With games receiving more sequels than ever, it's rare to see a popular franchise go more than a few years without a follow-up effort. However, that's precisely what has happened to the SimCity series, which hasn't seen a new iteration in over four years. But the long wait is almost over. SimCity Societies will be hitting stores this holiday season, and we got a look at an alpha build of the game in Leipzig.
One look at Societies and you'll instantly know you're looking at a SimCity game. The action is viewed from the same isometric perspective, the toolbars are in familiar positions, and you're still charged with building a successful town. You'll manage the residential, commercial, and industrial aspects of your city, build roads, power plants, and set a budget too. There's a lot that is familiar here, but a lot has changed.
It's now easier than ever to see just what exactly is going on in your city. You can click on individual citizens to find out all about them and their attitudes towards the town. Your sims' moods aren't determined by some unseen artificial intelligence routine, either--they will react realistically to their surroundings. For example: A sim goes to a bar and gets hammered. If he's drunk, he can't drive, so he'll have to walk home. Walking home takes a while, so he's going to be super tired when he gets home. He'll probably miss work the next day, which means he stands a good chance of getting fired...which leads to a whole different sequence of events.
As has been the case with every new SimCity game, there are more buildings than ever before. You'll have a huge selection of work-related buildings to choose from: not just a few categories, but loads of different professions too. There are breweries, bakeries, banks, animal shelters, bookstores, casinos, bowling alleys, bridal shops, cafés, and loads more. The buildings you place will have a variety of effects on your city. By clicking on a building, you can find out a wealth of information such as its operating hours, financial impact, the impact nearby buildings have on it, how many people live or work there, and how it affects your city's societal values: productivity, prosperity, creativity, spirituality, authority, and knowledge. Each building can have a positive or negative effect on these values. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because that's how your city gains an identity. Depending on what buildings you choose and where you put them, your city might end up being normal, a small town, romantic, capitalist, industrial, fun, or a number of other characteristics, all of which are reflected in your city's appearance.
Of course, it would be a SimCity game if there weren't disasters to bring your town to its knees. You can unleash fire, floods, and even meteor showers with the click of a button. As always, you can turn random disasters off, but there are some problems that you won't be able to run and hide from, such as global warming.
SimCity 4 had a reputation for being a bit of a system hog when it was released. Big cities could bring even top-of-the-line desktops to their knees. EA knows this and is working to optimize the game so that as many people as possible can enjoy it this time around. That doesn't mean the game won't look nice, because even now it's looking quite sharp. There are loads of details to enjoy as you zoom from high atop your city right down to street level.
EA isn't ready to give details on the game's online features just yet, but it did promise that the game will allow for more customization than ever before, and that it's being written in such a way that it can be easily modded.
SimCity Societies is due in stores this holiday season and is currently slated as a PC-only (XP and Vista) title at this time.