The Cities XL series has got some stick over the years for its ever so slight tweaks that seem to qualify it as a new release. Cities XL, Cities XL 2011, Cities XL 2012 and Cities XL Platinum are all practically identically, and if you picked up one you no doubt felt a bit robbed when your forked out for another.
When Cities XXL got announced, it raised our hopes that this would be the genuine article. A proper sequel. After all, why go all that trouble of making it extra, extra large? It'd be like Nestle announcing a king side Kit Kat with two sticks. Pull the other one Nestle. Unfortunately our worst fears were realised, and in Cities XXL Focus Home Interactive has delivered the game development equivalent of Ctrl + C & Ctrl + V. If you own a previous version of Cities XL, you’d do well to stay away, despite the half-price offer for returning players.
It doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence when Cities XXL’s foundations are shaky to begin with. If you’ve played previous Cities XXL titles then the whole thing should be pretty familiar to you, the UI is identical aside from a different colour palette, but other than that you should be good to get building. Cities XXL isn’t the most complex of city builders, so fresh-faced players will be planning roads, and plopping down commercial zones and suburban housing with ease. You’ve got an absolute stack of building types at your fingertips and it’s not long until you’ve got a flourishing city.
The problem is that the whole thing is just far too easy. A decent management title thrives on finance management, and Cities XXL makes creating cash a breeze. It’s basically like Brewster’s Millions, and the main challenge is thinking just where to chuck all this cash. For gamers who just want to focus on the creation of a city itself it’s great. It’s basically an unlimited sandbox, but without any sort of challenge the appeal quickly dries up.
Previous Cities XL titles have always had an issue with performance. With support for just single cores they were always a struggle. Cities XXL attempts to rectify this with multicore support, but it doesn’t appear to have made too much of a difference. Playing on quad-core 3.6GHz Intel i5-4670K processor with 8GB RAM and a GeForce GTX 750 Ti, performance takes a massive hit once your cities become large. Cities XXL offers the ability for mega-sized cities, but as soon as your urban paradise takes up even a quarter of one of its 70 maps, it begins to chug. Placing big development plots can take quite a few seconds as it thinks things through, and things become a lot more sluggish the larger you go.
Performance aside though, Cities XXL absolutely steamrollers SimCity when it comes to how large you can make your creations. As a sandbox it’s an entertaining distraction, and if you put your mind to it you can make some truly varied cities. Your mileage is going to vary here, and much of it will come down to how creative you’re feeling.
Cities XXL occupies a very curious position. For current owners of Cities XL it’s difficult to recommend splashing out on this, even if it is half price, and the number of additions to the formula is bordering on criminal. Leading up to its launch there’s no doubt Cities XXL was marketed as a new title, but to play it reveals barely any changes to its predecessor. If you’ve got any of its predecessors then I’d recommend you stay well away. Cross out that 6 below and replace it with a 2. But as a standalone title separate from that discussion, Cities XXL is a relatively inoffensive middle of the road city management game that you might get a few weeks worth of casual joy out of.
Part of the satisfaction of a city builder is looking down at your creation, watching it grow and develop. Just whizzing the camera around your constructed world in Cities XXL can be satisfying. It’s just a shame it forget the other half of what makes the genre great - management. At its core it's a fun game with some solid tools and the potential for absolutely massive creations, but you'll have to overcome a pretty bland art style and a lack of challenge to get the best out of it. The makings are so nearly there for a great city builder, but Cities XXL just falls short in too many of the key areas.