SimCity Societies

Although it is one of the most recognized franchises in all of gaming, the SimCity series seemed to be headed towards a dead-end. The latest entry, Societies, tries to take the franchise in a better direction but it ultimately gets lost along the way.

Good Enough for Government Work

Rather than try to slap a next-generation paint job onto SimCity's rusted chassis, Societies serves as a sort of series reboot, and as such does away with many longstanding concepts. You no longer have to manually link every building to a power source--plop down a power plant and the electricity flows on its own.

The concept of zoning, meanwhile, has been thrown out altogether: you can simply plop tract homes right next to offices and movie theaters at will as long as you've got the cash. Though this releases you from seemingly arbitrary restraints, it also diminishes the sense of long-term planning inherent in the SimCity experience.

Let Them Eat Cake

Your design choices also don't result in many consequences; no one in the Societies universe seems to mind when they wind up living next door to a heavy metal night club. In fact, as long as your citizens can make it to work in the morning and soak up a little entertainment at night, they'll be perfectly satisfied. You can still click on each Sim to learn their desires and frustrations, but they're far less specific than they used to be.

Urban Outfitter

The true joy of Societies, then, lies in sculpting the overall aesthetic of your city. There are six cultural currencies--productivity, prosperity, creativity, spirituality, authority, and knowledge--and all buildings either produce or absorb them. Place war memorials and police boxes, and you'll earn the clout you need to open a new prison.

Put up hand-painted murals and tetherball courts, and you'll rack up creativity sufficient to support a new multiplex. The result of your architectural choices has a dramatic effect on look and feel. You can create burgeoning metropolises that adhere to vastly different principles, from a spiritual utopia to a fascist police state. Each approach presents its own set of unique challenges which results in a nice sense of challenge.

Hit the Bricks

Unfortunately, even this enjoyable aspect is simplified to the point where you could easily grow tired of your city within a few hours regardless of what path you take your city down. Societies is interesting enough if you're just looking for a casual bit of click and drag but if you're looking for the sense of depth and complexity that made the previous SimCity titles so memorable, you might find yourself feeling disappointed.Cameron Lewis