A malleable, expansive game.
Offers a boatload of options to fiddle with.
Can be rewarding, ocassionally.
Building eco structures? I guess?
Way too similar to the previous iteration of the Cities series.
Overly complicated interface.
The visuals aren't pretty unless you're really zoomed out.
Cities XXL Review
What gaming needs right now is a really, really good city-building sim. SimCity won’t do for obvious reasons, and it’s no wonder gamers have decided to look for their next fix elsewhere. Cities XXL promised to cater to those gamers. Before you ask – no. Those promises have not been fulfilled. Really, I could finish this review right here and now simply by stating that this is a slightly (and I mean slightly) improved version of Cities XL that Focus Home Interactive wants to sell for 40 bucks (or euro) a piece. I really am not joking – I’ve compared the two games and there are only four major differences between them. Cities XXL has more buildings, a slightly revamped interface, somewhat better optimization and Steam Workshop support. Yes, that really is all there is to it. Now that I’ve finished my ranting, let us get on with the review itself.
Cities XL’s first iteration, developed by the former Monte Cristo studio was a rather good game. It had its quirks, sure, but was very playable and even fulfilling at times. That changed, however, ever since Focus Home Interactive bought the rights to the franchise and started milking the series every single year. This hasn’t been all that obvious up until this year’s installment, though – Cities XXL made me vary of the series’ future games. Do note, however, that I was very excited about playing this game before actually kickstarting it. The introductory cut scene was okay-ish, I guess, but the main menu made the whole thing fall apart for me before it even actually started. A game’s main menu can tell you a lot of things – especially about its quality. Cities XXL’s menu is not only ugly but also amateurish by design. At least it’s functional, right? Guess again – sometimes clicks don’t even register even though the buttons are very much clear cut and separated from the (low-res) background. Only slightly worried I pushed on forward into the tutorials, only to be greeted by a pair of disturbingly ugly characters that were about to help ease me into the game. Another thing I felt ready to ignore.
What I couldn’t ignore, however, was the game’s jumpy framerate and terribly designed UI. Some menus cannot even be closed once they’re open, not to mention the fact that they suffer from the same issues main menu has. The framerate drops are inexplicable, appearing randomly even on early stages of city building. This wouldn’t be that bad had the devs not been bragging about the game’s usage of multiple CPU threads and great optimization. No, guys, that’s not how you optimize a game. Especially not a sim of this caliber. Hell, the game sometimes doesn’t even close properly – I’ve had to go and shut down the process a couple of times for it to drop dead.
The game’s actual city-building mechanics are fine though. I’ve had some fun setting up my cities, even though they always end up being a pile of unsustainable asphalt, bricks and concrete when all is said and done. If you manage to slog through the starting part of a game, you’re on a path towards actually building a lovely-looking city and one thing I have to admit is that Cities XXL sure does offer some large maps. Now, they do seem artificial and unrealistic for the most part, but they’re as good a basis for a virtual city as any. Cities XXL also offers an intimidating number of architectural wonders to build. From a fair selection of ordinary houses you’ll begin with to some actual skyscrapers and such – I doubt anybody could be disappointed by the selection we’ve been given here. This is also where the game’s Steam Workshop support kicks in – Cities XXL’s saving grace might very well be its modding scene, as some awesome structures can now be relatively easily imported into the game and quickly shoved into one’s bustling metropolis.
Of course, as far as gameplay itself goes, nothing much has changed in comparison to Cities XL Platinum. Mechanically, it’s the same game, which makes the decision of selling XXL for 40 euro even more puzzling. I feel as if this should have been an expansion pack of sorts, and I’m sure most would embrace it as such. I cannot fathom what engine upgrades could have been done in the background because none of the devs’ much touted technical improvements can be found. This way, Cities XXL feels like a proper rip-off. And not even a well-realised one at that.
In conclusion, I’m having difficulties in recommending Cities XXL to anybody, except perhaps for the people who don’t own any of the previous Cities XL games and would like to get into the series. Even then, the price is way too high for a half-assed attempt at re-releasing a year-old game with oh-so-very-few differences anyway. I’d wait for a 50% price drop before investing in Cities XXL, and even then, I’d think about it twice. Better hope Steam Workshop does wonders with it now…
Cities XXL Review
Focus Home Interactive
Focus Home Interactive
5th Feburary 2015