The Demoman: Cities XL

Cities XL is an online multiplayer city-building strategy game, which, in The Demoman's mind, means it's probably sort of like playing SimCity while being called a fag by a bunch of strangers. One of the first things I see when I log in is someone explaining in chat how to get around the profanity filter by capitalizing every other letter. We're off to a fUcKiNg good start!

I decide to name my city Columnville, as I am simply using it to crank out this column, but an administrative error (common in public works projects) occurs and my city's name is entered as Columnvilleq. This was due to me hitting the Q button, which I've mapped to take screenshots, at the wrong moment. Well, no matter, I'll just put some PR spin on it with a catchy city motto. "Columnvilleq: The Q is for Quality!"

Take only pictures, leave only footprints. And smokestacks. And wastewater treatment plants. And condos. And oil drilling equipment. And eight lanes of asphalt.

I select a picturesque mountaintop lakeside spot (all the sweet island locations are already taken by people who registered, snagged them, then logged out without ever building anything) and set to work. Creating a successful city in Cities XL takes careful planning, scrupulous management of resources, and a close eye on statistics and figures, which is why I'm just gonna build a bunch of stuff as fast as I can and see what happens.

For a while, things are actually going pretty darn well in Columnvilleq. I've got a nice road along the lake and plenty of houses with a view. I've built my industrial zones far enough from the residences as to nearly eliminate birth defects. My population is booming and I'm building offices just as fast as I can. I build some utilities to farm the water-rich terrain, install a basketball court for neighborhood pick-up games, and build a couple hotels nearby lure tourists with the promise of drinking cheap groundwater and watching neighborhood basketball games. I even build a garbage dump so citizens have a place to throw away their copies of [ATTN NICK: PLEASE INSERT NAME OF A RECENT WELL-KNOWN CONSOLE GAME THAT EVERYONE WILL AGREE SUCKED ASS AND THUS WILL BE AMUSED AT BUILDING A GARBAGE DUMP SPECIFICALLY FOR IT THXLOLOL [ed- ATTN CHRIS: DON'T DRAG ME INTO THIS.]] Everyone is happy.

Cities XL lets you zoom all the way in: useful for spying on your citizens and determining just how badly you need a new graphics card.

Then, things take a turn. I notice my offices are failing because I haven't built housing for "qualified" workers, only unqualified ones. Columnvilleq (Motto: "The Q Apparently Doesn't Stand for Qualified!") is apparently home to a bunch of idiots who don't know how to work fax machines. People are getting unhappy because fuel and electricity prices are high, and business are getting unhappy because there's no public transportation to bring in the few qualified workers that live here. The initial population influx has left me with a housing shortage, and, last time I looked at the basketball court, no one was even playing.

The only business not failing is the one that manufactures floating icons that indicate a business is failing. They're raking it in.

Resources are my main problem. I can't farm or dig for oil; the only thing I have a lot of is water. Every time I try to trade with other cities, however, the game tells me I have to first create a city, which is either a bug in the code or a subtle, scathing comment on my mayoral skills. The citizens are really miserable now, but I figure if the workers can't afford to drive to work, then surely they can't afford drive out of Columnvilleq either. I quickly build a bunch of everything to see if that solves the problem, but before long I'm extremely low on funds.

Soon, Columnvilleq (Motto: "The Q Is A Typo!") has completely hit the skids. The only mark in the plus column I seem to have is that hotels find my city 100% appealing, possibly due to the housing shortage. Well, you have to play to your strengths, so I double the city's income taxes and build roughly 800 high-rise hotels, promptly over-saturating the market. All the hotels immediately go bankrupt and I wind bulldozing them as fast as I built them. In an effort to distract citizens from the enormous mountains of hotel rubble clogging their city, I build a second basketball court.

That's funny, the damage doesn't look as bad from out here.

Sadly, it's not enough to save Columnvilleq (Motto: "We Had To Sell Our Motto!"). My city is broke, I can't build anything, and everyone is miserable. And here I thought games were supposed to be escapism. Still, the demo is a lot of fun, and if you decide to play and visit Columnvilleq, remember, you'll need to bring your own basketball.

Download the Cities XL demo on FileShack.

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