SimCity received a bad rap when it was released early this year as the server-based DRM caused chaos among the community. Mix that with a more confined city availability and you have yourself a simulator of disappointingly low scale. Maxis has done a valiant effort in rectifying what has gone wrong, but issues still present themselves throughout the world. With the first major expansion pack coming out, fans are expecting innovative workings, but all they will receive is a new coat of paint.
If you’re familiar with the outline and framework of the vanilla game, know that not a whole lot has been changed. Instead, this expansion pack is more about a visual aesthetic that only slightly adjusts some of the core ideas behind building a city. As the title may suggest, Cities of Tomorrow is all about building a futuristic city, whether it’s a gritty Blade Runner-esque environment or a Star Trek utopia. Players can still make smaller towns, but this adds the ability to throw-in various new mega structures and buildings to create a more vertical metropolis. These are essentially the two sides of the coin that the expansion pack strives off of as OmegaCo seems like the more evil, more corrupt corporation that feeds of the resources of the world and pollutes the air, while the Academy is the eco-friendly organization that has a focus on wireless connectivity. The compensation is that, while OmegaCo is bleeding the Earth dry, they are the ones making the most profit if organized meticulous.
The megatowers are by far the biggest and most innovative part of the expansion pack as they are multi-layered structures, allowing users to build cities into the sky. These allow for stacking upwards of eight different forms of communal services such as apartments and malls with varying levels of efficiencies. If you are somehow able to rack up enough cash to upgrade it fully, a crown can be put at the top that will help attract tourists, clean the air, and various other functions. I almost wish these towers were not as thick as they are as they take up an overwhelming amount of space. I will give the expansion pack credit, though, for including futuristic roads and forms of transformation, but they are now no more than just small balls of light that run across the screen.
ControlNet plays a significant factor in the development of the new world as the elite megatowers and wave-based power stations now require this to operate. It’s not necessarily a substitution for other forms of energy as it in itself needs electricity to function, but a way to operate specific pieces of the world. This wave/air based power is the backbone of Cities of Tomorrow because, as we all know, wires are a thing of the past. The more ControlNet one city has, the more futuristic buildings and structures are able to operate. This is the same when throwing additional levels onto megatowers as each has specific terms that need to be met before they will be working order. This is a somewhat confusing aspect at first, but once players get used to it and understand it a bit better, it becomes a more intriguing mechanic.
The problem is that Cities of Tomorrow doesn’t fix any of the issues still lingering in the core SimCity experience. In fact, it only deepens it as putting huge megatowers into such a small space shows us just how limited the scope really is. It certainly doesn’t help that these new economy items, including the OmegaCo and Academy buildings, require a massive investment to obtain and manage. Fans will have to be in the later life of their city, having already accumulated millions in profit before even considering putting down a redesign. Because ControlNet is needed to power most of the new items, it becomes a slow process of installing all the necessary prerequisites to get your city functioning, and by then, it’s almost not even worth it. If you just want to go into sandbox mode and mess around with it, it’s more than a nice addition, but otherwise it will feel like a dream more than a reality to get these new additions implemented.
SimCity: Cities of Tomorrow is a visually appealing addition that unfortunately only runs skin-deep. It’s an attractive new world that can be developed under your whim, but it doesn’t fix any of the core issues SimCity had in the first place, and actually makes them more apparent. It will give the most dedicated fans a new excuse to jump back in, but for most people, it won’t be worth investing hours into just to see a prettier slab of land.