Monday, December 29, 2014

Simcity BuildIt

So.... Dragon Age Inquisition is downloading... and at 26gigs it'll be downloading for a good long while so lets look at something else while we wait.

I like city builders, always have. I like laying out the designs, building the roads, watching my citizens do their thing, leveling up buildings, managing economies, its all fun for me. I'm not talking about them damn Clash of Clan types here either. Honestly, the only reason I still play CoC is out of habit. I've invested so much damn time (and money...shame) in to that freakin game that I'm going to keep chasing building level ups until the servers eventually shut down 100 years from now.

What I'm going to talk about right now instead is a nice passive pve only city builder, the franchise of which is one I've been playing in some form or another since 8th grade...

Simcity BuildIt
Free, Univesal, Cloud enabled, 98mb download, Gamecenter enabled, Online optional.

Like it or hate it, here is the simcity we've been waiting for EA to put out on our mobile devices. After having played it for almost two weeks I can safety say they learned from their mobile mistakes on other unmentionable titles. This one feels pretty fair. Mostly.

What you will do in this one is simple. Build residential buildings to increase population and gain experience towards leveling up. Level up residential buildings to quickly earn coin and experience. In order to level up your residential buildings your citizens will want certain products which come from... your commercial and industrial buildings. Your industrial buildings will generate all the very very basic products. Commercial buildings turn industrial products in to more advanced products. Further in to the game you go, the more complex your citizens requirements will be.

Now all the rules apply here that any simcity fan should know full well. Keep the production buildings, waste disposal, sewage well away from the residential ones.  Keep parks and recreational buildings as well as police, fire and hospital services close to the residential buildings. Upgrade the roads as the citizens demand it.

Leveling up residential buildings is the only way to earn experience. Earning experience levels you up. As you level up you unlock new services, buildings, etc for use in your city. Residentials are the only building type that doesn't have multiple choices because its the only building type that you level up 'after' you place it. Industrial buildings as you level up you'll unlock advanced forms of them that generate less pollution and can handle more work orders at once. Commercial buildings, you'll unlock new types that make new product as you level up but the only way to increase order slots on these is to spend iap. Waste disposal, sewage, power, all have larger and larger versions of themselves that can handle more residential and related service buildings.

On the subject of Waste/Sewage/Power, this isn't some of the earlier simcity games where you had to run pipe and power lines. Each service building has a simple number coverage displayed, when you hit that cap you either replace the placed building with a larger one, or place a second one of the same type. Up to you.

Increasing your population unlocks new features. The ability to sell to other players, the ability to buy from them. These two... are buggy at the moment. Sometimes your things will sell near instantly, other times they'll sit for sale until you cancel them or have a friend buy to open sell slots. The Dock is useful. Every few hours a ship will show up want x amount of a, b and c product. Filling each one of these gives you ingame currency. Filling all three gives you a key. These keys are used later in the game on special things that you place around your city.

Eventually you will unlock scenarios which also should be familiar to fans of this franchise. Anything from fires to alien invasions are possible, I can't comment on it yet though because my population is currently 55k and this feature unlocks at 90k.

Day and Night are present but have no affect on your city aside from visual. Visually this game is gorgeous! Zoom in and watch cars and citizens walk around and the vehicles will actually move about your city with purpose, parking at their destination. Night time turns on city lights and your skyscrapers will light up.

Controls are nice. One finger slides camera around, Two fingers to pivot camera 360 degrees and from isometric view to top down.

Online connection is optional and only required for visiting friends and buying/selling on the market. Your city is saved automatically and once you complete the tutorial on your other devices and say yes to load your existing save it'll automatically load your save across devices so long as your online.

This game has an inventory system and you have to level it up in order to increase its capacity. Leveling it up requires rare items you find from reading the thought bubbles that appear on your residential buildings randomly and/or buying from other players on the market. Leveling up increases your capacity in blocks of 10.

Land expansion runs on a system just like inventory upgrading, but uses a completely different set of rare items from your residentials.

Iap choke holds :
. Industrial buildings work all work orders at the same time. Commercial buildings only work one at a time. This means timers. At level 13 I only have one timer longer than 20 minutes and its in the first commercial building you get at 1hour. Every thing else, 20 minutes or less so far but still, if you are working on three 20 minute hammers you're pretty much standing still for one hour unless you iap boost.
. Placing things for sale is free. Removing things that won't sell costs iap.
. When a new service unlocks for your citizens, they all instantly want it and your city begins to suffer until the need is met across all your buildings.
. Ingame currency is unbelievably expensive if you try to buy with iap so never ever ever do this. Speeding up production is also unbelievably expensive.
. Iap currency is unbelievably expensive.

Suggestions :
. Every time you level up, tap your level icon top left corner. The popup you will see shows you what is coming at your next level up. Any time you see a new service icon, immediately go to the service and check its price, coverage range and how much space each building of it is going to take. Make sure you have the room and funding in before you level up.
. If your short on coin, work the docks and work the random orders that spawn around the city on your service buildings.
. Focus on expanding your inventory > land expansion. There's seriously lots of land here even at the start, I'm at 55k population and haven't used half of the starter land yet and there's so much unused room that I am able to keep my pollution generating buildings wweellll away from my residentials.
. If a road becomes congested the citizens will want you to upgrade it and will begin moving out if you don't do so immediately. If the residential buildings along that road happen to have roads on the other sides of that building, try rotating the building so its road access moves to one of the other roads. Lighten the load on the stressed road enough and it will uncongest and your citizens will become content again.
. Buildings require roads in order to be placed. Also, one road square connecting isn't enough. 2 minimum from what I've observed.
. Iap currency should only be used on Iap only buildings. Iap only buildings offer significant boosts to residential moral over their ingame currency counterparts.
. Do not buy Iap currency outside of a dev support purchase if you are so inclined. You'll find Iap via achievements instead. Iap prices are stupidly expensive.

Do I recommend this game? Yes. Its completely entirely playable without spending a dime. And it isn't painstakingly slow either so far. Follow my suggestions and you can even avoid most of the minor headaches that can catch you off guard.

Suggestions to Developers :
. A storage mode. Load your entire city in to temp storage mode and re place every building. Right now its REALLY difficulty to redesign my city.
. Remember my camera angle each time I load in to the game.
. Some sort of mini game mechanic or interactive when visiting other friends cities as an incentive to do so.
. "Regions" (guilds) where friends can group up with chat features and the like cross city benefits.
. Reasonable iap Pricing model.
. Let me hide the border cut lines please. It really takes away from the beauty of this game.
. Let me cancel production in my commercial/industrial buildings
. A better alignment mechanic for rotating buildings. Current system is really hit or miss.

Good game, good potential to be even better.


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