There’s a thing about games of this genre that really bring out the worse in me. Not only do I turn into an egotistical maniac as I watch my city grow and grow (and along with it my bank balance) but I also enter into a strange state of mind where I begin to pay the upmost attention to everything’s detail. My roads have to be perfectly straight and any junctions have to be at a ninety degree angle and housing districts always end up laid out in such a way that they would fit right at home in symmetry land.
For many fans of the simulation genre it won’t take too long to get to grips with the fundamentals of Cities XL, you start small, build slow and steady and work on one problem at a time. With that said, the same could be said for most games of the genre really and it’s clear that Cities XL owes a lot to those titles that have passed before it.
As you would imagine the emphasis is all on the city itself, and you’ll start off with a limited amount of building options available to you with more opening up once you reach certain milestones, with population being of primary use here.
Offline play can suffer greatly from a trade system that doesn’t really offer any variety as there’s always just the single buyer of goods waiting to pay you pittance for them. It’s a shame, because trade, especially as your city grows, becomes quite an important asset that you have at your disposal. Not only will it allow you to part with some extra resources for more money but it also allows you to buy some of the much needed goods that your citizens are crying out for.
Taking the game online is pretty much identical to the offline component except for a few changes. First up is the social side of things where you can talk to other players in the same way you can in any MMO with channels setup specifically for trade, local area and of course the beloved general chat. Being able to talk to your new found friends is rather good as it adds a social aspect to what is otherwise thought of as a very lonesome gaming genre.
Trade is the main point of online play though, as you’ll now be able to replace the very frustrating offline mode’s AI system.
It’s still not enough though, especially when you factor in the £6.99 a month subscription fee, for what only seems like a trade system. The premise is there but it’s just not enough to warrant that amount of money. It’s even more aggravating when the trade in offline play is so fundamentally broken that you can’t help but wonder if its left like it is deliberately.
The game does have a lot going for it though, the graphics are nice and even when you zoom in right down to pavement level there’s still some half decent visuals on display, although you’re more than likely to stay at a mid range bird’s eye view the majority of the time; there’s just no reason to change really.
Gameplay is quite enjoyable once you’ve figured out the way to go get your city up and running, but the system can be ruthlessly unforgiving especially for new players to the genre – just one mistake could have dire consequences. Once you’ve sussed it though, you’ll be well on your way to the metropolis of your dreams.