Simulation games are either a hit or a miss. Some lack excitement while others flourish with possibilities. The entirety of the simulation genre is based on incorporating real world activities into imaginative, and usually customizable, environments. CityState, however, put me on rollercoaster of mixed emotions while questioning my political views all in one fell swoop.

Custom-made, sort of

Personalizing a micro-nation and manipulating its puppet strings sounds luxurious, right? Not to mention the mountain ranges and bodies of water surrounding the realm you’ve crafted with your brilliant imagination. Well, that’s the dream anyway. Unfortunately, the simulation world of CityState doesn’t exactly exceed a creator’s expectations.

CityState Dev provides their players with the leisure of choosing their preference as to what kind of region they wish to build their empire upon. Whether it’s a forested island or desert terrains that make your heart sing, CityState grants freedom in customizing favored environments. Or, you know, randomly generating a chunk of land works, too. Briefly designing a flag and tagging a name onto the soon-to-be thriving city adds extra flair, but that’s about as far as the personalization goes.

Here goes nothing, Shrekville.

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Throw me a bone, here!

As the simulation commences, a cluster of data borders the screen. Significant factors such as economy, budget, stock market, and enforced laws mold the civilization depending on actions taken. Every five minutes, a new legislation arises prompting for a decision to be made. Your government may elect to fund shelters or housing for the homeless, or to have very little involvement with the poor. The political choices lie in your hands. If you weren’t aware of your morals before, you will be now.

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Of course, actually managing a micro-nation isn’t as extravagant as it may sound. CityState suggests very vague tips on how to blossom as a civilization. My first experience governing a city was total chaos. Erratically placing roads and buildings was all fun and games until my funds dropped into the negatives and borrowing an enormous amount of money only made matters worse. Yikes.

A lot of CityState is trial and error, not to mention patience. Building an empire off the bat isn’t realistic, but rather takes time, commitment, and a boat load of cash. In my second attempt to claim my throne, mining for resources and placing an excessive amount of agricultural lands proved to play a huge role in triumphing as a civilization. FINALLY things were looking up, even though I still wasn’t sure what was happening half of the time.

You are my density

CityState, regrettably, offers a very small selection of buildable structures. Low, Medium, and High Density buildings, along with parks, are a nice start to constructing a community. As time passes, the structures automatically cultivate and are manufactured more luxuriously. However, that’s about as far as the creativity goes. Sure, a futuristic building unlocks once your civilization reaches a whopping population of over 100,000, but boredom encompasses your soul long before that happens.

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After a couple of hours mining for gold, upping the budgets for health care, and passing numerous legislations, CityState lost its spark. For a while there (once I finally got the hang of what I was supposed to do), I was having the time of my life – especially when I began to make a profit and see the big bucks roll in.

However, building the same structures over and over again no longer brought me joy. In retrospect, checking the rate of drug use emerging within city limits ignited some curiosity. Plus, if the public’s overall approval rating reaches an ultimate low, citizens throw riots and terrorize the streets. Take the good with the bad.

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That’s all, folks!

At its current state, CityState is a game you’re confused at for a while, finally start to enjoy, and then become bored with after an hour or two of playing. I do have to give the devs mad props for a well-designed formula pertaining to the dynamic and realistic impact politics has on a civilization, though.

Nonetheless, with additional features to spice up and produce a more customizable environment, this game could thrive as a simulation game. Personally, I would really like to see Shrekville flourish into something beautiful.