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SimCity Societies - PC - Review

Gw

Posted by: jkdmedia

Gamezone Review Rating 8.7 Great

The past summer, here in southwest Idaho, saw a lot of road construction, and building construction taking place. Each time driving, navigating the detours and trying to avoid inevitable delays proved fruitless – which often resulted in mutterings centering on the poor planning and timing.

Why is this relevant? Easy, a new Sim City title has released and rather than mutter about how you could do things better, if you were the one planning, zoning and timing construction, you get a measure of doing the job. Not that it would qualify you to do it in real life. After all SimCity Societies is a game – albeit a very entertaining one – and not real life. You won’t be juxtaposing real-world traffic situations, but rather trying to accomplish goals while building a small community into a major metropolitan force.

During this process, you will be micro-managing a great number of items, such as power resources, commerce, entertainment – all in an effort to keep your citizens, the Sims, happy.

In some ways SimCity Societies borrows from city-sim titles. It makes this a much more personal experience. This time the Sim City title – actually, that would be the SimCity title – is developed by Tilted Mill Entertainment and this is a very solid job of integrating a user-friendly interface with bright and colorful graphical elements that look good both from a distance and up close. 

The idea is a simple one. You start with a bare landscape and drop a street, houses, then start tending to the needs of your residents with venues, businesses and decorations. You can go for a certain feel for your town, or mix and match from the styles available.

Cities can operate on more than just power. Some buildings require a difference resource, like creativity. In order for buildings powered by creativity (indicated by a little painter’s palette above the building) you have to drop decorations that will feed into that.

 

But back to the interface for just a moment … When you see the scope of information that is available, it can seem a little daunting. But the learning curve is relatively small and you will be cruising through the game, achieving various goals set before you. The game measures goals in terms of population growth and citizen satisfaction.

Another very nice thing about the interface is not just that it is user friendly, but that it allows filtering so quickly and easily it almost makes one wonder why other Sim City titles seemed so overwrought in the interface. Ok, that is not entirely fair; other SC titles were easily accessible, but Societies does this in a big, bright and bold manner that will doubtless have broad appeal.

The interface is the real key to this game. It includes special features that will give the player, at the press of a button, information about the city. And a greater emphasis has been placed on the Sims that inhabit this city. In the past, Sim City titles were about micromanaging the city, but Societies seems to be refocusing that energy into caring for the people in the town. Think of it along the lines of a game like Tropico or Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdoms, but with the huge building power and resources of a Sim City title.

The game setup includes picking a region from nine available (temperate, alpine, desert, savanna, temperate coast, temperate mountains, tropical, tropical coast and tundra), picking a difficulty setting (relaxed, normal and challenging) and picking an event frequency (low, normal, high and climate only). There is also an option for your playmode from normal, unlimited simoleans and freeplay. In normal, buildings are revealed as you earn them. Freeplay unveils all buildings and gives the player unlimited simoleans.  

There are several areas that you have to pay attention to as your city starts to grow: productivity, prosperity, creativity, spirituality, authority and knowledge. The UI has a bar at the bottom that will show how much is being produced in these areas as well as how much extra you have. Buildings can either add to the totals or subtract from them. For example, dropping a Charity Center will cost you 300 simoleans, and give you +8 spirituality while costing you 4 prosperity. A bank is rated +12 prosperity and +3 authority.  

Graphically this game is pretty. The city teams with life and activities. Zoom in on a soccer field and you will see people practicing, or cheering on those practicing. Pick out a sim and he or she will tell you what they want and would like to do.

The music is soothing and there are some ambient sounds.

The key to SimCity Societies ultimately lays in planning. Your city will grow and evolve and having an idea of where you are going to go to (as in the direction of growth and such) is vital even when you are first building.

And as for accessibility, the game was placed in the hands of an 11-year-old girl who was entrenched with building her city rather quickly. She didn’t have a problem with the interface and was highly involved in planning her city’s growth. Can you say instantly hooked?

SimCity Societies is a very nice game. It is about building and growing and personal achievement. It does not have strong quest-oriented goals, per se, but does challenge players to create and plan. Hours can be quickly lost in this world and that speaks highly of the product.

Review Scoring Details for SimCity Societies

Gameplay: 8.6
The game is very accessible. While seeming to borrow from titles in the past, Societies does give players a lot of information structured in a user interface that is well designed.

Graphics: 8.8
The game was played on a machine with an older Radeon video card, with 512 megs of video RAM and looked very good. The textures were nice, the shadows and lighting did a great job of depicting time of day and even the events (consisting of special effects) looked very good.

Sound: 8.0
Sedate sounds support the graphics and allow time to slip by without any sense of urgency.

Difficulty: Medium

Concept: 8.5
The previous Sim City titles seem a little sterile compared to this game. It is bright and lush and feels like a family game rather than a planning & zoning exercise.

Overall: 8.7
A fun game that is accessible and seemingly geared for all members of the family. The game has a really gentle and relaxed feel to it, even when your city starts to hustle and bustle with businesses going up right and left, and the city coffers are working hard to keep up with the growth. This is an enjoyable game.

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