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 SimCity Societies

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PostSubject: SimCity Societies   Mon May 09, 2011 2:50 pm

SimCity Societies





It's funny how SimCity is simultaneously a super-hardcore game and a
super-casual gaming brand. By which we mean the game itself is pretty
complex, once you get enmeshed in the intricacies of town-planning and
taxation (and even more so in its sequels). Yet it's also one of the few
titles to have truly crossed over to non-gamers, who saw an appeal that
was lacking in the stereotypical cars, guns and girls gaming fare.

It's a perfect candidate for a mobile conversion, then, which it got
last year with the impressive-if-fiddly SimCity. Interestingly though,
EA is about to give the PC series a more casual spin in the form of SimCity Societies, which focuses more on the health, happiness and welfare of your citizens. And now that's going mobile, too.

This is good news, because the concept of SimCity Societies lends itself
to mobile play, both in tone and frequency. The result is a slick game
that's far easier to play than its predecessor, and which despite
stripping back the gameplay to make it more accessible, has just as much
depth.

Starting with the basic stuff, though, SimCity Societies retains the essence
of SimCity, in that you lay down residential, commercial and industrial
buildings, and then try to build a bustling metropolis. However, it's
much broader in scope: you don't have to lay roads and power lines, for
example, or set taxes.

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The game is scenario-based, too, with eight preset challenges plus a
Freeplay mode. It's stuff like making your citizens happy enough to win
the next mayoral election, stamping out crime in a set time limit, or
providing enough homes and jobs to cope with an influx of new citizens.

The controls make navigating around the game easy as pie. The
directional pad moves your cursor around the isometric city so as to
find somewhere to build, and then three metrics tabs at the bottom of
the screen are accessed by pressing '1' (for Sims metrics), '2' (for
City metrics) and '3' (for your Society meter).

Taking them in turn: the Sims metrics show how many Sims live in your
city, how happy they are, and what percentage have jobs / homes /
criminal tendencies. Meanwhile, the City metrics show levels of
pollution, power, healthcare, transit, and beauty / cleanliness.
Finally, the Society meter shows how liberal or authoritarian you are,
which allows / rules out certain buildings.

It's a good system, making it simple to check on your status without wading through sub-menus. And generally, scenarios will ask you
to raise specific metrics to a certain level to complete them. (As a
quick aside: all the scenarios are unlocked when you start the game,
too, which we think is great – no getting stuck on one and then being
unable to play the rest of the game.)

Building-wise, you can lay down various types of home, workplace and
'venues' (leisure / commercial buildings), which all have their cost, as well as impact on different metrics.

So, a Wind Farm provides work for some Sims and reduces happiness and
beauty a bit, but bumps up your power levels. Meanwhile, a Clinic
improves happiness and health levels but uses a bit of power, while a
Sports Stadium uses lots of power, and has negative impacts on pollution
and transportation, but makes your citizens happy.

There's lots of weighing up to be done here, in short, if you're to
complete the objectives. The game is essentially about balancing all
these variables to achieve specific objectives and it quickly becomes
addictive.

Along the way, extra issues are thrown at you by your advisors, who'll
ask your opinion on a particular problem or opportunity ranging from
dodgy streetlamps and juvenile crime through to alien landings and billionaire bequests. Mostly, you'll have a choice of two answers – which often cost money but also have either a liberal or authoritarian tilt – which in turn affects your Society meter.

The presentation is excellent, whether from the crisp isometric graphics
through to the zingy menus. But it's the little things, too. Take the
way the graphics actually change depending on how liberal or
authoritarian you are, such as the screen noticeably lightening or darkening as your Society meter goes one way or the other, as well as the buildings showing the impact of your decisions.

Our main criticism – which is to say frustration – is with the financial
aspects. It's great that they're simple, but the way the money comes in
steadily means that in some scenarios, the mechanic can feel a little
repetitive, in a 'slap a building down, wait for enough money to come in
for the next one, repeat' kind of way.

Then again, we can't really think of how this could be improved, short
of having a 'quick-fix' button to generate instant cash (bribery,
perhaps?). But it's the only thing that ever really threatened to
disrupt our enjoyment of the game.

In all other respects, SimCity Societies is a class act, and a great
mobile game, as opposed to just a great game gone mobile. Even after
working through the scenarios, we're still dipping into the Freeplay
mode and getting caught up in its world, so we guarantee it'll keep you interested.

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