SimCity Societies Updated Impressions

We take a tour of a couple of interesting city types in EA's upcoming builder.

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At EA's recent showcase, we got a nice, juicy demo of the fifth installment in the popular city-building simulation, SimCity Societies. Because Aaron Thomas covered many of the nuts and bolts in his recent preview from Leipzig, this time, we took a closer look at the types of cities players will be able to build.

As you may or may not know, each city in Societies will emphasize different values, including Productivity, Prosperity, Creativity, Spirituality, Authority, and Knowledge. Depending on your city's commitment to these ideals, it will take on an aesthetic personality type. For example, the first city we saw was highly focused on prosperity and authority, which made it a Cyberpunk city.

The sky was overcast and gray, which our demo rep told us never changed. But the city itself was full of neon lights and tall buildings. At its lower levels, the place was seedy and rundown, with vagrants loitering in the streets. On those same streets, secret police roamed, looking for unproductive members of society to kidnap and reform at one of their centers--turning unhappy dissidents into productive automatons.

When the demo rep selected one building, we noticed an icon in the description of a man vomiting. According to the description, the building's unsanitary conditions caused its residents to become ill. There was also a cryogenic prison, where murder-death killers could be forced to serve infinite life sentences. Needless to say, it was a fascinating, colorful place, with tons of personality. And this was just one type.

Another type we saw was the Orwellian city, with its grand and imposing ministerial buildings, as well as intimidating, Stalinesque statues. Unlike the Cyberpunk setting, the Orwellian city was extremely clean and orderly. There was no litter on the sidewalks, and for good reason, there were cameras everywhere. Any act of indecency would be captured and its perpetrator apprehended. Obviously, the Orwellian city values authority over all--or uber alles.

The final city we saw was a well-to-do Artistic city, with dual emphases on creativity and prosperity. The look was clean and European, with a beautiful pink and blue sky. It also had lots of nice trees and stunning architecture. The people drove fancy cars and had a visibly different happiness scale from the Orwellian or Cyberpunk cities. This is a population graph that breaks down the population on a scale of unhappy to joyous. In the first two cities, most people were content, but almost no one was joyous. In the Artistic city, every level of happiness was populated by many people, and almost no one was depressed.

That is, they weren't depressed until we called in the meteor shower. Soon after that, great balls of fire rained down from the sky and smote the idyllic metropolis like Gomorrah. Many of the residents survived, but their homes and businesses did not, so they were forced into the streets with shopping carts. Then the floods came...

Yep, that's SimCity alright. And, get this, SimCity: Societies will be completely customizable, featuring fully exposed XML and C sharp code, so the community will be able to alter every aspect of the game. Then again, it already looks great. The graphics are slick and do a great job of communicating the vibes of the various cities. While we certainly haven't seen all this game has to offer, you will be able to when it launches sometime in either November or December.

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