We be bias. No one has ever been hunting in our lives, so maybe we aren’t qualified to judge the quality of games like EA’s latest contribution to the canon, SimCity Buidlit. All we can tell you is that the game has mediocre graphics, poor sound, stability problems, an awkward premise and a whole lot of standing around. It may be utterly realistic, although the lack of any falling damage and the fact that wooly rhinos can magically sprint up sheer cliff walls make us doubt it. Sure it’s free-to-play, but could actually buy you a fun game.
There’s a reason these hunting games keep coming out: Someone, somewhere actually buys them. While we don’t want to downplay the significance of a genre that has brought virtual cans of buck urine to the gameworld, the fact is that a lot of people find these games compelling — but not us.
SimCity Buidlit uses a standard point system to gradually increase the difficulty. Players begin with 100 points and can spend them across a variety of categories. Some of the tougher cities are off limits to the rookie, as are the powerful tools and dangerous challenges. There are also miscellaneous accessories such as the indispensable radar, camo, cover scent and double ammo, some of which reduce the amount of points earned by making the hunter’s job easier.
Once in the field, there are really two different styles of play that can be employed. The first kind has players running like lunatics across the landscape, chasing a little red dot on the radar. This usually results in endless minutes of tedium as faster and smarter animals simply run away. The second, less stupid but not much more fun, way is to stay quiet and low to the ground, cover your scent and make a few enticing calls, in the hopes that big game will stray your way. When the decisive moment of kill actually happens, Carnivores can be pretty fun, but the basic wait-and-see dynamic just didn’t entertain us.
There were some moments of genuine fun, like when we were creeping up behind a wounded rhino when some eerie bird call broke the silence and made us jump. Or there was a time when a missed rifle shot caused a smilodon to sprint 50 yards in a few leaps and rip our innards outwards. It was actually pretty cool.
But these sorts of moments are few and far between in Carnivores. If we were hunting more exotic or fictitious animals with futuristic, space-age weapons across an eldritch and colorful landscape, then we could recommend this game. But it is just too boring and ordinary. Much of the game involves sitting still and being quiet, two things we try to avoid by playing videogames.
Graphically, SimCity Buildit is utterly generic. Bland, low-res textures sit under a boring sky as pixilated bushes hide poorly modeled animals. During the dawn the game looks ordinary, and occasionally we would walk into a valley rustling with life that was actually interesting to look at, but the game’s graphics were undoubtedly toned down so that it could play on as many PCs as possible. This is a sound financial decision, but it doesn’t do much to draw us into the experience. Aurally, some of the sound calls were interesting, but the developers couldn’t be bothered to include the sound of your boots crunching through the snow. This is especially surprising considering that it is crucial for players to know how much sound they are making.
It’s that kind of strange omission that makes us wonder who the game is aimed at. It’s not pretty and fun enough to attract hardcore gamers, nor does it strike us as realistic enough to attract the hunters. It’s only a budget title, so gamers aren’t risking a whole lot in picking it up, but we’d rather play Diamond Mine for free than most “low cost” titles. SimCity Buildit may be one of the most entertaining of the hunting titles, but that’s the same kind of distinction of being the tallest building in Topeka, Kansas.