Review Cities XXL the editor said, “simple” I thought until I downloaded the game. I haven’t played a city management game since the 90s so in theory this should be simple compared to organising a raid on Destiny, although it’s worth pointing out I have no frame of reference for Cities XXL as I haven’t played the other games in the series. But let’s see what’s what.
The first thing that hit me is the scope of Cities, it feels huge even when you grapple the training mode and realise the size of management and micromanagement on offer here from social to economic engineering; it’s all catered for. After about the 5th training mode I felt competent to drop in and start. The menus are clear and the UI does the job as your head tries to remember the basics and get building. Up until this point the game felt very 90s; I felt no need or empathy to get involved with the game’s characters which consists so far of a lazy golfing bureaucrat and a friendly go getting helper, but unfortunately the gags wear thin quickly and you find yourself wanting to go it alone and drop the training and excruciating banter between these two.
The graphics again are nice and concise but do the job, jumping in and out of your growing city feels smooth,the accompanying sound is also good and helps you audibly spot upgrades and builds on the overall ambience nicely. Combine the two and before you know it you’re zooming into the screen and Cities XXL fills your city out nicely with cars and trucks going about their business, and watching your developing town helps build a sense of wanting to look after them and do a good job. The sound also does a great job of helping you pull your head out of the wealth of options and graphs at times and even when I felt out of depth everything seemed to guide you in the right direction and prod you along.
Once you have jumped in and built your town hall, services, skilled and unskilled workers homes you’ll want to start building small retail parks and providing jobs for your townsfolk while attempting to balance pollution and other important demands like green spaces and food from your burgeoning city and its citizens. About 2 hours in I found myself chasing graphs and actively finding my unemployed citizens to provide jobs for them while building a hotel retreat in the mountains, which was simple and pleasing. In fairness this was my 3rd go at an easy level but I found myself drawn in nicely by the options available and simplicity to simply build roads and housing as well as planning efficient areas for your citizens. Now at this point I had thought I would have stopped playing though I found myself chasing more citizens and upgrades for my city and spent all of the budget, oh well back to game four and hopefully I will get I right this time!
That’s what I liked about Cities XXL: it was a change of pace. It isn’t perfect but if you haven’t played a game like this before it would be a great intro. While other companies go into developing sim type characters as a more personal approach, Cities lets you find your own feet and concentrates on the cities themselves. Cities feels like it lets you run with whatever you want so long as the citizens like the city and you provide for them. Other options include transport systems to other cities as well as tourism and green issues to balance the gameplay. Like Rome Total War, Cities XXL wasn’t built in a day and it does show at times, but the latest patch does seem to have sorted out some of the issues for early adopters. Others have criticised the games developers for not making XXL hugely different from the previous games and that it offers just incremental updates and upgrades to what was already on offer in Cities XL, but I have enjoyed my time on Cities XXL and the game does appeal to a great deal of people young and old; even my 4 year old son was really impressed and interested in watching. Cities XXL will take time to find its feet in today’s ever changing face of online and offline gaming but with a host of modders onboard already and home brew content I can imagine cities will keep growing. Don’t listen to the doubters, if you haven’t played this before download a copy and let Cities take over your world (or should it be city?). The backlash of negative comments on Steam made even the Bungie message boards look friendly in comparison, but you should try it and make your own mind up – I think it’s worth spending your money on.
Reviewed on PC