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Review: SimCity Societies

March 31, 2012

So Tuesday was wasted watching an utter crapload of Zero Punctuation, Wednesday was spent on getting The Sims 3 installed and updated, and so today I finally get back to work. And we come back with SimCity Societies, and before you accuse me of choosing it for today because the first time I saw a review of The Ugly Truth (Film Brain’s review, incidentally), I could only make it five minutes in before I found something in the film that pissed me off to the point of not wanting to watch it anymore, and I’m trying to put it off for as long as I can, you’re right.

Well, on to the topic at hand. I’ll be honest, when I first saw SimCity Societies, I was furious. When I explain this, you have to understand, I’ve been a SimCity player since old times. I still have SimCity for the Super Nintendo. I had two specific problems with Societies: The first was that Tilted Mill Entertainment, not Maxis, was developing it, and the second was that it entirely changed the feel of the game. Suddenly, SimCity wasn’t about governing a city anymore. You didn’t have to deal with sanitation issues, getting water to people, or traffic. Now you just plop the buildings down rather than zoning for residential, commercial, or industrial and letting things proceed as they may. I mean, I’m no champion of the free market system, but I liked ceding that element of control. I liked seeing what buildings went up where. It was a little bit of freedom I was more than happy to give.

Needless to say, it took me a while to actually play the game, and even longer to play it without bias. The first few times, I really did start up the game ready to not like it. Since then, though, I’ve stopped seeing it as a SimCity game, and I’ve since been able to admit to myself that it is kind of a fun game. It’s just fun in a different way from previous SimCity games.

For me, the fun comes from the different types of cities you can build, in particular the horrible ones. There are two that really portray an awful future: the authoritarian city, which sets the standard in shamelessly ripping off Nineteen-Eighty-Four, and the cyberpunk city, which is the equivalent of putting Blade Runner and William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy in a blender with SimCity and Tilted Mill’s City Life (the StarForce protection of which fucked my last laptop up the ass with a broken broom handle) and his puree.

The game has a few different modes. There’s the sort of standard gameplay, where you have to earn money and unlock buildings before you can place them in your city. There’s unlimited mode, or as I like to call it, dick-around-mode. This gives you infinite money and removes all restrictions on building placement. And then there’s a mode in between that gives you infinite money, but leaves the restrictions in place, and this is the one I can’t figure out. It doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose to me. Normal mode is good for building up a city from a town, and unlimited mode is good for immediately creating a cityscape. But I don’t understand the appeal of having that middle ground. Even still, the game is pretty fun. I still don’t count it as a true SimCity game, but I can accept it as being enjoyable.

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