Features & News

Hands Off: SimCity

April 25, 2012, Author: Diogo Miguel

A lot of people have fond memories of spending countless hours playing entries in the SimCity series. This writer, for example, remembers fondly spending whole afternoons building up a metropolis on the Sega Saturn classic SimCity 2000, only to see it all end in a flash, with imminent bankruptcy and public mutiny. The fans have begged for a new SimCity for many years, so it’s great that Maxis granted their wish.

One of the biggest changes in SimCity is the emphasis on playing with others. No longer is a player confined to the realms of just one city. Each player is able to specialise in a sector such as education. This basically means that cities will have their own specialities, and being able to visit other towns means such possibilities as trading are a reality.

Exporting goods is a necessity in the real world, so it’s satisfying to see it happen in SimCity too. Yet there are issues in the virtual cities of SimCity that mirror those which governments are facing in the present. Expansion of cities will raise pollution levels over time; although, constructing buildings such as factories and power plants is a necessity. Previous SimCity instalments have negated this by introducing fictional environmentally-friendly solutions. This new SimCity, however, seems to approach issues like pollution in a realistic manner. Neighbourhood cities can also have a negative impact in various ways. There’s a lot of potential depending on how Maxis handles current issues, like pollution and the adverse effects related to it.

One of the many situations players will have to face.

Anyone that played SimCity will know just how incredible the level of detail is. Well, this new SimCity manages to improve it somehow. It’s now possible to see particularly specific details, such as the daily life of every citizen. This is all thanks to the new Glassbox engine that promises to take the simulation genre to a whole new level. It was possible to see Sims partaking in daily rituals, such as driving to work.

Apparently curvy roads are a big fan request, and they have made it into this new instalment. At a point some houses started being constructed along the newly built curvy road. It was possible to see each house being built and populated by its eager new residents. It’s such a detailed process that the moving van even managed to create a traffic jam.

Visitors from other towns can also come and settle in the player’s town. A questionable new visitor slowly made his way into town during the demonstration. It’s easy to spot anyone because of tell-tale factors like vehicle colour. The visitor in question had a car with old-school rock stripes, which is obviously a danger sign in the SimCity world. This individual proceeded to go inside a building and set it on fire, causing plenty of Sims to start running for their lives.

How does one deal with such a dangerous situation? In SimCity, it means building a fire station and police department. What is very useful is the ability to slow down time itself, which will be a lifesaver in certain situations. The fire truck swiftly responded to the situation and didn’t even stop at red light, like in real life. This is but one of the many situations that SimCity players have to face.

This is the sort of metropolis that SimCity fans dream about.

Anyone that played the earlier SimCity video-games will know how complex the menu options are. It’s all changed in this new entry that focuses on simple menu layouts. Now it consists of individual layers for the tasks that a player must manage. Clicking on the power layer will show a power grid and which buildings have electricity supply. It’s all very easy to use and makes it far more enjoyable to manage a city.

It’s also possible to invite players over to help with duties, although it’s not possible for visitors to perform certain tasks currently, like taking part in construction. Nevertheless, they are free to interact with players in some ways that haven’t yet been properly explained. The idea of playing with others is appealing to anyone that has spent many lonely hours building an expansive metropolis. It also make it easier to share organisation tips, since SimCity requires a constant online connection.

Visually, SimCity is certainly going in the right direction. It’s still early days but the GlassBox engine is showing some truly impressive results. It’s also been confirmed that SimCity doesn’t limit itself to an ending, since it’s all up to the player’s imagination. It’ll be interesting to get a better understanding of the online features, but this new SimCity is already on its way to being a worthy new entry in such a beloved series.