Let me get this out of the way first: Cities of Tomorrow doesn't have a patch to take SimCity offline. It doesn't expand the size of the tiny city plots or solve other problems, such as the dead cities left behind by other players or the inability to move your favorite city to a new region. The retail "package" for the expansion is an empty plastic case with a download code.
What Cities of Tomorrow offers are a number of alternatives on how to improve the lives of your citizens. It's a grab bag of new technologies promising to create clean, utopian cities with glowing, humming streets and mega-towers filled with apartments, businesses and shops. A new resource called "omega," which is created by a corporation of the same name, puts profits first —as long as you don't mind the way it pollutes the air with color.
Nearby houses and businesses are also assimilated by the future with high-tech facelifts that turn towering apartments and office buildings into gleaming spires of prosperity and power. Futuristic cars slowly make their way into every Sim's driveway, and a new metro system raised above the streets can be added to help manage traffic.
Cosmetic changes aren't the only new additions, and it can be risky to pursue the new options. Those following the path of developing a cleaner future might start the new Academy building and then discover that while it doesn't burn fossil fuels to fund its projects, it does require lots of fingers to push the buttons.
The Academy works much like the University building, but it features research topics that focus mainly on high-tech improvements and utopian features that are as aesthetically "clean" for the eyes as they are for property values. The Academy also generates "controlnet," which is a new resource that the new toys depend upon, sort of like Wi-Fi signal strength but with the kind of plan that can shut down things when they don't get enough bodies to push those buttons.
Being able to develop these new toys and generate additional controlnet also depends on whether you have the right number of low-, medium- and high-wealth citizens in your city — particularly high-wealth. The Academy has a hard limit on how many are needed, but being at full capacity will get that garbage atomizer tech into everyone's hands sooner than later while building a comfortable controlnet margin to fuel everything. That adds another reason to look into tweaking your city into attracting specific citizens or specializing what you already have.
Other environmentally friendly inventions include a wave power facility for cities next to water, the aforementioned garbage atomizer to torch trash at your dump with quantum superpowers to avoid dirtying the air, fusion power, booster units for power facilities like your solar plant, maglevs for above-road train service, and new tech for mega-towers.
Each of these super-clean additions is aimed toward taking some of the burden off of the environment by replacing the older stuff, as long as you have enough controlnet. That fusion plant can go in instead of a nuclear reactor, as long as you have enough power to jump-start it, so if it goes up or you decide to knock it down, it won't irradiate its former home. You can even build scrubbers to suck up polluted ground and purify it into harmless exhaust.
Another huge addition is the mega-towers and elite towers, which can add an even more futuristic touch to your city as vertical city blocks. Covered with neon signs and ads to consume, consume, consume, mega-towers are focused on low- and medium-income Sims. With gleaming white exteriors and fashionable curves, elite towers are geared more toward medium- and high-income Sims. Both can impact property values around them and suck up resources, such as power and water. Offices, parks, schools, and shop levels can be added (as long as you don't hit the max limit of levels allowed for any one tower), making each a self-contained world and potentially freeing up more space in your city for other things — like Omega plants.
Omega is a new super resource that acts like a virus and converts businesses and homes into Omega Co. franchises as it insidiously spreads its way across your city in the name of corporate profit. The more omega you can manufacture for use, the more money you can potentially earn. Everyone becomes an addict to your version of consumerism.
This path starts with an Omega factory, but you can add extensions to increase production and delivery trucks. Do well enough, and it's time to plop the Omega Co. HQ in the city to give you more options, like build drones or feed oil and raw ore to your omega factories via massive pumps and pipes that snake across the city.
Drones are great, high-tech friends for any city. They can chase down and rehabilitate criminals, tend to wounded Sims, put out fires, or remotely shop for Sims who are comfortably ensconced at home. They also fly over traffic, which can solve some issues for particularly congested streets. They can also be used as a valuable part of the mega-towers, but they're not all-encompassing solutions. You can only attach so many "drone modules" to a police station, fire department, or hospital. If you have extras, you can also send them to other cities.
Drones are also thrown away after they're used, so players investing in omega must keep their factories fed to keep production lines going. Businesses starved of omega slowly degrade over time and ultimately shut down. This was something of a problem for me in one of my cities, where two massive factories kept shutting down after so long, even when an omega plant was right across the street. Traffic problems are still there, though they're not quite as bad as they were when I first reviewed SimCity a few months ago. At the same time, it's been a few months. One of my buildings still complained about not being able to go to school when there's a high school across the street.
At the time of this review, a patch had been released to address issues with the mega-towers. Sims weren't able to find work on one level, ignoring the new, shiny office level I had opened right above them. It seemed to be a typical theme afflicting a number of towers. The patch alleviated some of that, but towers can be a relatively expensive investment in the short term, as I found out when I took my multi-millionaire metropolis too quickly into the future and began bleeding an incredible amount of money without properly laying down the right foundation. For some reason, my trash collection stopped until I demolished one of the towers I built.
New, futuristic parks are also available for your city, and they can also alter the appearance of nearby buildings and increase the surrounding land value. Over time, gleaming spires and high-tech houses begin popping up, overlooking glowing streets at night as fancy techy cars speed along. They're a quick way to give your cities a futuristic look.
Cities of Tomorrow isn't a bad expansion if you're already a big fan of SimCity and are itching for new ways with which to test your city-building skills within Maxis' sandbox. The new facilities add alternative approaches to creating prosperous cities of utopian wonder or unbridled capitalism. They can be appealing and even fun to experiment with, as long as you're not hoping for this to do much more. On that level, Cities of Tomorrow works decently well. If you're expecting it to solve some long-standing issues, there's nothing to see here beyond the neon glow of the streets and the purple haze hanging above every smokestack.
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