Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Preview: SimCity (2013, PC/ Mac)

Having sat down and spent some time with EA’s reboot to the SimCity franchise, all I can say is I can’t wait for the full game release. The franchise might have had some missteps in recent years, but it is back and in form now.

Of course, given the demo I played was only around a half hour long, I could only get a sense of the underlying complexities that we would expect from a SimCity game. The developers assured us that the game was built with real, modern, urban planning theory behind it, and I did get that impression. Problem areas in my city were nicely lit up, and the information I needed to resolve my Sim’s many and varied woes is easily accessible.


The mouse controls are intuitive and the game has a pleasant visual style that had me playing half my demo zoomed right in, even though that was somewhat impractical for actually getting stuff done. On a micro-level not much about this game seems to have changed. I was putting down the usual industrial, commercial and residential zones, building bus and railway infrastructure to minimize traffic congestion and making sure my city was adequately covered by police and the fire department. The interface and some of the less useful ‘features’ of previous games seem to have been streamlined out, leaving a slick, but clearly deep experience. Number crunchers will get right into this game as they had with the SimCity classics.

Yes, disasters are back!
The main feature of this game was one that I was unfortunately not able to test out for myself. The main idea propelling SimCity is that there are multiple cities that players can build up and manage, and these cities all interact with one another. In a demonstration that we were shown one player had set up an exclusive, wealthy city high in the mountains, a “Las Vegas” style casino town that those wealthy people visited as tourists, and then a low-class city that was lucrative thanks to it offering trash collection services to the other cities.

Each economy relied on its neighbour cities – a real-world reality and an intriguing concept. The danger here is players will simply specialise each of their cities around an economic plan that might work from an in-game point of view, but defeat the purpose that Maxis is aiming for here – to accurately recreate the real-world urban dynamics. In single player players can develop and manage each city themselves, but it’s also possible to play the game in multiplayer, and build inter-city relationships with friends and families.
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