Cities XXL is a City Builder from Focus Home Interactive, an independent studio from France. Similar in gameplay to the Sim City games, but with the emphasis on creating and maintaining huge sprawling mega-cities.
Graphically the game looks good, from a distance the world looks alive, you can see the cars and trucks moving along the roads, traffic jams growing, and planes travelling overhead.
If you wished to, you could zoom all the way down to the street level where you can see the pedestrians wandering around and the traffic up close and personal, this is where it loses some of its shine, the traffic you see from the sky looks fine, but zoomed in it all looks rather basic. But it is a city building game so the majority of your time will be spent zoomed out and planning where your housing and industry zones should be placed.
When you fire up Cities XXL for the first time you are advised to go through the tutorials, and as a tutorial should be, it is very in-depth. Occasionally some of the instructions were a little confusing “we need to finish the unfinished road” ok.. where is the unfinished road? I found it eventually but some sort of highlighting would have been appreciated.
After learning about Housing, Industry, Commerce, Traffic Management, Industry Satisfaction, & Metro Lines, just to name a few tutorial subjects I felt ready enough to start my first city properly.
When you hit the play button you are taken to a map of the world, here you will select a map on which you hope to start building the perfect city, I counted 67 maps to choose from, each map has its own difficulty level, each with its own stat’s including resource, fertile area’s and holiday levels.
I decided HopelessVille would be located in The Wetlands.
Once the map had loaded we had to set up a main road, a Town Hall, and a Utilities Centre to provide your small town with electricity, water and a few starter jobs to lure people into your city.
Your Citizens are divided into 4 categories, Unskilled Workers, Skilled Workers, Executives and Elites. Each category has needs and demands for homes and jobs, and eventually the game becomes a balancing act to cater for everyone and keep morale and satisfaction high.
Too many homes and you end up with mass unemployment and your city starts to resemble a ghost town, due to the empty lots awaiting people to move in. Too many industry/commerce zones and you end up with empty Business/Industrial zones that could end up costing you money whilst waiting for more housing to be built, to attract new businesses.
The Citizens are very vocal with their wants and demands, they will tell you when they want more retail zones, when they are bored and want more leisure activities. As Mayor, you are obligated to fulfil all the demands thrown at you to keep the city desirable to prospective tenants and businesses.
At 20,000, I was told my roads were too congested, I fixed this by creating the most intricate one-way system known to man. Life was good.
But when it starts going wrong you have to act quickly, I hadn’t noticed exactly when my income had gone into the negative, it was costing me money to run the city instead of earning it. In a panic I destroyed buildings, I raised taxes, I did everything to try and claw back the positive income..
If you need to, you can setup trades between your cities, HopelessVille had no oil reserves to plunder for fuel, but Omnicorp, the AI city that is set up to assist new players, had plenty… however with a negative income no trade could be setup. The situation was indeed hopeless.
Inevitably the citizens left and the industries ground to a halt.. I had successfully run HopelessVille into the ground.
I found the process of building your city and trying to maintain and grow your economies quite fun. When it became obvious that HopelessVille was a lost cause I didn’t think “oh well that’s it for the night” instead I had the desire to start again and try to do better.
Unfortunately, the trend did not improve.. Hopeless City & HopelessTropolis also went the same way; maybe I cursed them with my name choice?
At the end of the day, Cities XXL is a very competent City Building game, if you are a fan of the genre and haven’t played any of the others in the series you should enjoy it.
There are some issues though, some pop ups could be a bit clearer, and when trying to check on your citizens wants and needs the screen gets a tiny bit too cluttered for my liking.
Performance wise on my machine I had a few frame rate issues the larger my cities grew, or as I tried to place roads while zoomed all the way out.
Now I don’t consider my PC a gaming beast but with my specs (16GB Ram, i5 3570K Processor Overclocked to 4.5GHz, with a 660 Ti 2GB card) it should not be as bad as it was.
Poor optimisation? Possibly.
If you have played any of the others in the series, you will have seen most of this before with very minimal changes between this and Cities XL