who've not actually got servers of their own because, as an EA Korea rep put it, of "piracy". The irony of not being able to play something that you've paid for, when you could easily play something for which you've not elsewhere, is hopefully not lost on EA.
We don't have an issue with the always-connected idea in theory. But when you build a product around a core mechanic, and then completely fail to deliver on that mechanic, there's every right for customers to be livid. This should have been an opportunity for EA to gloriously outline their roadmap going forward, and justify the tough decisions they made for this game. Instead, SimCity's launch crumbled under the weight of expectation, with EA showing a complete disregard for customer service, and a potentially exciting game has been marred by completely avoidable vilification. Right now, those user review scores are a much, much fairer reflection of SimCity's current state than anything a critical site has pumped out. At least people are talking about the game, that's a small victory, right?
You could call this launch week many things - we particularly like clusterfuck, omnishambles, comedy of errors, and publisher seppuku - but victorious would not be among the words you'd use.