SimCity Won (And Broke) My Heart In Just Three Days

This is the story of how the new SimCity hooked me in three days. This is also the story of a bustling city on the banks of the Chickville river. A place filled with hard-working folk not afraid to get their hands dirty, plucking riches from the depths of the Earth and sharing them with the world. It’s called Fahey’s Folly, my finest creation.

See that screenshot up there? Isn’t it beautiful? Those ambitious brick high-rise buildings reaching into the sky, defiant in the face of the gleaming spires of its neighbors?

That’s not Fahey’s Folly.

That’s the example city provided by EA for the purposes of this weekend’s closed press preview. I call it a preview, because despite the content being considered review-ready by EA, this new SimCity is a game so heavily invested in online play that judging it before the rest of the world enters the mix is folly indeed.

After poking about the EA-provided city to get my bearings, I struck out on my own.

Well, that’s not technically true. The only time you’re really on your own in this latest SimCity is when you create your own Region and set it to private as I did with my Secret Squirrel region. I figured I might have more fun without having to trade and pool resources with other players in the same region. I thought an obligation-free sandbox would be right up my alley.

I was mistaken.

As immediately satisfying as it was to just plop (that’s the official term) down Germany’s Kölner Dom without having to spend hours developing my tourism industry, ultimately the single-player sandbox I thought I wanted left me feeling empty and unfulfilled. It might be good for folks looking to make movies, but this SimCity is designed to play with other people, and it’s a lot less fun without them.

Not Fahey’s Folly either.

So I hooked up with Kotaku‘s Stephen Totilo to see if we’d make good neighbours. He did. Me? Not so much.

This sprawling coal-mining town is where I learned the intricacies of city planning. From a small road leading away from the highway I built houses. I placed water towers. I powered them with coal. Soon that single small road became many small roads crisscrossing the land. I painted the roads with zones commercial, residential and industrial, attempting to balance a trio of meters that never seemed satisfied with my choices (except for commercial, which was barely ever in demand).

I discovered (read a preview, Fahey!) that upgrading roads helped maximise building density, and that strategically placing parks attracts more affluent residents.

Totilo’s town helped me during those early days, supplying waste management and emergency services as I struggled to balance utilities and facilities with explosive growth. Eventually I returned the favour, letting him tap into my nuclear reactor to power his city. It was a good relationship. We worked well together.

When I destroyed everything I had built in order to start over, the effect on Totilo’s town was devastating. Without my nuclear reactor he had no power. Business closed. People left town. His city plunged into an economic nosedive he couldn’t pull out of. He wound up abandoning the city and moving on to a new region.

That’s what he gets for relying on a town called New Roanoke.

But this isn’t the story of New Roanoke. It’s the story of Fahey’s Folly, my greatest SimCity creation. A glorious symmetry of living and working and shopping. A tableau depicting my growing understanding of the game’s symbiotic mechanics — that is Fahey’s Folly.

From these humble beginnings I grew a tiny empire, built on petroleum and precious metals. Mining and drilling provided the financial seed to raise the simple folk of Fahey’s Folly from trailer parks to town homes to deluxe apartments in the sky. Sure it has crime, regularly scheduled fires and the odd zombie outbreak. It also has an excellent education system, a bustling trade centre and the makings of a successful microprocessor plant, ready to catapult the once-primitive city into the digital age.

Building those other cities I was merely flirting with the new SimCity. Fahey’s Folly is where we fell in love. We’d spend hours painting roads and watching the powerful GlassBox engine calculate and populate the city’s buildings on-the-fly. We’d bulldoze buildings just to watch new ones crop up. We’d pan and zoom through the streets, watching the tiny people going about their business, unaware of their omnipresent god. We’d often pause to flip through the game’s various map views, easy-to-interpret x-rays of the city’s vital systems.

Fahey’s Folly was built in eight hours. My plans for it extended far beyond that. Sadly, those plans have been dashed.

I’ve been unable to load my greatest creation since yesterday evening. I’ve restarted the game. I’ve restarted my computer. I’ve created new cities in other regions, in hopes of somehow knocking Fahey’s Folly loose from the limbo it’s in.

I can load any other city I’ve created, but when I attempt to enter my mecca, I get this:

So I cannot show you Fahey’s Folly at its finest, and considering the EA-provided press accounts will expire in a few days, it’s likely I never will. I’m not too disappointed, seeing as the town’s days were numbered anyway. I just hope the issue doesn’t strike when the game goes live, because Fahey’s Folly shall surely rise again.

We’ll have a full SimCity review for you later this week, once the floodgates have been opened. I leave you with all that’s left of Fahey’s Folly, jewel of the early-access press review planet.

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