|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Tilted Mill Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 13, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Unfortunately, maintenance is a bit too simple, and managing your city will come too easily after a little experimentation. Once you've scraped up a solid workforce and a steady flow of income, any deficit can be quickly overcome by throwing up a few buildings. Most of these problems will be solved instantaneously, with exception of crime, which takes a bit longer to fight.
Placement is unimportant for the most part. This is probably an error in judgment on the part of the designers. If I need more Prosperity, I can build a bunch of fountains in the middle of the forest on the other side of the map, and my problem is still solved. While workplaces and venues still need to be accessible by roads, even this is largely simplified. You can pretty much throw buildings wherever you want, and as long as they exist in the right proportions, your city will function.
After a while the cities seem to run themselves, with abundant, clean energy seemingly readily available, and little micromanagement needed to keep afloat. Simply balance the books and watch the money roll in. The developers have addressed this issue in their latest patch, offering extreme new difficulty modes. These make the game far less forgiving, but they don't complicate the experience in any meaningful way.
To help break up the monotony, Societies awards medals to players who reach certain sets of goals. For instance, there might be a medal for a city that has reached a population of over 10,000 and uses 400 of a given resource and has a given number of happy people. The way these goals are designed makes them pretty attainable by just being patient and building, and don't really add a layer of strategy the way that missions do in some similar games.
For a game that attempts such a departure from its predecessors, it seems odd that it would be so plagued with a feeling of déjà vu. It seems that, while not what we've come to expect from SimCity, Societies' influences are all too transparent. Right down to the interface, this feels a bit too much like Roller Coaster Tycoon or Theme Park, without the fun of building rides.
Ultimately, I do feel bad that SimCity Societies is cursed to go misunderstood. It is less an attempt to steer SimCity in a new direction, and more an attempt to fuse a familiar brand and city building theme with another popular, accessible kind of gameplay. Unfortunately, being misunderstood does not mean it's a hidden gem. While it sports a well-designed interface, competent design, and likable style, Societies can get very, very dull, thanks to its low difficulty and lack of real variety. Fans of "Tycoon" games may find some entertainment value, but it lacks the addictive draw that this series has built its name on.
CCC Freelance Writer