Like a tramp thrusting his crotch at you while singing Katy Perry, Cities XL makes a bad first impression. It’s a real-time city-builder that has the management of Civilization and the presentation of a Crayola-penned Watchmen. This doesn’t mean it isn’t fun; it’s just hard to sink the initial hours into.
You build a city by filling it with four levels of workers – unqualified, qualified, executives and elites – and building them a workplace and amenities. This fast becomes complex as you build the city’s infrastructure, providing services, making sure the environment doesn’t go to shit, and trying to keep everyone happy. You can zoom in and walk around the cities – which is all good, until you notice they all look the same and a bit rubbish.
You’ll also want to build up stockpiles of trade resources like oil and water. These can be traded with the AI-driven OmniCorp or other players, if you pay the subscription fee. The fee is tough to justify unless you intend to sink hours and hours into Cities XL, build sprawling metropolises, and socialise with players.
The saddest point about Cities XL is that it’s a sound, addictive, at times attractive city builder beneath layers of bad decisions. The MMO ideas are good on paper, but you can only text chat, there’s no meeting area for the avatars, and there are few incentives to work together. And the subscription isn’t that good: new buildings and resources, updates, and a 35% reduction on expansions aren’t worth the fee. Finally, there’s also too much going on for the UI. Balancing budgets, the needs of four classes, resources, pollution and the rest of a city’s rigmarole becomes a bit of a headache.
All the same, Cities XL does have some pleasure to eke from it. It’s just tough to get into, and we can’t, at present, recommend subscribing. However, it may be worth a shot if you’re itching to create your very own dystopian future.
Oct 15, 2009