SimCity BuildIt Review: The Same, But Completely Different

Published: December 31, 2014 9:00 AM /

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Ever since my childhood, I loved SimCity Games. I would sit there and start a city, blow it up, try again, playing for hours and marveling in my city that I made. I'd make the dirtiest city, then go all wind power. I would have happy populations, then have some that blew themselves up. Every time I would play a SimCity game, I would jump on them. Even the latest SimCity on Origin I'd play, through the issues and everything. When I heard that EA was bringing this to mobile devices, I was excited. When I heard it was free-to-play, I was leery... but still excited. Then I played it, and I'll say this. If you're looking to play SimCity on your phone like you do your computer, don't bother. If you want a SimCity game that feels like a SimCity game, you'll be lost in it for hours.

SimCity BuildIt is simpler version of SimCity in which the detailed things that people worry about and can ruin a game are much easier. For example, did you ever have problems balancing your 3 zones? Now those aren't a problem because they are now just buildings that you get to place. Don't have time to set up all of your utilities? They slowly open up as you level up in the game. It's a simple version of SimCity. You can tell the purists are angry about this by the 1-star ratings it is getting complaining that this is not SimCity, but this is SimCity in the lowest common denominator. When you start the game you will get a feel of it being more like The Sims versus SimCity.

Gotta make the goods to keep the people happy.

The game looks fantastic on my Galaxy S5 and you even get the car animations moving. There is some stuttering when cars are moving and you have a pop up window for an action, but nothing that would make the game unplayable. The scrolling of the game is nice and smooth. I haven't had any issues with missing objects while playing. Even the animations are smooth. With all of this prettiness, it did come at a cost, and that cost is about 10% of my battery life an hour. This wasn't even just straight gameplay, as it drains quickly just checking on the game. If you are going to stay with it for a while, I suggest plugging in first.

The control works the way you would expect it to and the overall gameplay is nice and smooth. You gain money by selling off your items in the global trade, or by taking offers that come up. You also earn money by collecting taxes and filling cargo ships with items. This is by far one of the slowest processes ever in a game. With this being a free-to-play game you always have that major choice to make: have patience and not do any microtransactions or buy your way to the top. With this being a slow game to develop a city, it is begging you to buy simoleons for it, which you have to do with SimCash, which is what you actually buy. For example, when you are ready to start educating your Sims, you'll need to buy the Department of Education for 40,000 simoleons. This will take about 4-5 days of collecting taxes and filling up cargo ships, or you can buy 40k for around 1300 SimCash... for $19.99. You really need to make up your mind on how fast and successful you want to be.

You'll have to play a long time to get your city to look like Daniel's City, or drop a lot of money on it.

This isn't a game that you'll be able to build a city overnight and watch it grow. It will be months before you will grow it into a major metropolis, unless you're ready to fork over some serious real money for it. You will want to try and build all of your housing up all at once and expand the land, but ProTip, don't. Slow and steady will win this race. This is definitely a game of patience not a game of who can get their city biggest fastest. If you mess up, you can just bulldoze the building, recoup half the simoleons and try again. A big thing I did not like about this game is that you cannot start a new city, ever. To do so you have to clear the data of the game. If you signed into Google Play or Facebook to get Achievements or to trade with friends, then your old city will be saved and you have to restore that city to do anything else. It is a blessing and a curse though, because since it does sync, you can play your city on multiple devices. When the game depletes your phone's battery, you can load it up on your tablet and continue to play while your phone is on the charger.

SimCity BuildIt is a SimCity game, but it isn't. If you're looking for something similar to the computer game where you can watch a city grow on its own and thrive, then you may want to pass. If you like the feel of collecting objects and watching a city grow over time, then this is the SimCity for you.

SimCity BuildIt is available for free on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

This game is free-to-play and reviewed for Android on a Galaxy S5.

Review Summary


SimCity BuildIt is a beautiful mobile version of the game in free-to-play form. It is a fun game to slowly grow a city on your phone or tablet. It may rub you the wrong way if you are a purist.

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JR Moore is the Former Chief Editor at TechRaptor. When he's not living life, he's connected to an Xbox, a phone or tablet checking out the latest… More about JR