Thursday, January 10, 2008

SimCity Societies

I'm a gamer, through and through. I waste more time on games than practically anything else in life, often to the consternation of my hubby, but that's just me. I'm not such a fan of the typical shoot-em-up types though. To me, a game has to have a mental challenge involved to be interesting. My favorite games also have one other thing in common: many ways to play, so you can tailor your experience to your own personal tastes.

The Sims franchise is a great example of the custom-tailored gaming experience. It offers a nearly endless realm of possibilities. I can spend hours building the most fascinating houses, or trying to balance my sims' needs, or moving them through generation after generation to see how the great-great-grandkids resemble their ancestors. And after all of that I still haven't exhausted all of the possible gameplay options.

Another thing I look for in a game is a focus on strategy or logic. The Civilization series is great for this. You have to plan from the very start what you intend to do with your civ, in order to set up the proper technologies and diplomacy to accomplish your goals. Do you want to be a military might? Better work on building up your troops early on or you'll fall behind. Prefer to peacefully absorb other nations' cities? Invest your research efforts into the arts and build up the cultural centers of your cities. Again, plenty of possibilities, plenty of planning needed.

So now there's a new game coming out that has my full attention. It's no secret that I'm a huge Maxis fan. I've been playing Sim City since it came out on the SNES way back when. Of course, at the time my greatest joy in the game was building up a huge city and then setting lose a tornado or even Godzilla to wreak havoc on my helpless populace. These days though, I require quite a bit more from my gaming experience, and the last few Sim City releases just haven't really felt quite up to par.

Recently though, there's been a shakeup over in Sim City. It seems that there's a new guy on the block, by the name of Tilted Mill. What will this mean for our beloved City??? Well, apparently a whole lotta good. The headlines EA has been putting out concerning the newest Sim City offering, SimCity Societies, have been intriguing at least. Their ads have piqued my interest. Until now though, I wasn't sure if I'd bother. I mean, if it was going to be just another Sim City game, I have better places to spend my time (and money).

I've just read the write-up in Games for Windows mag, and I am SO on board with this one. Gone are the days of land zoning. Gone is the complex infrastructure. Gone seem to be all of the things that have been around in the franchise for so long that most of us just groaned when we saw they were still there (and not getting any better either) in the last game or two. It looks like SimCity Societies has cut through all the crap features of the older games, and added an amazing set of new features. This may just be the boost our good old City needs to bring it up to par!

Less cut-and-dry balancing of city needs and more social engineering are what make this one a game I'm sure to give a try. There are six social energies that drive the game play of societies: prosperity, spirituality, authority, productivity, creativity, and knowledge. Deciding the balance among these energies will shape and mold your society, and therefore your city. Each building you add to your city changes this balance one way or another, and also requires other changes in order to function properly.

Unlike most city-builders, this game pulls off the custom-tailored feel of the Sims, allowing you to manipulate your city building-by-building, until you've created the city that YOU want to design, rather than simply following a formula for success. Want your factory next to your elementary school? Go ahead. Rather keep your tenements on the opposite end of town from your cultural centers? Your call. Want your city to live and breathe the almighty dollar, or rather have them focus on The Almighty? Up to you. And of course, this IS a Sim game, which means you can also create your own content for the game, or download things that others have created.

As was true of its predecessors, SimCity Societies also allows for a lot of strategy and planning. After all, there is a delicate balance to be maintained, if you want to keep your citizens happy and your city functioning. It's important to have goals in mind, and to keep those goals at the forefront of all of your decisions, or your city may take unforeseen turns into something completely opposite of your intentions.

All in all, the guys at GfW gave the game a 7 of 10 rating. Since Sim City doesn't really fall into one of their typical genres, I consider that high praise indeed. Yup, soon as I can cough up the $50, SimCity Societies will become my distraction du jour.


Princess Jami said...

I'm having a great time getting David Michael Foogle through Sims2 University, right now. He's a PoliSci major in love with Bella Goth. :-)
I can't wait to turn him into a vampire with the NightLife expansion, but I think my version of the game is broken. /sad So, I'm pretty far behind you in the Sims franchise, but I have been wondering about SimCity Societies. Are you able to incorporate your Sims2 characters into the town? Gameplay does sound more like the Civ games, which I've still yet to try. I don't think I'm ever going to catch up to you. :-)

Bun-Girl said...

LOL -- yeah, Uni is a great expansion. I don't think I'm going to import my sims this time around. They had that feature available in the last Sim City, and it just wasn't that interesting. Not worth the effort IMHO. Of course, I may change my mind once I have the game installed... lol

You really should try Civ, but don't go with the newest version. Personally, I thought Civ 3 was far better. Also cheaper, since it's not the newest.

Bun-Girl said...

Oh! You were asking if it's possible to import, not if I was planning to... I really should read more thoroughly before answering. I'm not really sure. I assume so, since you could in the previous one, but maybe not since the project has been taken over by someone else. Who knows!

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