SimCity Societies

SimCity Societies
SimCity Societies Cover
Platform Windows
Genre Mediocre City Simulator
MtAMinutes to Action 1
Score 6  Clock score of 6Gameplay: 5
Fun Factor: 6
Gfx/Sound: 8
Story: 7
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SimCity Societies is the newest entry in the long and respected SimCity series. However, as you may or may not have heard, Societies is a radical departure from the traditional SimCity game. Gone is most of the micro-management you dealt with as being mayor and gone is zoning to lay the groundwork for your city. Now you are more of the city's grand architect and visionary. You decide what kind of city you want to run, whether it's a prosperous metropolis, a spiritual mecca, or an oppressed dystopia, it is all up to you. To dictate your direction, you lay down each building individually, from houses to ice cream stands to city hall, everything is under your control.

Now not everyone likes the new direction SimCity is heading, and of course this game is definitely not for everyone. Before I played the game, the entire premise reminded me more of City Life than SimCity 4, not necessarily a bad thing, just totally different than the games I grew up to know and love. I think as fans of the series we have to acknowledge that we will probably never play a new "classic" SimCity game, which is fine with me. The series peaked with SimCity 2000 and I still play that from time to time. But let's see if SimCity Societies renews the franchise or leaves me with a sour taste, let the first hour begin.

It should be noted again that my computer is not that great and doesn't even meet the minimum system requirements laid out by Electronic Arts (it requires at least an Athlon 2100 and I have an 1800, everything else meets or exceeds). I am still able to run the game okay with all the settings at medium or below though.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I decide to start with the tutorial, the hour starts as I click the button. Loading screen comes up, says the tutorial might be worth playing more than once. Must be fun... Game shows up, in this tutorial I'll be making a Fun City!

01 - First things first, power. The game instructs me to build three Wind Farms. Wind? That's not powerful at all.

02 - Next I have to build houses, I filter out the available houses and only look at Fun City Houses. This is the first thing that's much different than the original SimCity franchise: instead of laying down Residential-zoned land, you pick out what houses/apartments you want and lay them down directly. This almost reminds me more of Sim Town than SimCity.

Simcity Societies Houses

03 - I plant four cottages. Fun cottages. Now I'm told to add Decorations, which can add Creativity to my city which will sprout growth or something.

04 - I plant four murals, and now I have 24 total Creativity in my city, with 20 available. Each house sucks one creativity point away. I guess it's kind of like a balancing act.

05 - Time to build some places to work. I filter only Creative buildings and get... a Tulip Nursery. How inspiring!

06 - Next up are two Creepy Barns, which I guess is a place to work? What kind of morbid town is this?

07 - Time to build the all important roads, the life blood of any SimCity city. Laying roads is just like in the other SimCity games, but the camera is so close, laying long roads is a difficult task. I can't zoom out any further either.

Simcity Societies Roads Happiness

08 - A couple of roads pop in, now for an Ice Cream Parlor! Sims start flocking to it immediately! I click on one of them... Mario Lowery is his name. Apologies to any Mario Lowery's out there who were avoiding ever having their name show up on Google.

10 - The news ticker says that they welcome their insect overlords, what is this Slashdot? Awesome.

11 - Next up is a movie theater. After I plant it I'm told to click on the theater and do its special action, which is to host a premier. Kind of cool.

Simcity Societies Movie Theater

12 - The game is starting to let me do my own stuff... but nothing too wild.

14 - My wind generators are already hitting their power max, where's my super polluting coal plants? I add a few more and now I need to reach 50 Creativity. I build a variety of things like Merry Go Rounds and Jumping Fountains... and more lame murals which have a +8 Creativity bonus.

17 - I have a worker capacity of 8 right now, and I need to reach 15, more homes it is!

19 - More workplaces now too, but the game only lets me build Tulip Nurseries and Barns. Lame.

20 - I check out my City Info page, Budget is poor, no Crime, and hardly any Pollution. I guess that's good...

Simcity Societies City Info Simtopia

21 - I add a few more ice cream shops and a couple florists, and now I have to build my ultimate venue: The Clown School! Okay, can't do that just yet, need at least 61 Creativity points to make this creepy hangout.

22 - The game instructs me to check out the Achievements screen, there's 10 trophies to earn.

23 - Without ever building a Clown School the game tells me Congratulations! I won the tutorial.

25 - I'm not so easily defeated though... I decide to build the Clown School and inflict Mimeageddon on the town! A horde of mimes run out and destroy, I mean, hilarify the city.

Simcity Societies Clown School Mimes

26 - Okay, that's enough of this town, I want to build something truly Orwellian. But first I click the Meteor Shower button... umm... I don't see any meteors. I don't even see any damage done. Oh snaps now I see some. Awesome. Took out my movie theater in dramatic fashion.

29 - Now to trigger the Killer Storm! There's some wind sounds and lightning strikes but this isn't that exciting. I head back to the main menu.

31 - When configuring a new city, you can choose a variety of options, one of them is Unlimited Simoleons (Sim money). That's pretty nice, don't have to cheat or anything just to mess around. I click the Start City button and the loading screen comes up.

Simcity Societies Trophies Medals

32 - Okay, no more creativity. I'm thinking oppression is a better angle. The game calls this Authority. Good thing I've read Nineteen Eighty-Four (first two-thirds are awesome) and Brave New World (meh).

33 - I start with a Coal Power Plant. 20 times more productive than some stupid wind farms, and only five times as much.

34 - I have more options on the transit menu, including dirt country roads and a bus stop.

Simcity Societies Coal Power Plant

35 - Authority living units include Row Houses, Sleeping Tubes, and Slate Housing Block. All complete with Telescreens.

37 - I need some Authority points to fill up my new Row Houses so I build a Police Box, Public Clock, and a Large Statue.

40 - My people need nice places to work, I add a Bureaucracy Office and Department of Public Works. Nothing too insidious. For kicks I add a Dive Bar and Corner Deli.

Simcity Societies Authoritarian

43 - The game is not running that smoothly. Even though I have almost all the settings way down, I guess my computer just isn't good enough. Anyways, I add a Sleeping Tube building and then a Military School. Seems like an obvious decision!

45 - I begin an Efficiency Drive at my Bureaucracy Office. Time to whip these guys into shape.

46 - Next I add a Bank and Town Hall, not enough workers so another Sleeping Tube too. It's fun just to see all the Authoritarian options there are for places to work.

49 - I get a message that there's a lot of crime in my city. I could either build a Police Station or a Neighborhood Watch. How about both.

Simcity Societies Neighborhood Watch

52 - Woah, fire! I can't tell where though. I also don't have a fire department. I have no idea what to do.

53 - Finally I manage to build a fire station, but then the fire went out on it's own. I think it was arson.

54 - I start placing more police boxes, I have to lay down the law and take out these criminals before they sprout up.

56 - I head down to the street level to check things out up close. People are looking desperate and sad. This makes a leader like me happy.

Simcity Societies Policeman

57 - I build a Dungeon simply for the reason that it sounds awesome. I quickly initiate the Prisoner Acquisition action. Dungeons are pointless if they're not full, right?

58 - Right next door I place the new Propaganda Ministry. Send out the Ministry of Truth!

59 - People are less happy. Well, why should they enjoy life, they're here to work.

60 - As my hour ends, I watch my policemen and thought police beat down the disobedient citizens. Then I smile.

Now for some scores out of 10.

Simcity Societies Propaganda Ministry

First Hour Scores

Minutes to Action: 1

Gameplay: 5
Gameplay wise... the game starts to falter. I don't really want to knock Societies for trying something new, but I don't really think it pulls off what it is trying to do. It seems that this game is designed for city builders who know in advance exactly what kind of city they want to build and how it's laid out, instead of the old SimCity player where things really evolved along the way. I enjoyed building an authoritarian city, but the experience seemed way too structured, as in you build this house and then this city building and then this workplace, over and over. Anyways, you have to worry a lot more in this SimCity than just money, which can make things complex. Every time you place a building, you have to check to see if you have enough money, creativity points, authoritarian points, etc. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, just not completely newbie friendly.

Fun Factor: 6
Tutorials are never that much fun, and it is debatable if they're even necessary in any game. I learned a lot from Societies' tutorial but I wish it had been integrated more in the city I wanted to create, instead of the city the game wanted to create. The tutorial took over half an hour, but after that I had a lot of fun. Honestly though, I don't know how the game will really keep its appeal for long periods of time, but that's for someone else to decide. I think I've made it pretty clear throughout my review that I had a great time being a dictator mayor, so there's not much else to say about this.

Graphics and Sound: 8
Okay, my computer sucks. The game actually froze my computer no less than three times in just one hour, something that hasn't happened in a while so who knows where the fault lies anymore. Anyways, this game looks nice, the art direction is really amazing, I could tell that just from the small taste of the game I got. As oppression closed around my town, I could zoom in close and see just how depressed my people looked. Oddly enough, the game didn't seem to run any worse than Sim City 4, which was a hog too on my computer and that game is almost five years old. My biggest complaint about the graphics is that I could not zoom out very far. My view area was extremely limited. I guess they want you to zoom in and visit your Sims but sometimes it's nice to just pan out. Sound was fine, didn't really notice anything special except I could hear my Sims brawling on the street and getting arrested, which was cool.

Story: 7
Well, there's no story to SimCity games, so I decided to create my own when starting my own city. I was an authoritarian dictator in Small Town U.S.A. and the game encouraged me to play that. It was really great fun to check out all the insidious buildings I could lay down to execute my Master Plan. Plus zooming into street level to watch my brutal police officers take down thought crime criminals was very enjoyable. I won't weigh this category heavy, just thought I'd like to point out I have an imagination.

Overall: 6
SimCity Societies is quite enjoyable, but it doesn't feel anything like the originals, where you could just dive into the game and be lost for hours at a time. The game moves at a slow, deliberate pace. Gone is the micro-management of city budgets and taxes, here is the micro-management of Sims and cultural movements. I really wish I had a better machine so I could take this game to the max and move the camera around and just make a giant Orwellian metropolis without slowdown or stuttering, as I think it could be quite a beautiful sight. This isn't the game's fault of course, but one hour of any simulation game doesn't really give it the justice it deserves. The first hour of SimCity Societies shows some promise, but it also reveals plenty of weaknesses in repetitiveness and too much structure for a Sim game. I was really hoping for a brilliant game, but what we get is just a mediocre city building experience with a new twist. This game is probably worth checking out for fans of the genre, but you'll still be returning to SimCity 2000 to get your real fix. Oh yeah, Spore couldn't come any sooner.

Simcity Societies Burden Of Man Art