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SimCity Societies Review
developer: Tilted Mill Entertainment
PIV 1700, 512MB RAM, 2.1GB HDD, 128MB video card
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Nov 13, 07 (released)
|» All About SimCity Societies on ActionTrip|
I consider myself a SimCity veteran. SimCity 4: Rush Hour is still installed on my home computer and I enjoy playing it to this day. Without exaggeration, I think it remains one of the most challenging city/management games on the market. Recent SimCity titles though, frequently proved a bit too challenging, particularly for the average gamer. Corresponding with its policy to deliver "innovative" games and bring them closer to casual gamers, EA opted to change the spirit of SimCity into something quite different.
My spirits were indeed dampened after EA announced SimCity: Societies, making it clear that Maxis won't be handling development and that the whole project had been turned over to another studio - i.e. Tilted Mill Entertainment. Of course, I've got nothing against these guys per se, but I did shake my head when I saw the first in-game footage and was immediately discouraged by the somewhat simplified 3D graphics and design. A grain of optimism lingered, given all the features promised by the dev. team. Essentially, they guaranteed that players will have freedom in creating their virtual metropolis like never before, thanks to the new, allegedly, "ultimate building block tool kit."
But let's start off with the good. The interface is intuitive and very user-friendly. You'll know what to do in a matter of minutes. Key facets of the city are shown on the main screen and quick tips indicate the exact structures required to improve your society. So-called society energies like Prosperity, Productivity, Creativity, Spirituality, Authority and Knowledge are your main concern. Points are accumulated throughout the game and automatically distributed into each of these categories. You're going to need these points to erect specific buildings. Sounds like a lot to think about, when really, it's as simple and straightforward as it gets. Various themes help players determine the type of city they'd like to build. The "Capitalist" theme, for instance, features structures needed to boost economy and business. Different themes, like Authoritarian, Cyberpunk, Industrial, Romantic, Fun City and so on, emphasize different architecture styles. Of course, it's always possible to mix and match, so you're not obliged to stick to a particular build style.
SC Societies does away with traditional SimCity building, which means there's no zoning. Instead of setting up commercial, industrial and housing zones, you place individual structures by yourself, from a simple house, to a giant skyscraper. In a sense, this is an advantage and it allows you to instantly mold the city just the way you want it, whereas in previous SimCity games a fair amount of time had to pass before the city advances. This was a bit frustrating, since you had to wait quite a while until you could witness the results of certain actions. In Societies you are able to behold the fruits of your labor right away.
The negative side to this is that you can achieve considerable standing way too quickly. What required hard work, time and persistence in, say, SimCity 4, can now be completed in a matter of minutes. So, yes, the game reduces the challenge significantly when compared to other titles in the renowned city/management series. Other intricate elements, such as tending to the city's underground water systems and pipelines, are over and done with as well.
Unlike before, you can earn cash almost effortlessly. You just have to abide by the rules of the game, which, like I've said, involve looking after various aspects like Prosperity, Productivity and so on. As soon as you've balanced all this, money will start to roll in and before you know it, the treasury will be packing one million Simoleans. To earn that kind of money in earlier SimCity games was a major endeavor that required patience and some skill. Yet, in SC Societies I had little to no financial worries; hence I was able to expand and build even the most expensive and elaborate structures very early on.
With this iteration, SimCity has become an oversimplified city-building simulation, aimed at a wider gaming audience. It does have an impressive library of buildings, venues and decorative objects. Even with all the architecture styles and the possibility to influence the city's appearance directly (without zoning), this game clearly has very little depth. It reels the player in thanks to its slick design and straightforwardness, although beneath the surface, it's nothing more than an interactive city-building encyclopedia. You unlock buildings, place them on the map, earn some money, and then you unlock more. As a result, every venture is drastically less rewarding than in any of the previous titles.
Several awards and monuments (achievements, if you will) can be earned that are supposed to keep you playing. Sadly, you won't find them much of a motivation. As you progress, the only thing that's going to happen is access to more buildings. Realistic issues, like migration, tax rates, inflation, city infrastructure, political reputation, mass transit were either trimmed down or completely shunned. Almost every problem you can hope to encounter can easily be solved by placing a specific type of structure.
6.1 Above Average
An impressive selection of structures, intuitive interface, easy to get into;
Nothing lasting to be had here, superficial gameplay (particularly if you've played SimCity before and liked it), hardly a worthy contribution to the series, frame-rate issues in the retail version.