It’s embarrassing how much of my life this game just took.

So I have a bit of a game thing. I like to play Cities XL 2011, which is a Windows game that I happily run on my new iMac 2012. It is a beautiful thing. After getting Windows 7 up and running, I have literally lost days in this game.

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Cities XL is really one of my favorite games, despite the fact that it’s kind of buggy. It is basically Sim City 10x more complicated and with 10x more freedom.

The player maintains the city with 4 different wealth/education-levels of citizens with 3 different levels of zoning density. There are 5 different classes of Industry (Farming, Heavy, Manufacturing, High Tech, and Offices), and the player must balance resources like fuel and electricity in order to keep the citizens happy.

One of my favorite things about this game is that rather than just placing “bus stops” and “metro stops”, the player actually designs the routes that these trains and buses take. I spend HOURS trying to make the most efficient systems. I really wish there were more options for types of public transit, though. For some reason there is no rail available in the game (except the metro rail), which I find really annoying and strange. Sim City 4 came out with a crazy transportation expansion pack way back in the 2000 somethings, and I enjoyed playing with that–but I wish it had the complicated-ness of this system.

Since this game isn’t on a grid system, the cities have endless opportunities. However, there isn’t a map-creator engine, which sadly means you are stuck with the maps that the game provides. There aren’t too many of them. I think the expansion has more maps and more buildings, but I, sadly, haven’t let myself buy it yet. (Soon, babies, soon.)

This is an older game, but my new iMac is running it smashingly. It’s also kind of a buggy game, which means that it never runs quite perfectly. It tends to crash after continuous play for more than 2-3 hours. (Restart fixes that, and the game auto-saves so there’s never too much loss.)

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Cities XL 2011 was actually released in 2010, as far as I know, and for those of us with serious graphics cards, it is a beautiful game. (If you zoom in, again I think the internal game engine is kind of slow to show off the gorgeousness of the game.) My new iMac has an NVIDIA GeForce 650M with 512 dedicated (16gb RAM for the whole system). It runs the game at full 100% graphics capability. Zooming in and watching the people and cars can be quite fun. The buildings are also really well textured, and the whole thing is just gorgeous.

Compared to my late 2008 Macbook, this is a trip. I love playing it like this. Once my city’s population got up to 300,000-400,000 on my laptop, the computer would heat up to the point of burning my sad little legs, and the game would lag pretty significantly. Now I’ve got a city running close to 600,000 people with no concerns at all. The game engine itself, though, has a hard time supporting this level of complication with such a large city. I’m hoping to push it as far as I can–to get at least one city with a full million people in it, to see if I can. Of course, since the cities require resources, you need to create multiple cities that specialize in each resource, to support a mega-metropolis!

I’d really recommend this game for young teenagers: it can be really addictive  so watch out for that, but this is a very educational game as far as city planning, wealth levels, transportation planning. I’d love to see where the franchise goes, because it certainly has the potential to educate a good number of young people about the issues of economy, city building, transportation avenues… the whole shabang.

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One thing I wish the game had more of, though, would be park options. There’s really only one “public park” that you can put down. There are plenty of “decoration fields  where you can fill gaps between roads with trees, or plaza areas. But what about a fountain? Or a carnival type park? That would be kinda neat, right?! Some of those things appear under the “leisure” menu (you have to keep your citizens from getting bored, too, by providing “leisure” activities).

SimCity is a little bit better (or was, with 2000, 3, and 4) about incorporating social issues into the game process. Remember when you tried to plow over trees, and the citizens would protest? The newspaper ticker that would whine about various issues? Cities XL doesn’t have that. It would be neat to see if they could integrate it.

Anyway, I feel like this is kind of the graduate-level version of SimCity 4. And here ends my rant about video games for smart people.

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