Cities XXL Review

This article is no longer being updated and may be out of date, or otherwise inaccurate due to the passage of time.

Cities XXL is a city-builder simulation that promises the opportunity to “design, build, and manage the world’s largest and most diverse cities”. I enjoy city building, but until now have mostly stuck with SimCity through all its permutations and looked forward to try something similar made by someone else.

Cities XXL provided the opportunity to build many and huge cities on very large maps. Once I got passed the minor bugs and performance issues, like camera stutter when building long roads or laying out blocks of areas, it was easy to enjoy. I haven’t played any of its predecessors and as such cannot compare it to the last instalment, but evaluating it from a newcomer’s perspective it is a good place to pick up intricate city building.

Features

Single player: Cities XXL has 64 maps, 47 architectural styles and 1000+ buildings. Intercity trade between cities is encouraged and the ability to offload extra and pick up scarce items does make it easier.

Steam workshop support: Steam workshop support allows players to create and share user-created content within the parameters of the game.

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Accessibility

Vision

Cities XXL is reasonably accessible to anyone with a mild to moderate visual impairment or photophobia (light sensitivity). Text size is mostly white against a dark background in an easy to read font, but colour is used and dark red text in particular is harder to read. The text size is on the small side, but the user interface (UI) is adjustable and higher settings makes the text larger. Interactive elements are easy to see and view options include zoom. There is no flash or flicker that would be problematic for anyone with photophobia (light sensitivity).

It is not accessible for colour blind users. Colour is used as the only indicator extensively in a green – yellow – orange and red scale. It is an integral part of the game mechanics, distilling information into a traffic light system for evaluation.

Motion (simulation) sickness and balance disorders

It is accessible for players who experience motion (simulation) sickness, but there is some small issues. Moving around the map whilst zooming in and out is a requirement and with large city maps there is a fair amount of moving around. The camera movement is not smooth and when building things like long roads, frame rate stutters and the camera jerks.

Hearing

There are no spoken only dialogue or significant audio cues. I played Cities XXL with and without sound and it played very similarly. Sound volume can be adjusted with three sliders controlling music, background and interface. It is perfectly accessible for deaf players, as well as anyone with any level of hearing impairment, hyperacusis (sound sensitivity) or tinnitus.

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Input and Touch

Cities XXL is somewhat accessible for anyone who has a physical impairment, lack muscle strength or fine motor control in their hands or experiences significant pain or fatigue. It can be played with one hand or two, using just the mouse, mostly just the keyboard or with a mouse and keyboard combination.

A high level of precision is required to place objects in the desired position. There is the option to right-click to cancel the last placement point so that inaccuracy does not cost anything in-game terms, but continuously getting things in the wrong place would make it less fun to play.

There is no timing requirement or time sensitive events. The game can be paused and objects placed whilst it is paused and game speed can also be accelerated, making it possible to place items at your own pace with no consequences, then fast forward through time to see what impact it had and then pause again to make further changes.

The physical controls are varied, there is more than one way to do things, but there are multiple button presses, including things like hold the middle scroll wheel whilst moving the mouse to change viewpoint. Binding view-point to the right mouse button would make it a lot easier, but there are no remappable keys, so I was stuck with the default. There are alternatives, it is also possible to change the view point by holding down ctrl and using the arrow keys or using the virtual view options interface. One of the three options are bound to work for most, but I still would have preferred the option to remap the keys myself.

The game can be saved manually at any point, has an automatic check-point save and can be paused at any time. It is easy to play in shorter sessions and ideal entertainment for anyone who tires easily.

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Ease of Use

A step-by-step tutorial introduces new players to the game. The UI also provides information during gameplay and use as features unlock gradually over time.

It is a fairly complicated user interface and information based game and players need to be able to process and manage multiple changeable sources of information. There are four map based difficulty settings, but those who have played similar games in the genre will find even the harder maps quite easy to master, but the easier maps are great for newcomers and the pace is not too challenging or complex. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone with significant cognitive issues, a learning disability or who does not enjoy working with and within budgets and their constraints.

Language and Math

A reasonable grasp of reading, language comprehension and math is required. It is a text based game with information displayed in writing and multiple resources are managed simultaneously, including a vital city budget. The game is a balancing act of budgets and revolves around making money and spending it wisely.

Social Interaction

None required.

Trigger warnings & age ratings

I did not come across any triggers whilst playing.

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Verdict

Cities XXL is not perfect and even though its flaws are obvious, I had fun playing it. It is a city building game through and through with building and management tasks that provides a great sense of satisfaction when citizens are happy, healthy, well-educated and the money for more services keeps rolling in. It’s a nice building sim, but I didn’t feel any particular need to keep playing after a while. Everything ticked over, but I didn’t feel a huge sense of investment into my cities. I holds a good few hours of entertainment and I’m sure fans of the genre will enjoy it like I did.

Product: Cities XXL | Developer: Focus Home Interactive | Publisher: Focus Home Interactive | Platform: PC (Steam) | Genre: City-building Game | Players: Single Player | Version: Europe | Release Date: 5 February 2015 |Content Rating: not rated

The game review is based on the PC Steam version of the game. This article was first published on 21 February 2015 and is no longer being updated. Information may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate due to the passage of time.

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Lily Ellis - Founder|Editor