SimCity Societies PC DVD
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Tilted Mill Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
One of the biggest misconceptions amongst gamers in 2007 is that SimCity Societies is in actual fact SimCity 5. Of course this is rubbish and Electronic Arts have not even so much as implied that this is the case. SimCity Societies is in fact a spin-off, an offshoot, call it what you will but it's not SimCity 5. It's rather unfortunate that it carries the SimCity moniker in my opinion because the game has come in for unfair criticism from some quarters simply because it's not the bigger and better experience that SimCity fans were expecting.
As soon as you begin to play the game it becomes glaringly apparent that this isn’t your typical SimCity game. You don’t place zones and simply watch your zones evolve (and devolve) over time instead you directly place the buildings you want (to begin with most of the buildings are locked and you unlock them when your city reaches specific milestones). You don’t have to lay water pipes. You do have place power plants but you don’t have to make sure that your homes and other buildings are connected as the connection is automatic. You won’t have to spend hours deciding how to lay your roads or how to organise your transport system. There are no neighbour deals to be struck. In fact you’re relieved of pretty much all of the duties you had to perform as a virtual mayor in the SimCity games. This makes SimCity Societies a much more straightforward game but it also makes it less of an involving game. Those SimCity fans that enjoy the challenge of having to work out everything for themselves will feel like the game is on autopilot.
In SimCity Societies the idea is to keep your city in balance. There are six societal values to consider in maintaining this balance. The societal values are Productivity, Prosperity, Creativity, Spirituality, Authority and Knowledge. A building can either produce or consume a societal value. It can even produce one whilst consuming another. You are given numerical values for each societal value and the idea is to always have enough of each value in order for the building to function. Of course building costs money too, so you'll have to keep your eye on the finances. Controlling your finances in SimCity Societies is actually fairly straightforward. You'll also have to make sure your citizens are happy but once again this never appears to be much of a problem. You simply provide the jobs and venues that your citizens require and you'll find they will be pretty satisfied.
In addition to keeping an eye on the societal values and your finances, there are a few other considerations. You'll have to keep the crime rate, health and pollution in check. Of course you had to do this in the SimCity games and at times it was a challenge. Here though it's far easier and much less of a hassle. Certain buildings can spawn Special Sims. These Special Sims have unique abilities that impact your average Sims. Faith Healers (who cure the sick Sims they encounter), Fighting Monks (increase your Sims' happiness) and Arsonists choose a building and burn it to the ground. There are over twenty-five Special Sims in total. Then there are the disasters you can unleash. These are pretty much the same as you would find in a typical SimCity game, although you can choose to only have disasters that are a result of your city's pollution when creating your city.
I have to be honest and admit that I was surprised to find that the game has no scenarios. When starting a new game you have a choice of playing a Normal game, an Unlimited Simoleons game and a Freeplay game. You’ll get to choose the terrain you desire (you can set parameters for your map and regenerate it until you are happy with it). You’ll also get to choose one of three difficulty levels. The game does have set challenges in the form of trophies and medals. There are ten trophies and just fewer than thirty medals that you can earn by fulfilling certain conditions in your city. Those looking for set scenarios offering clearly defined challenges probably won’t be too impressed with this. I suppose the idea was to give the gamer a blank canvas and if they want to achieve specific goals then they could try to earn all, or as much as possible, of the trophies and medals. Those wanting a greater sense of direction may disapprove of this however.
Graphically, SimCity Societies is quite appealing. The five hundred structures you'll find in the game are all fairly well detailed and the landscapes you'll build on all look quite good. The game features day and night cycles and weather effects. With any city building game there is always the question of how well the game copes when the population becomes quite large. Unfortunately, SimCity Societies does become a resource hog once your city becomes quite large. The system requirements on the back of the box suggest 512MB RAM (1GB RAM if you're using Windows Vista). To be honest, this is wishful thinking to say the least and ideally you're going to want at least double the amount of RAM. Regardless of the system specification you have, a large city will definitely cause performance issues.
SimCity Societies is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. All of the information in the game is shown either in text, numerically or through the use of icons. The game’s tutorial is all in text and you can read the text at your leisure as you’ll need to click off the dialogue boxes for the tutorial messages to progress. You’ll also receive tutorial text messages whilst playing the game, if you have the option to show the tutorial messages selected. The game has a variety of special map display buttons that when pressed will display various types of information. For instance, you can see which buildings are producing or consuming power (the exact units being used and consumed are shown). You can also see which buildings consume or produce a particular societal value. The game shows text messages if you don't have enough of a societal value to run a building. You'll also be notified when additional buildings have been unlocked.
All things considered, SimCity Societies isn't a bad game. The problem that most will have with it is that it's not SimCity 5. Whilst there are hints of a SimCity experience here, it's a very different experience. Compared to the SimCity games it's a very relaxed experience with a low level of complexity. Some may regard the game as being too easy. I think the problem here is that the game simply lets you get on with things and isn't constantly throwing problems at you like the SimCity games do. I also found it strange that no scenarios have been included. Those who want a city building game that can be played at a relaxing pace and doesn't throw many problems your way will appreciate SimCity Societies for what it is. However, many will simply see the SimCity name on the box and then crucify the game for not being SimCity 5.