SimCity Societies First Impressions - Urban Renewal for a Famous Franchise

The SimCity franchise gets rebooted with SimCity Societies, a game that tosses out much of the legacy gameplay and starts over from scratch.

Before The Sims arrived on the scene and dominated PC game sales charts, Maxis' key franchise was SimCity, the iconic city-building game. As a mayor in SimCity, you have to balance all the needs of a city. For instance, the citizens want houses and jobs; businesses need an educated workforce; industry requires workers and infrastructure; and more. However, as anyone who has played SimCity and its sequels knows, trying to incorporate all these needs into a single city is a huge challenge. Of course, meeting that challenge is the rewarding part of the game. While this formula has served the series for almost two decades, it's about to get a big overhaul.

SimCity Societies isn't like any SimCity game before it.

More than four years have passed since the last SimCity game was released, and that's an epoch in computing terms. So EA and Maxis recently announced a new SimCity game, but it's one that's completely unlike any of its predecessors. SimCity Societies will be the first SimCity game that's not developed directly by Maxis. Instead, work on the game is being done primarily by Tilted Mill, the developer of city-building games Caesar IV and Children of the Nile. As such, Tilted Mill brings an outside perspective to SimCity, and that has translated to a fresh new angle to the series. And in many ways, SimCity Societies feels like a reboot of sorts for the franchise.

One of the driving forces behind SimCity Societies was a sense that the SimCity games had become a bit too complex. Building a city in SimCity 4, the previous game in the franchise, required a lot of work as you tried to build and connect regional cities to form a massive metropolitan region. In fact, one intrepid fan even built a virtual copy of New York City. Though rewarding in its own way, SimCity 4 lacked the simplicity and fun of the original game, which the producers of SimCity Societies noted. Thus, SimCity Societies takes a wrecking ball to all of the complexity that has built up over the past 18 years.

Much that you know about SimCity is pretty much gone in SimCity Societies. For example, the familiar zoning system that let you designate whether land could be used for residential, commercial, or industrial purposes is no more. Now, you just put down buildings--any kind of building you want. The idea behind this is that what's important is the kind of energy the building radiates. Energy is the major new concept in SimCity Societies, and it will let you build the kind of city that you want. If you want an Orwellian society, then build a lot of government buildings to radiate obedience, as well as high rises for wealth energy and industrial buildings for, well, industry. Or if you want to build a quiet, pastoral society, then build monasteries and farms for devotional energy, as well as castles or gingerbread houses (yes, that's right) for creative energy. If you want to build a college town, then go for knowledge energy by building schools and universities. Of course, these are just a sample of the buildings in the game because there will be hundreds to pick from, with about two-thirds of them waiting to be unlocked. The appearance of your city and its environs actually change depending on the energies in the city. Orwellian cities will look very bleak, with harsh, oppressive skies overhead, while pastoral cities will look sunny and tranquil.

The look of your city will change depending on its societal energies.

Additionally, SimCity Societies will track and model the citizens in your city to a greater degree than before. In earlier SimCity games, the population was abstracted for the most part, though you could create and track individual sims to get an idea of how your city was working. It sounds like SimCity Societies will actually track and model every citizen in your city. If you played any of Tilted Mill's earlier games, then you know that was the case in those games as well. This will result in a smaller population than prior SimCity games, and you won't be building cities with tens of thousands, let alone hundreds of thousands, of people. But you will need to worry about their wants and needs. For example, if you build an industrial city full of factories and low-income housing, you'll need to keep the workers happy. You can do so by building dive bars and liquor stores, though the price of that will be a lot of drunks, as well as an uptick in crime.

SimCity Societies will also bring you a lot closer to the action. The graphics engine looks similar to the ones used in Caesar IV and Children of the Nile, so the camera is lower to the ground than earlier SimCity games. This lets you see the goings-on in your city from up close. You can also pull the camera back to take in larger swaths of terrain, though we didn't see the extreme zoom outs seen in earlier SimCity games.

There's little question that SimCity Societies represents a huge change of direction for the franchise. It seems that the focus is not so much on building a city than it is on building a society. So how those changes are accepted will be interesting to see. SimCity Societies is scheduled to ship this holiday season.

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Discussion

264 comments
Silvernova001
Silvernova001

I am actually pretty excited about this game. I have been playing the SimCity series since SC2000 and I have enjoyed each subsequent game. I did like SimCity 4 and the Rush Hour expansion, but the game took so long to build up populations for the larger skyscrapers I wanted in my cities. The traditional zoning method is more realistic and it is quite fun to watch what your citizens will build within that area, but sometimes I wanted specific things that never came about. Thus, it will be sorely missed. SimCity Societies does looking promising. The fact that you can place every single building seems a little tedious, yet thrilling too. I have also liked games like Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom where you placed each building and built up your imperial city-state, so the "build your own society" aspect is appealing to me. The interview with the designers did mention this game would be geared more towards those who want to have more control over their cities. I am disappointed with the graphics engines provided by Tilted Mills because the screen shots look very cartoonish compared to its predecessors, especially when Maxis is allowing them to do the work. I wished SimCity Societies had graphics similar to SC4, but I am hoping the game play will prevail. The societal energies concept sounds very interesting.

it009x9281
it009x9281

I have played simcity games since i had a spectrum seen alot of changes in style and gameplay to me simcity was good,simcity2000 was the best,fun and most stable to play,simcity 3000 was ok but simcity 4 was just horrible to play took me years to perfect the game but just dont play it anymore and this new simcity game i must say i very use to laying zones down and watching them develop from poor to rich places to live just seems crazy to me but it might pan out or kill simcity for good will have wait and see!!!

xenon671
xenon671

I think that simcity cannot be mad without Maxis. Maxis adds such a sense of personality and humor to games. But instead one of the world's most famous game franchises is being created by some developer nobody has ever heard of.

maneden
maneden

Haven't read everyone's comments so hope not repeating anyone! I've grown bored of SimCity 4 (have been paying simicity from the early days, used to go to local computer shop were you could play it to demo PCs... before anyone really had one). I like the idea of doing something more creative with my cities! But I want to build a city not a society!? It's a shame no-one had the idea of combining the two concepts!! Zone and select buldings, build a city and create a society!

thetarget
thetarget

it is a fresh idea, not-so-fresh but pretty fresh with the combination of sim city and caeser. However, it is obvious they didn't do any market survey of just how many people wants Sim city to be a 'real' city. With populations of really 100millions, with areas that are designated to be residential, comercial or industrial. Energy seems new, I'll give it a chance and try it out. However, removing all and adding a new feature seems doubtful to me. EDIT: Just to add. If they want to ask for what I am really waiting for, I'd like to have a sand-box-like feature that allows me to create some policies.

zoe256
zoe256

i can't wait for this game it sounds amazing!, i will miss the zoning ability though :(

JackBurton
JackBurton

WTF was Will Wright thinking to allow this franchise to be outsourced to Tilted Mill?! Sim-Caesar? Buy or rent at your own risk... This game will undoubtedly suck!!

RLJSlick
RLJSlick

I'm afraid that EA maybe using Sim City to pump up their rapidly tiring The Sim franchise. I'm sure if it was up to Maxis they would of course continue to build a "normal Sim City game, since Sim City have made millions for them in the past. So we can blame EA for this.

H99867
H99867

Honestly, I do have to admit that this looks a lot like that "City Life" game that was released back when.

kabur
kabur

Well I have been waiting for a long time for a new simcity game but unfortunately the problem is that I want a city game where I can create a city which can house hundreds of thousands of people as I want the satisfaction of building something big and grand from something small. The thing about this game seems to be that I can truly manage my city, iI will be able to control what I want in my city but I wont be able to make a truly huge metropolis as I used to do in Simcity 4

tigerplayer91
tigerplayer91

I don't like how the new games starting to look. Being able to control every aspect of your city is just wierd. I liked when my sims would protest because of poor funding and other similiar attributes that came with SimCity 4 because it made the game seem more one on one. Like, you could actually "connect" with the sims. Plus, this new game is much to advanced for modern day computers. To be able to handle the graphics on this game you would need to have a Dell XPS or some other fancy gaming system like that. I like SimCity 4 because it looked realistic, but not so realistic that people like me with normal computers were still able to play it without lag or extreme slowing. The only time my computer lagged was when a fire broke out in downtown Chicago, which had a population of 2 million. And it only lagged when the old buildings started collapsing from the fire. (( I dispatched my fire trucks but the downtown area was mostly parks museums opera houses. All the fancy stuff you unlock. So there was no room for a firehouse and they didn't get there in time.)) Anyway, back to the point. I think SimCity Societies is going to be a big dissapointment and I plan on faithfully playing SImCity 4 until they come out with something more impressive. Which if it took 4 years to make this game then I can only imagine how long its going to take them to make another decent one.

Lights_Out
Lights_Out

I cannot believe that they are ruining Sim City with this game! They game is supposed to be complex and that is why sim City fans liked it. Running a city is supposed to be complex and the prior installments of Sim City were good simulations of actual city management. They included the natural free will of the citizens to determine what type of city it would be. Sim City 4 was a great game and with a few minor improvements it could have been spectacular. Instead, Maxis has taken a time-tested formula for success and totally thrown it out the window for a sandbox city building fantasty world. I hope that this game is renamed before release so it does not ruin the Sim City Name. I also hope that Maxis considers releasing a real Sim City 5, and Maxis, please design it yourself. I don't doubt that this will be a fun game, but from the preview it certainly does not sound like Sim City to me. Maxis, you have lost tens of thousands of loyal Sim City Fans, most of us will not buy this game.

Joshywaa
Joshywaa

i dont care about this BRING BACK SIMSVILLE, WHY ON EARTH DID THEY CANCEL IT!!!!

trapalhao
trapalhao

so.... what i see is a new game.... That's not the game that i was hopping for, it´s not simcity!! It's "City life"

qshobbes
qshobbes

That's exactly my point. Being able to choose exactly what is built on every lot detracts from the realism. A city government doesn't do that. It builds policies and devises inducements to attract certain types of business or industry. It might be cool if you could interact more closely with business owners or other decision-makers, but I don't like how the ability to dictate the entire design of the city impacts the realism.

J_J_Efferies
J_J_Efferies

Well okay, Mr. City Planner, tell me, in SimCity 4 didn't yoiu ever get tired of while you were building your city, a huge mansion going up to a crappy appartmet building, huh, it happend to me, in this game you won't have to worry about that because it wont happen because you choose the types of buildings that go up there.

qshobbes
qshobbes

Also, I don't think it makes any sense that you can have a society that's very intellectual, but not environmentalist, or artistic, or industrial. All these aspects (or "energies") of society are interrelated. Sim City 4 created a nice balance, requiring education for high tech industry and arts appreciation or airports and ports for commerce and industry. You can't attract certain types of people to a city without a wide array of amenities.

qshobbes
qshobbes

I'm currently studying Public Affairs, and my girlfriend works in the City Manager's office in a large city. This summer I've been working in the City Planning Dept back home, and every day I just want to play Sim City 4. I love the realism. Societies looks more like a "God" game than a "mayor" game. Zoning and other aspects of Sim City help citizens tell you what they want, and the only buildings that are built are chosen because they're supported by current policies and infrastructure. I don't want to rule every aspect of life in Sim City. Realism and challenge is what I'm after, as I think many die-hard fans are.

roundhay
roundhay

Oh, nobody, really. Only Chris Beatrice, President & Director of Development at Tilted Mill.

J_J_Efferies
J_J_Efferies

What tells you guys it wont be reallistic

roundhay
roundhay

Can't help but contrast the logical progression and Increasing gameplay sophistication of my other favourite game, Civilization, to this off the rails attempt at making SimCity more 'fun' and less 'complex'. God, I wish EA would just leave the franchise alone until Maxis becomes free from its commitments to Spore and The Sims. But no, they've seen City Life selling and they're wary of 'losing the initiative'. SimCity has a HUGE fan base and we are ALL screaming that we want to KEEP SIMCITY 'A REALISTIC URBAN SIMULATION'!

J_J_Efferies
J_J_Efferies

Really I think that it would be a great additon to the series, but i think that they should keep some of the older features, maybe if they tried to mix them together more, instead of taking the whole thing to the trash, it dosent sound too too terrible, I'll still buy it, and i really think that it won't be that bad of a game.

ryan-man
ryan-man

This game won't sell i bet ya, this is a stupid idea, tear down a great game with this sort of gameplay with this peace of ......! But i have 2 say the graphics looks okay, but you can't zoom out far 2 see you big city, they want 2 make this game personal and blabla interact with your people, we have the sims franchise for that !

CaptainCrazy
CaptainCrazy

I really don't like the direction this game is headed. I used to dream of Sim City 4 going 3D, but have it be a bit more accessible. I still would love the idea of zoning land and waiting to see what develops and creating the whole mass transit, roads, bridges and highway systems to connect different parts of a sprawling city. But Societies is a completely differnet game and I don't think it should even be called Sim City at all.

Kormath1969
Kormath1969

I heard about this "fresh slate" version a while ago and I looked at the screenshots (which do look really good), but I have to ask for the developers to first-off develop some sanity. They've made the game backwards, you place the buildings you want in order to create the city you want. Ummm...NO! Maybe they should look outside their darkened windows and talk to a mayor or an architect perhaps, you know someone who has a clue as to what happens in the real world. Because there we lay a foundation of possibilities, let the AI calculate what goes there and if we as the city planners don't like it, we can do a myriad of things to change it, bulldoze as a last option probably. As far as placing buildings, we do drop the necessary ones like schools and libraries and such, just like real life. I dare say what happened was some high-level manager thought that he has a "new vision" of how SimCity should evolve. Of course he's probably never even played SimCity. If they wanted to create a new city-building game based on this, then do so, but don't tarnish the SimCity line. And if you wanted this new game to sell, then let Will Wright put his Midas touch to it...after he completes Spore of course :) For the love of all that is gaming please turn this project around, the graphics look awesome and would be ideal for the next SimCity, not this!

gamerkid99
gamerkid99

Maxis does a great job with Simcity, please bring Maxis back

Shadowfox121
Shadowfox121

Sim City was a hidden jem to me. I loved SC4, played it endlessly, sure it was hard to get started and get eveything going, but once you got your city created and linked citys to form a region with millions of people... I was amazing. Kudos to EA for letting this happen I hope that since this is still in Devo. there is still time to rearange everything to where its back to the way it was (tear). This is defanatly a sad day for me and anyone who liked SC4.

Jsef64
Jsef64

Simcity 4 was not too complicated at all. It was a fantastic city builder, one that I spent much time on at that, and the fact that such a prestigious title is being progressed with this whole 'clean slate' rubbish...ugh makes me so angry. I've waited god knows how many years for the next Simcity title, only to get this...*sigh*

ebber
ebber

I don't want Will Wright to be a part of this game! WILL,... focus on Spore for the love of Pete! It's already taking too long. As far as Tilted Mill making this game, fine, I really enjoyed Caesar IV. HOWEVER, Caesar IV was a terrible resource hog. My dual-core, 1 gig RAM, radeon x1600 v/c machine would still crash at least once per sitting playing Caesar IV, on medium settings! Tilted Mill, stabilize this game, make it as fun as Caesar IV, and you may just carve out a new niche for the SimCity franchise. Otherwise you might just bury it.

DontEatCream
DontEatCream

At least they got one part right: the game got too complicated for its own good. However, that doesn't mean taking a "wrecking ball" to all of the previous Sim City ideologies is a good idea, either. Ehh... I guess they should just let the franchise be.

leonhdg
leonhdg

This game does not own the right to carry the Sim City name Its more like Sim$h!tty. One of the most important things with SC was using your RCI block and waiting to see what came. Now you have pre made building you put down to gain energy? WTF...... It's a blight on the franchise. I nit on Will Wright for letting them destroy his dream project.

Noclippin
Noclippin

Sim City shouldnt be about small socities being happy, it should be bout gigantic cities which you can reign havoc down upon when it finally starts doing good. lying down the water system, getting rich, making a lot of neighbouring towns.. and so on.

funnyCigarette
funnyCigarette

Exactly, watching your city developing (with random buildings) was the most rewarding thing about SC4... and I find the graphics of SC4 much better than what I can see on those sreenshots here... I love how EA is overtaking game series and then, sooner or later, turning them to NOTHING.

it009x9281
it009x9281

Sounds like their going make it like city life and i really hated that game but i prefered simcity games any day

Bevinsky
Bevinsky

Well, i can't be sure what to think about this game yet, but the fact that zoning is out of the picture really pisses me off.

LorenaLarue
LorenaLarue

A deviation from the original formula hence it is Simcity Societies and not Simcity 5. Will be interesting to see how this one eventually turns out.

objector
objector

There's nothing Simcity about this game, why don't they just take that out of the title?

shakirasvoice
shakirasvoice

placing down individual buildings is going to suck, and the game will become tedious like all those other crappy city building games. I want to mass produce the buildings, darnit! Is will wright even a part of this game?!

_Colossus_
_Colossus_

Doesn't sound like SimCity at all, more like Tycoon City or City Life. Which is dead boring and nothing like the pre-SimCity: Societies versions of SimCity.

lbsalvatore
lbsalvatore

I think we still have to wait before saying the game's bad. Those who like the complexity of SC4, and think it doesn't have any problem, then they can keep playing it. They're just trying to be a little innovative, give them a break, and wait at least until the game is released.

Javaguychronox
Javaguychronox

looks like it is going to be pretty crap. Caeser IV was horrible. Placing individual buildings?! Part of the fun of the old Simcities was watching your city develop and the buildings gradually improve. Im certainly not buying this.

g3xagp
g3xagp

There's a principle in game design "If it ain't broke, don't fix it.." This game clearly violates that principle. What a way to ruin a good series.

SimuLord
SimuLord

Tilted Mill's developing? I'll pass. They (and their earlier incarnation at Impressions) weren't able to get city builders right in 12 years of trying. This latest project seems more like a rehash of Monte Cristo's City Life, or at the very least a Tropico-style game that isn't as good as Tropico. Mind you, Phil Steinmeyer has run off to develop casual games, so I'm thinking he's not going to be the kind of guy you can get on board with, say, a modernistic or affluent version of his classic.

mattstone12
mattstone12

people say "simcity 4 is too comlicated" you think building cities is all un and games? no, it requires work, dedication, and taxes, and intelligence. now games look good but the gameplay is bad, when games were good, they were pixelated but they were excellent, x-com for example was a very successful game, but they were pixelated,mario, as well. so before saying SC4 is complicated, think what it takes to build a real city.

Jimmyjojon
Jimmyjojon

I think this looks like it could be a pretty interesting game. I LOVED the original Sim City. Then they just started to get more complicated then fun. So this could hopefully go back on that. Hopefully itll be like...Sim Town, but less childish.

txshady
txshady

dkpine... I'm the idiot because I like it the way it was, huh? And what does my comment have to do with other games? Asside from the fact that you get off on putting down other users and their rightful feelings and commnets, this is about SimCity, not the broad spectrum. I play Battlefield 2142, because I liked 2 and 1942. I play Nova Logic war games because of their backgrounds with the same games. Why do you think Command & Conquer is so successful? I don't mind change, as you seem to like to judge people you don't even know, I encourage it! But as long as it doesnt ruin what the game is about and were it came from. If every time something came out they changed everything, would you like it? If you wanted a change from SimCity dkpine, go to City Life, don't encourage people to continue ruining what was already great. And as a side note about the ignorant "fanboy" comment... We are all game fans here, if we were not, gamespot would not be here.

FFDmh2223
FFDmh2223

SimSHlTY It does not even look good. most games these days look good but are bad, this one sounds bad and looks bad. I'm in disbelief this really is happening.

FFDmh2223
FFDmh2223

Sounds like they have destroyed the game, people like simcity because of the complexicity, I think they want more complexicity. I did. This looks like a tragedy for simcity fans everywhere. I'm personally pissed off about it. I won't be buying this crap. Reboot more like destroyed game. This is not what the original creators would have wanted, which is obviously why they choose to keep them out of game design. It's sim city, you build a F ing city not sim society. this game sounds stupid.