I think I really expected that the glassbox engine would be more fun to watch than it really is. I thought that I wouldn't care so much that the maps are smaller because so much more would be going on in the city that would make it seem more fun. But the small maps are really limiting my enjoyment (and I'm not even one to build up a city quickly). Honestly, I was bored during the betas I played in (I knew instinctively that something was missing, but didn't have enough time to discern just what the missing "it" factor was) . I thought that maybe it was the time limit that made me feel rushed and not enjoy the game. But now that I can play for as long as I want, I find that I still don't want to.
And surprisingly, it's some of the smallest differences that are making me not like this new game as much as SC4. Things that I didn't think would matter, but somehow make the new simcity feel less alive and dynamic to me. For example:
I really like how in SC4 you have the query tool and can hover it over random things in the city. "Oh look, that house has a modest swimming pool, but it's neighbor has a grand swimming pool." This probably is hardly even a feature, but I find that I really miss having it. I'd spend lots of time scrolling over my cities in SC4 and having fun just querying what was on the lots. It made me care more what kind of buildings were getting placed.
In that same vein, I don't like the building query tool in the new simcity. It feels like it gives me way less information. A big challenge that I found fun in SC4 was putting down commercial zones and trying to get it from low customers to medium or high levels of customers. But the generic info. that I get when I query buildings in the new game makes me not care about the buildings. I don't even query them much anymore. In SC4 I would work hard to build up a certain section of my city and when that finally happened I'd feel so accomplished. I'd make certain buildings historical because I wanted to memorialize that victory. But in the new game, I can't imagine caring about any building that gets created enough to want to make sure I can keep it around (and I don't think that's an option even if I wanted to).
I don't like the way that the game tracks time. Somehow, it feels like I'm playing the same day over and over again, even though I'm building my city and changing it. In SC4 (and past simcity games) there were actual days, months and years. I like how with data maps in SC4 you can trace back how the city was doing in certain aspects a year ago or five hundred years ago. And I feel so proud of cities that I've put in enough time in to have data going back five hundred years. In the new game, I can look at a myriad of maps to tell me how the city is doing at that exact moment, but there's no sense of progression with the game. Of creating a city with a history and wondering about its future.
In SC4, I would use the photo capture feature to take pictures of my city at different stages of its development. And I love to go back through the photo albums and see how my cities as a whole (or even just certain sections of a city) have changed over time. Like, "wow, look how much things have changed in the last 75 years." There's no way to do this in the current game.
I'm not as entertained by the new "in construction" animation for when buildings are created. I'm not sure I can explain it, but the new animation bores me. In SC4, I loved coming across a building that was being upgraded and watching as the building took shape and wondering how tall the final structure would be. B/c building density was not tied to the road type, seeing a skyscraper develop felt like a sign of what I was doing things right. B/c I could zone high density all I wanted to, but if I didn't have the population demand to support it I'd only get small buildings. But now, zone density is tied to the street type. So, in conjunction with the smaller map size, it's easier to build up a section of the city that generates enough demand to get taller buildings.
I really like that you can add modules to buildings in the new simcity. But one thing I don't like is that there's no way to go backward. For example, in my current city I was looking at one of the data maps and saw that a bunch of kids in my city weren't going to school (despite having plenty of bus stops). So I added modules for more classrooms. But the number of students in school didn't go up. In SC4 I could use a slider to determine how many students the school could support. So if I made changes in my city that caused the population to go down in a certain area, I could go to that school and reduce the number of students it supported to save money. But in the new simcity, once the module is there, it's there. And since there are no more controlled saves, I can't see that adding more expensive modules was a waste of money and go back to a previous save and spend my money on something else.
On the other hand, it's really necessary in the new game to have modules (instead of it just being a nice feature). B/c the maps are so small, you can't afford to waste space on building multiples of the same structure, like high schools. But this limits my play style. In SC4 I have a city on the largest map size and it really feels like a city, with different neighborhoods in it. For example, I have a section of the city where there are a lot of low wealth highrises and a school that's failing to keep up with demand and as a result has a low rating. But in another wealthier part of the city, there are private schools and the public schools have plenty of room for the student demand and are rated very highly. With the new simcity there would be no way to duplicate this scenario.
I even miss the little soundbites that played in SC4 when you clicked on a building (for example, clicking on the private school versus clicking on a library).
I'm sure there are more things I could point out. But it's not so much that the new simcity doesn't have all of these things (even though I do miss a lot of these features), b/c I expected the game to be very different from SC4. It's the fact that I don't feel like I've found an equivalent amount of fun details like those above in the new game. I thought that glassbox would make my cities feel more alive but it doesn't. Or maybe it would if glassbox wasn't the only thing the game had going for it to give it detail and realism.