I have the game, and from what I can tell, so far it is far from a finished game. Online play is slow and laggy, even with setting at low. Solo mode means you can only trade with the AI corporation, pretty much making that aspect of the game useless due to the AI's high selling prices and low buying prices. So in multiplayer, you can't build a big city easily because it slows way down due to lag, and in solo you can't build to big of a city because the maps just don't have the resources required without trading (and of course the AI's restrictive prices mean you can't turn anything near a profit off the AI bought resources).
Oh ya, and I'm not sure why they are charging at all for subscription; after all, there are ads ingame via buildings and billboards from their "sponsors." And another thing: these "sponsor" buildings? Well, at least 1 of them they are actually making you pay to get. http://www.citiesxl.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=966&Itemid=128 Notice item 3 of content pack 1. And apparently you don't even get any mass transit systems until pack 3.
One thing I can say though, is the game progression is very different from that of the SC series. In SC, your normal actions involve doing x, y, z, and then when you finish, in order to make more money, doing actions a, b, and c. I haven't quite decided if it is a positive or not, but cities XL (in solo mode anyway) seems to have a reverse in the way the challenge is spaced out. Early on, you do x, y, and z and manage to get a nice budget surplus. Then you do a, b, and c to grow the city further, and end up finding that your city is indeed larger, but that you really do not benefit from it. In fact, when your city really starts getting large, things get harder and harder, and surpluses seem to dwindle rather than grow. So instead of having a big, profitable city like SC, you end up with a big, non-profit city. It may get easier when the city grows beyond the size mine is now, but if it does, I'm not seeing it.