Review by Elranzer

"Looking for SimCity 5? Prepare for disappointment."

Introduction

SimCity Societies is the 5th major release in the SimCity franchise. EA chose not to go with simply calling the game "SimCity 5" due to the remarkable differences (as well as the fact that it wasn't developed by Maxis). The game is closer to the previous four SimCity titles than the spin-offs such as SimCopter and Streets of SimCity, but there's enough change to warrant the alternative naming scheme.

GamePlay [6/10]

This is the main factor of this type of game, and indeed it is the biggest change over the previous four main SimCity titles. You place down buildings and roads, as well as infrastructure, to build your town and be a successful mayor. So far, same as the previous games. The execution and main themes are what's different.

Gone are the conventional resident, commercial and industrial zones (in fact, gone are "zones" altogether). You place down exact buildings, as in, you build a residential zone of houses, piece by piece, rather than placing down a zone. Replacing commercial and industry zones are specific work places (such as botanicals, shops and schools) to provide a set number of jobs. You must balance the number of houses and number of jobs available to avoid homeless people or bankrupt businesses.

Your main concern this time around are attractions and venues. You place down objects, such as signs, statues and monuments, that generate types of energy for the town. One such type of energy is "creativity" which is required for creative-themed buildings too be able to operate. You must generate enough theme energy for the city's buildings to be operational. You also focus on venues such as restaurants, ice cream parlors, amusement parks and movie theaters, which maintain the happiness levels of the Sims. If the happiness levels drop, your Sims riot or even revolt. You must generate enough happiness for the population size, but not too many venues that the businesses would shut down.

The city does not grow from town to city to metropolis. Rather, it's more of a giant sandbox, where you build on a theme (spirit, fun, authority, etc) and create the ultimate city of the based theme. Your goal is to build a thriving and living fun tourist town, productive authoritarian utopia, spiritual commune and other conceptual cities. Mixing and matching is not encouraged; you are advised to stick with one theme per project.

Placement of buildings seems not to matter as much. Residential zones do not suffer from being too close or far away from commercial zones or police stations. You do not have to bother with water pipes, highways, or even electrical lines (the functions of these are automatically handled). You instead focus on placing buildings and drawing roads. You respond to the Sims and their moods and place buildings according to their needs and emotions (or try to impose your will with your own choices of buildings). Rather than build a successful city, your main goal here is to indirectly control the Sims by manipulating their environment.

Overall, the game plays more like SimTown or Theme Park than SimCity.

Control [5/10]

Control is slightly different from the previous main SimCity titles, and a bit awkward. Everything is controlled by the mouse cursor from handling the buildings, rotating them, canceling and selecting, camera movement and zooming. Intuitive keyboard shortcuts are missing, everything is "simplified" though to vet SimCity players it may seem more difficult than intended. The left-click, right-click, mouse wheel and even middle click are all used.

Despite the importance placed on the Sims, you never directly control or influence them. Everything you do is in regards to building placement. The Sims respond indirectly to your actions.

Graphics [6/10]

There are plenty of effects to turn on and off in the video settings. Despite this, the game comes off as a generic polygon looker, with seemingly less 3D effects than SimCity 4. Though the polygon count is much higher and everything is truly in 3D, everything seems quite static and boring. The game looks quite the same between a mid-range video card to high-level cards. You probably would not notice much of a difference either if playing with a low-level card and turning off the effects. You just at least need to support DirectX 9.

Sound [4/10]

The background music is nothing to write home to mom about. No jazzy themes the likes of SimCity 3000 or pastoral orchestras of the SNES SimCity. Generic Sims stuff, really. Nothing you'd want on your iPod.

Replay Value [9/10]

This depends on if this is your type of game. If you love The Sims, you may like this as it is a city-building approach to the same goals of The Sims. If you are coming from the main four SimCity titles, you may be disappointed, although you may get a rush from playing God with the different types of themes and governments to choose from. If it is your type of game, you have a LOT of possibilities to play with, and may find yourself lost within the options.

There also exists Xbox 360-style "achievements" which unlock bonuses as you fulfill goals.

Conclusion

SimCity Societies is a like a mix of The Sims and SimCity 4 played over the SimTown game engine. Though SimTown was meant for kids, this is much more complicated with adult themes present, but way less complex than the previous four SimCity titles. Go into the game with the desire to build a themed city rather than the desire to build a successful metropolis from a rural hamlet.

If you're looking for SimCity 5, you will be disappointed. Rather more like SimTown 2.

Final Score [6/10] (Not an average)


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 11/19/07

Game Release: SimCity Societies (US, 11/15/07)


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