PC Review: Cities XL

A city builder MMO? Now I’ve heard it all…

Cities XL allows gamers to develop cities on realistic 3D maps using an incredible collection of unique structures and monuments based on American, Asian and European-influenced architectural styles. The maps feature a variety of environments: mountains, hills, canyons, beaches and islands, all set in different climates from tropical to desert, Mediterranean to temperate.

Players must create the right combinations of social services, leisure activities, special events and other job opportunities within their cities in order to feed, clothe, employ and entertain their citizens. Be it planning and building a new zoo, public park, residential neighborhood or transit system – there’s always a fresh and exciting challenge for would-be city managers and mayors in Cities XL.
The game’s online features and services will allow players to create interconnected cities on virtual and persistent planets. Mayors can share and trade with one another, specialize their economy and team up with befriended cities to create sprawling metropolises.

Life on the planet will be punctuated by events and competitions – a concert held in one town may, for example, be attended by visitors from other areas who can also enjoy a walk around the city to admire the urban creations of multiple players. By combining a fantastic single-player game with the social and multiplayer aspects of an MMO, Cities XL will shape the future of the genre by offering more variety, bigger cities and multiple gameplay layers.

City building games have been around for years, the most popular being the SimCity franchise…but over the years, that series has lost its way and there is definite room for another game to take the title of best city building simulator. Can Cities XL deliver?

Cities XL is a game of two halves. It can be played completely offline as you build your cities and resources, or you can take it online and share it with the community in an MMO environment for a monthly subscription. Upon playing the online side of Cities XL, I’d say it’s still early days and I’m sure once it grows it will become a much better game than it is now, but as it stands there are a number of issues holding it back.
Don’t get me wrong, Cities XL makes great strides in conquering the online world and the city building genre. It just lacks a bit of polish. Icons for selecting different types of items are incredibly small for some reason…even in 1920×1080 resolution. The trouble is that it makes selecting different things quite tricky until you learn where they all are. I’m not sure why this is and hopefully it will be fixed in a patch.

The game runs pretty smoothly even with the highest settings, but it isn’t the best looking game and is a bit disappointing because of it. When zoomed into street level, cars look poor as they drive around the city…the game just needs an extra bit of visual power to make it stand out from the crowd and sadly it isn’t here as of yet.

All the fundamental things that make a city building game are here, like managing resources and maintaining aspects like water and electricity and the economy. Cities XL tries to do too much and as a result, its impact isn’t as great as it could have been. I’m sure this will change as time goes on and the game is updated with new content and patches…but at the time of writing this review, Cities XL lacks the edge to take the city building crown.

The Verdict

Cities XL is a decent city builder. It innovates by making the game accessible online to an MMO audience, but it lacks the necessary polish to stand out right now. Given time, I expect Cities XL to dominate the genre…but that is going to take quite some time and plenty of downloadable content.