I can recall the days when gamers would stay up late into the night planning out one more city grid. For years the go-to simulator was SimCity, but with the latest entry in EA’s formerly ubiquitous franchise sporting incredibly restrictive DRM, does Cities XL Platinum provide an adequate substitute?
After some time with the game, I’m happy to answer that question with a “yes”. Well, a wishy-washy “yes, sort of”. Certainly the game engine is capable of some magnificent looking cities, and overall the gameplay feels pretty solid. But there are some issues present that hold me back from giving a more firm answer.
Cities XL was originally developed by developer Monte Cristo and released in late 2009 — but poor sales of the original game led to the studio closing. Focus Home Interactive subsequently took over development, releasing an updated version with Cities XL 2011. A year later they released Cities XL 2012 and finally in February 2013, an expansion pack adding some 50 buildings and a handful of maps was bundled and the resulting product was renamed Cities XL Platinum.
It appears many of the problems players report with the Cities XL engine lead back to the original release by Monte Cristo, including what appears to be broken multicore functionality and varied reports of memory leaks. As I understand it these issues will never completely go away short of a complete engine re-write. One enterprising Youtuber seems to have come up with a sloppy workaround for the multicore issue, while the only thing to do for the memory leaks is to close and reopen the game. In addition to the aforementioned problems are some minor issues with the UI — like text being cut off — that demonstrate a lack of polish.
It’s not all bad.
The above aside, I actually enjoyed my time with Cities XL Platinum. The tutorial gives a competent overview of the game’s features, and there’s a lot of freedom here to make a city look exactly how you’d want. The variety of zones and building types is impressive, and the graphic engine can handle zooming from an overhead satellite view to an on-the-street perspective without flinching. There are in-game achievements, which serve to unlock city features. Hell, even the music is pretty catchy and didn’t get in my way in the least.
(Despite the trailer below I didn’t encounter any dubstep.)
Focus added Mod support with the Cities XL 2012 update and even links to a user-run wiki to support players — the site XL Nation has a number of tutorials and mods available for download. Believe me, if you want to see what Cities XL Platinum is capable of, give XL Nation a look. Between mod support and in-game achievements, I can’t help but feel like the opportunity to include Steamworks was missed. I’d love to see Steam achievements and Steam Workshop support added. Maybe they’ll come in a future update.
If you can overlook the rough edges, Cities XL Platinum is absolutely worth your time. Just wait for a Steam (or Amazon) sale and pick it up on the cheap.