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SimCity

Reinvention And Renovation

The SimCity name inspires fond memories for many gamers, regardless of which of the four main installments they have played the most. Wherever your SimLoyalty lies (personally, I’m a fan of SimCity 2000), the latest SimCity combines elements of your favorite entry with new features to ensure your urban planning experience feels both familiar and modern.

With a few months to go before the game’s February release, I played two hours of an early SimCity build at Maxis. The first lesson I learned is that smart city planning begins with building a road that connects your patch of land to the regional highway. This is how you open the lines of communications and trade with other cities in your region. These cities might be controlled by your friends playing simultaneously, or they could be your own carefully constructed communities running automatically. Your interaction with these nearby towns plays a central role in your own planning – but more on that later.

Connecting to the regional highway is crucial because it allows you to start building your own roads. Almost all of the infrastructure revolves around them now. Roads automatically carry electricity and water to adjacent structures (no more manually building pipes and power lines), and you are unable to build structures or zones without an accompanying road. SimCity is much more flexible with road-building than previous titles, letting players sculpt winding paths instead of straight lines. 

After laying down a basic grid, I started one of the most beloved activities in the franchise: zoning. Fans are familiar with the basic industrial, commercial, and residential zones, but these options seem less dependent on each other now. This is where the regional structure and depending on your neighboring cities comes into play again. One city can make up for deficiencies in another; if you build a bedroom community full of residential zones, your citizens can drive to other towns for work. If you run a manufacturing powerhouse, you are better off focusing on industrial zones instead of convincing sims to move into your pollution-clogged neighborhoods. Maintaining a balance within your region is necessary to make sure that every city has its needs met.

How you build your city is guided by which specialization you choose. Selecting education (like I did) means that you need to focus on building schools, bus stops, universities, etc. Placing these structures isn’t just a question of having the money; you need to reach certain milestones before they are available. For example, the community college isn’t an option until your town hall is upgraded to a city hall – a separate feat that hinges on meeting a population requirement. Specializations help you keep your eyes on an immediate goal, adding direction to the larger process of building a thriving city.

My only major complaint from what I played is the emphasis on interconnectedness. Allowing players to trade and interact with other cities is one thing, but requiring it is another. City specializations are a cool way to focus players’ efforts, but they discourage building a diverse city that covers all of the bases. This increases reliance on your neighbors; you may have to turn to other cities for certain necessities, including power, housing, or jobs, instead of providing it for yourself. As a player who likes to build a single sprawling metropolis, I didn’t get the sense that my favorite way to play is encouraged. You’re supposed to build multiple specialized cities in the same region to work together to achieve the same goal.

Civilizations can only succeed through cooperation in real life, so seeing it manifested in SimCity isn’t a surprise. The regional structure drives home the importance of working with your friends, and is aimed at providing a different kind of simulation than the series’ classic entries. The SimCity fans have grown to love isn’t gone, though. The humor, customization, and pure fun involved in building a bustling city is intact, and I can’t wait to see how these aspects evolve beyond the introductory hours.

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Comments
  • I really wish they would release this on consoles like they did with the old SimCity games. Guess I'm just stuck with the SNES version until I get a new desktop this Summer/Fall.
  • This looks amazing.

    I havent played in years but I might have to pick this up

  • AWESOME! May need to upgrade my PC for this! Looks to be one of the best SimCity games to come out!

  • I'm excited for this.  Last time I played a Sim City game was for the PS1.

  • This looks like they're really trying to capture the essence of the good Simcity titles, I'm excited to see it in action when it releases. I loved playing Simcity 2000, it was so simple and addictive. But what was better was sending time building and awesome city and then driving around it with machineguns and rockets in Streets of Simcity. If I had my way, I'd incorperate some sort of driving mechanic into the new game.

  • Go Sims!

  • if only it wasn't forced online connection i would be excited
  • Can't wait. Though, can I still push a tornado through my 5 Empire State buildings, that is the true question.
  • I know originally this was going to be on mac also.Did something change that?

  • Looks like the best graphics in a  SimCity game to date and well rendered all around...

  • The only one I played was SimCity 3000 and I loved it. It's amazing to see how much the graphics have changed since then. And these screenshots are awesome. My favorite one has to be the meteor shower. Epic.
  • Awesome. I love Civilization, so this seems like a perfect fit.
  • ahaha! awesome game! i want this!

  • The game looks fun, but like the writer of the preview I hate that you are pretty much forced to specialize cities and can't build one massive city that does it all. Sure that might be realistic, but it goes against everything thats been fun about the SimCity franchise. I also hate that you have to play online, and are forced to interact with the global player driven in-game economy. I don't want to have any contact with other people when I play SimCity, yet thats unavoidable in this game.
  • Ya im not so sure i like the whole multiplayer thing and the fact that i cant have one city that has a little of everything. Im a little worried with this one and its a shame cause i loved all the others.

  • I'm really looking forward to this one. Haven't been interested in a Sim game in awhile (that works in two different ways!).

  • Looks fun but I do see Joe's problem with the interconnectedness requirement. I'll have to wait and see reviews before I buy this.

  • SimFarm all the way.