I found SimCity Plus on sale on Origin for $20 last week. I checked on Reddit if it was worth it and was told that with the inclusion of the Cities of Tomorrow expansion, which came with the Plus version, it was. I bought it and was super excited to try it because I’ve been really enjoying Tropico 4 and wanted to experience the new SimCity.

After it downloaded and installed, I opened it only to be immediately shut down with a message saying “the product code you have redeemed for SimCity does not support the currently selected language.” Er, what? I’m in the United States, I bought the game from the desktop Origin app while signed into my account, my EA profile acknowledges my language choice is English, the Origin desktop app says my language is English US, and Windows 7 is set to English. Nothing about my system or accounts would indicate I’m not American speaking English. I also was given no prompt when installing SimCity for choosing a language.

I Googled around and found others hitting the same error message, but in most cases, they had their operating system language set to something other than English, or they were using a different language in Origin. I tried uninstalling, which caused another half hour of redownloading the game because I didn’t have the option checked in Origin settings to cache game installers. I turned that option on to speed up the process if I had to uninstall again. However, again with the reinstall, I was given no language choice and the game wouldn’t go past the launcher, giving me that same error message.

I contacted EA customer support and opted to have them call me. Some fifteen minutes later, I received a call from them. The support guy had me uninstall SimCity. For some reason, despite having the option checked in Origin, there was no game installer saved on my computer; it was all uninstalled so I would have to redownload the game again. After uninstalling SimCity, support told me to exit Origin and delete some Origin cache directories:

  • Origin folder - Found in C:\ProgramData\
  • Origin folder - Found in C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Local\
  • Origin folder - Found in C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Roaming\

When I tried to delete these directories, Windows complained some process was using them. I had to open Task Manager and end the Origin process since exiting hadn’t stopped it.

After deleting the directories, support had me open Origin again. I had to agree to the Origin EULA again and log in. He then had me change my Origin Application Settings language from English US to English GB. Then he had me download and install SimCity again.

Before it finished downloading, while it was in the “Preparing Download” stage, I was prompted with another Origin window asking me to choose a language. “English US” was selected and there were no other English options, so I chose that one. I got off the phone with support at this point because it was going to take another half hour to download the game.

After the game downloaded and installed, I was able to open it and the launcher started downloading updates. Success! No big stupid modal telling me my language was invalid. When it finished updating, I was able to launch the actual game and it has played fine since.

The game itself has been a lot of fun. I’ve played thirty-something hours now and have made several cities. I’ve done tourism, mining, and drilling towns successfully. I have trouble building successful MegaTowers, and the Academy has never been worth its cost in cities I build. My most lucrative cities have been tourism-based with several Gambling Houses and an Expo Center. I have yet to make a profitable Casino.

I’ve had a few frustrations. The game tips suggest building very low-traffic roads first and upgrading them later, but you still have to plan out your major roads. There are Streets and there are Avenues, and you cannot upgrade a Street to an Avenue. So if you don’t get your major Avenues laid at the beginning of the game, when you suffer traffic problems later you’ll have to bulldoze expensive buildings to replace Streets with Avenues. You can start with low-traffic Streets where you think you’ll never need an Avenue, so you have to kind of know in advance where you’re going to put major buildings.

MegaTowers are a big pile of frustration to me. I’ll see a red Apartment level, indicating unhappy Sims, but when I click on it, I see an arrow indicating more Sims are moving in and a happy green message saying “There are lots of places to shop!” I’ll see a red Mall level and it’ll have an unhappy orange message complaining that it needs more shoppers to be profitable. The problem is that there are no Commercial zones in my city, and that’s the only shopping place at that wealth level around. Maybe I have too many parks so Sims aren’t shopping but instead are enjoying the great, free outdoors?

I also usually only get a few hours out of a city before it runs on its own and doesn’t need me anymore. I love the development process where I still have to watch my expenses and it’s a struggle to afford every new necessity. Once I get my tourism or trade going, though, I can just sit back and watch the money come in. Eventually I’ve placed enough Police, Fire Stations, and Clinics that my Sims are happy, healthy, and safe. Then it’s just a matter of letting the game play itself on top speed until I get enough money to start a Great Works project. I tend to get bored at this point and move to another city.

Maps are small enough that MegaTowers are a necessity at the end in order to keep growing my population. This has been the thing I’ve seen most complained about online. I haven’t tried any mods, but my understanding is that mods that increase city size only do so for single-player mode. I want to keep playing online with my friend and in regions that others help me develop. I wish the developers would increase map size in an update, but that’s been a wish since the game was released and it hasn’t happened yet.

It has been cool playing with a friend of mine who bought the game at the same time. We’ve been working on a region together with a common theme of modern, clean, and renewable. We don’t really play together, we just have our cities supply extra services to each other while we chat on Origin.

I’ve gotten a lot of hours out of the game, and it was definitely worth the sale price of $20 with the expansion. I wish I could get more play time out of a single city before I felt unnecessary in its progress. That could easily happen if the map size were increased. I could have fun laying roads and placing buildings in the extra room while the city continued to run itself and generate money for me to play with.

There is a Sandbox mode that starts you out with $1,000,000 and all buildings unlocked, but that feels too much like cheating to me. I don’t want the game features just handed to me, I want to have a challenge when I get going but then still have space to play in once I’ve worked hard to get a good economy going.