The always-online problem
My biggest criticism is also going to be the most common: there are a lot of problems with SimCity's always-online requirement. What if I want to play on my laptop while I commute? What if your servers go down? These are valid questions, and so are the smaller ones, such as: what if I make a mistake and want to reload an earlier save?
I can't. There's no “undo” in SimCity. You can demolish mistakes, like the foolish placement of my City Hall wing, but you pay for it, because your city isn't just yours. It partially lives on EA's servers, where it can interact with other player's cities (if you choose to open your region), make purchases from the global marketplace, and stay up-to-date on the global leaderboards.
Is there anything to like about taking SimCity online? Sure. It means that, if I choose to let my friends build in my region, I'll be able to see and interact with their decisions every time I log in. It means we can work together and construct great works. It means I can amass wealth by playing the global market, and that fantasy stock market challenge sounds fun to me.
Having no offline single-player option at all, however, is bothersome. I just don't buy the idea that it would have been impossible to include a separate offline mode. No friends. No leaderboard. No global market. Just me and a few cities that can live in isolation.
Unfortunately, I don't foresee these concerns swaying Maxis or EA, and they'll continue to explain why the online requirement is technically and philosophically imperative . Oh well, I'll count it as a flaw, but I can deal with it. I have to, because I'm going to play a lot more SimCity. I haven't made it to skyscrapers and complex industries yet, so I can't comment on mid- or late-game cities, but the early game has all the same addictive properties of SimCity 2000, with even more complexity and decision making. I need to wash my hands afterward, but it's still some damn good ice cream.