SimCity Societies Review

SimCity gets an overhaul, but is it for the better?

Review by Darren Cartledge
Published 7th January 2008

SimCity Societies

  • Developer: Tilted Mill Entertainment
  • Publisher: EA Games
  • Release Date: 16th November 2007

Having been a fan of the SimCity games since playing the original on the SNES way back in 1992, I was really looking forward to getting a quick god fix with this latest incarnation SimCity Societies. What I found was a game with some major changes from the formula that made the series so popular!

The first change fans of the series will notice is that you no longer set areas aside for development as either industrial, commercial or residential zones, you actually place fully functional buildings. Everything from luxury housing to seedy apartment blocks, banks to huge financial skyscrapers are available. There are a huge number of buildings to choose from and while you could easily categorise them as residential, commercial or industrial some appear in several of these categories. This may seem like a novel approach but it does seem to make the game a little simplistic, as all you have to do is place buildings on your city map and wait for people to move in.

The other major change in SimCity Societies is the introduction of “social energies” these are resources that are produced and consumed by different types of buildings. The energies produced by buildings in the game are productivity, knowledge, authority, prosperity, creativity and spirituality each building either consumes or produces different amounts of a single or a combination of the social energies and managing them can be tricky when you are trying to make a fledgling city grow. For instance most factories consume productivity while bars, shops and parks usually produce it. Not having enough productivity will result in factories not running as efficiently as they could.

This isn’t the only effect that social energies have on your city, they also influence the type of society that evolves and using different combinations of social energies allows you to directly influence the way your city develops. You can make your city a fun place to live, with its inhabitants being very creative and spiritual, or you can make your city a spiralling metropolis obsessed with knowledge and wealth, or if you’re in need of a real god fix you can create a police state making your city’s citizens obedient and sub servant. The introduction of these social energies does quite a lot to change the old formula that fans of the series are use to but yet makes the game a little more interesting and provides a nice challenge.

Having played all versions of the series before I thought getting to grips with this latest instalment would be a breeze but found I had to have a quick go at the games tutorial to fully understand the concept of “social energies”.

Other changes fans will notice is that city funds are now no longer collected from taxes but from the different businesses that you build in your city. This seems to be a much better system as new funds are added to the treasury at the end of each working day and the system goes some way to alleviate the frustration of having no money.

A new consideration that needs to be taken into account is the happiness of your citizens. If they become unhappy they will play hookie from work and if they get really down just out right refuse to do anything altogether. To keep your citizens happy you must build venues close to housing areas. These range from museums to bars, retail parks and burger joints to concert halls and Cineplex’s.

In SimCity societies you no longer have to worry about placing power lines or water pipes, in fact you don’t need to worry about watering your city at all as it all seems to have been done automatically and your only concern with power in what kind of carbon footprint your chosen source of power produces. The maintenance of roads also seems not to be a problem as this doesn’t appear to be deducted from city expenses. Other slight annoyances are that there are only a very limited number of road types you can build which restricts the layout of your city but it’s not really enough to spoil your enjoyment.

Disasters make a return in this instalment, although the choice of inflicting suffering on your city is limited to earthquakes, killer storms and meteor showers. Fires are still present in the game but these are usually caused by your city’s criminal element or a careless cook.

Despite the changes you will still face several of the challenges experienced in previous games! Restrictions placed on you by your city’s terrain that can be customised with the games map generator. Other worries you have to deal with are pollution, crime, health and the state of your budget which are all things fans of the series will be use to doing. However, having said that I can’t help feel that the game lacks some of the challenge of previous versions, as gaining money is easy and as you are placing complete structures on the map you no longer have to worry about zones not developing, which on the flipside could be a good thing.

Graphically SimCity Societies looks good and the buildings wouldn’t look out of place in any major city while others shouldn’t be found any where other then in a computer game. There are a lot of nice little touches that make your city really come to life, such as a full day night cycle and shadows that move depending on the time of day. There are several different camera types to choose from, the default camera should be enough to satisfy your planning needs but the “free” camera option works really well for getting in amongst your city’s streets and seeing its citizens going about their daily lives.

Sound in SimCity Societies is fairly limited, there are the usual construction sounds and traffic can be heard in the busier parts of your city. You can also hear the citizens conversations if you zoom right down to street level although you will only be able to understand them if you are fluent in simish (the language made famous in EA’s The Sims games).

SimCity Societies brings a lot of new features to the world of city management simulation and as it’s not as complex as previous versions will appeal to those who found the previous games to involved, while die hard fans may find this new instalment unchallenging and to simplistic.

Review Score: 6.8/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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