Although it might sound as though developers Monte Cristo have taken a lot of the detail from their city sim though, the end result (while simplified) is still as addictive and entertaining as any city sim game ever was. It’s that same feeling of freedom you get with any sandbox game, but taken to a level at which you place absolutely everything.
It didn’t take us too long express ourselves in creating a city with unqualified workers living next door to the heavy industry factories and their associated smog and the qualified workers and executives living in environmental happiness on the other side of the tracks. What this says about our psyche, we’re not sure.
While it’s entertaining to throw down ghettos and suburbs as you see fit, Cities XL
can make it overly easy to expand your city at times though. The zoning tool can quickly churn out grid after grid of identically shaped (albeit efficient) blocks of buildings and cities can all too often end up looking like identical grids of identical blocks - a bit like most American cities.
Click to Enlarge
It’s a shame really as, while Cities XL’s
top notch 3D engine fully supports curved roads, the footprints of buildings are unapologetically square and rigid, making carbon copy grids the only realistic option if you’re planning on building a truly massive city – any other method just isn’t efficient enough and ends up looking a bit rubbish with empty spots and untidy diagonal angles, a bit like the average English city.
Keeping on top of your citizens' needs though is made wonderfully easy thanks to a very user friendly interface and a simple overlay system. Levels of air and noise pollution, traffic flow or police coverage are all just a few simple clicks away, and unemployed residences, along with businesses with vacant jobs are easy to visualise.
Click to Enlarge - Zoning is split between different classes of citizens
A colour coded system displaying satisfaction for particular needs makes it easy to locate problem areas and the end result allows you to quickly correct any problems. It’s a refreshing change from having to hunt for the cause of citizens' discontent in other city sims and makes problem solving your city’s design and layout a core part of the gameplay rather than a frustrating chore.
While the construction of industry, retail and residential areas can become a bit mundane thanks to cookie cutter city layouts, Cities XL
does try to spice things up with a expansive resource system, although herein lies perhaps one of the game’s biggest flaws. As industries become more complex and start to demand a more varied workforce, they also start to require a varied supply of resources. As we’ve already said, you don’t have to worry about delivery, but making sure your city is up to producing enough electricity, water or fuel is essential and takes a big bite out of your budget with very high running costs.