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SimCity Societies Preview

publisher: EA
developer: Tilted Mill Entertainment
genre: Management

PIV 1700, 512MB RAM, 2.1GB HDD, 128MB video card
ESRB rating: E

release date: Nov 13, 07
» All About SimCity Societies on ActionTrip

If there's one game out there that's every bit as influential as Civilization, Populous or The Sims (or Battlecruiser 3000AD - Ed), it would have to be Will Wright's SimCity. Of course, the franchise has come a long way and has gone through many aesthetic and technical changes since its initial release back in 1989.

In the process of the evolution of the SimCity series, Will Wright took part in almost every project. However, he had little to no involvement in the development of recent additions to the popular city management series. For instance, he was not on the design team for SimCity 4. Will himself was quoted saying, "SimCity kind of worked itself into a corner, (because) we were still appealing to this core SimCity group. It had gotten a little complicated for people who had never played SimCity. We want to take it back to its roots where somebody who had never heard of SimCity can pick it up and enjoy playing it without thinking it was really, really hard."

Corresponding to Will's statement, SimCity Societies, the latest addition in the long-running series, is definitely taking the franchise in new directions. Will isn't leading the project and Maxis, the developer of earlier SimCity games, has backed down from this one as well, so the field was left open for Tilted Mill Entertainment. The studio's previous work includes Children of the Nine and the somewhat slapdash Caesar IV. Although expectations were suitably high for Caesar IV, given the reputation of the first three installments (done by Impressions Games), the game failed to take the series to the next level. However, seeing what the people at Tilted Mill are up to with SimCity Societies, we're hoping history won't repeat itself.

At the core of SimCity Societies, are new-fangled gameplay mechanics, indicating an effort to move away from the intricate gameplay in earlier installments, such as SimCity 4 and the succeeding Rush Hour expansion pack. The familiar system of zoning is out, for starters. In case you don't know, this system allowed players to build urban districts by setting up three different zones - housing, commercial and industrial. Contrary to this principle, SimCity Societies uses a whole new concept involving specific structures and Energy, which evidently represents a key component in the game. You can construct individual buildings and there are six societal Energies (such as Wealth, Creativity and Obedience) you'll either be producing or consuming.

The player gets to place any buildings he wishes and each of these buildings emits a certain type of Energy, signifying the sort of society he prefers to build upon. Construct a nearby bar to raise the level of happiness amongst your Sims (apparently they're still calling them that), but, take heed, because it can also make them sick and drunk, which in turn, affects their productivity at work the following day. Establishments like bars and liquor stores may increase the presence of crime in your neighborhood. Criminals influence overall content, since they can steal precious personal possessions from other citizens. So, basically, these wrongdoers may slow down the day of your average Sims, but they're not without their uses. If crime is on the rise, you can take the opportunity to build a corrupt police station, thus making money off criminal activities in the area.

The game no longer emphasizes the significance of being a good mayor in the eyes of the public. It's possible to build a city where the entire populace is unhappy, but still willing to march to work every day and making money for you. It all depends on whether you're a benign leader or simply a ruthless authoritarian ruler, who doesn't really care about how his inferiors feel. It's also possible to create any type of society you might be inclined to. Your city can be the pinnacle of industrial progress or it can be crammed with creative minds and environment-conscience citizens interested in knowledge and preserving a tranquil and peaceful society. This is done by erecting schools, universities and a variety of additional educational facilities to help you hone on that type of Energy. In the process, you'll also unlock other buildings such as monasteries, farms, castles and even gingerbread houses (you've read it correctly). Apparently, creative folk like living in gingerbread houses.

On the other hand, the game is flexible, so it also allows you to mix different Energies to create a varied city. There are over 400 buildings and decorations you can put down throughout the game and each of these features a unique set of attributes. Some of them also allow you to perform direct actions, which offers plenty of possibilities during gameplay and should always give you something to do.

Tilted Mill is clearly aiming to narrow the gameplay down to a smaller population cap, as opposed to preceding SimCity games where you had to maintain a fully thriving community of tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands. In "Societies," players are bound to get a bit more involved with the personal needs and reactions of individual Sims.

Another component eliminated from previous SimCity games is the so-called Advisor. The ever-present advisor was there to assist you when you got stuck. He had a variety of suggestions, no matter what the problem was: financial difficulties, pollution, traffic jams, city infrastructure, employment and so on. Instead, the concept of the game is to steer players in the direction of the society they've chosen to build, so they'll find their own way around. When you experiment with one form of community, for instance, if you start advancing a crime-infested society, you'll get a whole set of goals to complete in order to further develop such a city.

Even if we were unhappy with the developer's last outing (Caesar IV), after hearing some of the ideas they have for this one, we think this game has potential. SimCity might be getting more than just a mere facelift. Hopefully, the shift in gameplay and the concept behind societal energies could very well mark the beginning of a new era for the ultra-popular franchise that was crafted so many years ago.

You'll be able to create your first society during the holiday season, when the game is scheduled for release.



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