SimCity Societies Destinations Hands-On

Turn your authoritarian police state into a five-star tourist destination.


SimCity Societies: Destinations

If you build it, they will come. That's what EA is hoping for in the upcoming expansion SimCity Societies Destinations, in which you'll attempt to build five-star resort cities that attract snooty gourmands, backpacking thrill-seekers, and scantily-clad spring breakers alike. Of course, as tourism booms in your SimCity, you'll need to balance the happiness of the local population with the needs of a large influx of travelers, all with one goal in mind: filling your treasury with simoleans. Cha-ching!

The original SimCity Societies attempted to infuse the societal values of The Sims into the city-building and planning of SimCity with mixed results. While it's always fun to force your lowly Sims into submission under the heel of an authoritarian police state, the societal gameplay elements proved a bit too abstract for many, and there was no significant strategy or challenge in shaping your city and values. Destinations looks to hone the gameplay as you focus instead on something we all know and love: vacation.

Destination: vacation.
Destination: vacation.

Whether you surf or ski depends entirely on what terrain you choose, each with its own specific landmarks that you'll have to work around. A tropical island paradise is perfect for water sports but you may have to contend with a volcanic eruption, while a quaint ski town tends to, you know, get cold. We got our hands on Destinations this week and began by building a quaint spiritual enclave in an alpine zone. Increasing the population was simple enough: choose a power source (we went green and chose wind power), build housing for the locals (monasteries, of course), and find them some work. We built some missions and Scientology-inspired temperance centers, and soon the simoleans were rolling in. We could have continued balancing power, housing , and work, but the heart of Destinations is in building tourist venues to attract visitors. For our enclave, we went with a combination of religious altars, an art museum, a bookstore, and a famous grave. To entice travelers to see the sights, we built a few bed-and-breakfasts for accommodations.

You have to spend money to make money in Destinations, and you'll find yourself in a constant cycle of using tax revenue for new venues and accommodations. Soon tourist Sims will flood the city, such as burnouts who have tired of grinding away at the office week after week, professional gamblers, or religious converts and pilgrims. From there you'll have to fulfill their needs by offering appropriate dining, accommodation, and activity options. Backpackers will look for a cheap slice of pizza and a place in a 16-bed room at a youth hostel, while high rollers will demand a four-course meal at a four-star restaurant near a luxury hotel room with mints on the pillow. How you cater to the people is, as always in SimCity, entirely up to you.

Back at our spiritual enclave, our city soon became overrun by transient hippies looking for a free ride in our peaceful community. We hate hippies. Despite objections from the local monks, we constructed a police station to up the authority level of our city before the smell of patchouli oil got out of hand. This brings up an interesting point in Destinations. For completely understandable reasons, tourism does not bode well in Orwellian police states. Sure, you can build "colorful" venues like dungeons, jails, and military schools, but for whatever reason the tourists don't seem to appreciate these hotbeds of oppression like we do. It seems that to truly succeed in Destinations you'll need to focus more on creativity, knowledge, spirituality, and prosperity. To see how your Sims are faring, zoom in and click on the little guys to see their thoughts on the city, how much cash they've spent, and even what souvenirs they've purchased.

Hippies begone!
Hippies begone!

We've come to appreciate the special abilities that you can trigger in certain venues for a popularity boost. You can set off the local geyser for an amazing aquatic display, trigger a mood-altering device at the behavioral science center to keep the locals in line, and hold a cook-off at the bed-and-breakfast. Fans of SimCity will be happy to know that the disaster menu remains intact should you want to destroy your city in a sudden rush of sadistic omnipotence. After all, power corrupts. In our case, when the hippie population became too much to bear, we simply called upon the Ornithosaurus Wrecks, a giant fire-blowing monster, to stamp out all flower power in our budding utopia. Unfortunately, he took out much of the rest of the city too. Oh, well. We hate hippies.

Destinations will also come packaged with five free game updates already released for SimCity Societies, and we'll have more information as the game is released later this month.

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