SimCity, the game which seemingly spawned a thousand others just like it, started back in 1989 as the brainchild of the now legendary video game designer Will Wright. The game was notoriously daunting, comprising of a massive amount of windows, statistics and information, but for people that managed to get into the numbers, the game provided hours of city building pleasure. The Sim series has moved on since then, venturing into the arguably more popular The Sims series, but the original SimCity was always present, getting better, bigger and a little bit more user-friendly. It got to a point where Maxis and EA decided that it was time to rebuild the entire monster from the ground up, and what we’re left with is, simply, SimCity.
The rebooted SimCity is promising to be a lot more accessible than its predecessors, and with the closed beta that took place the previous weekend, people were able to get in on the action and see if everything was working as planned. As you’d expect, we were there to see what was what.
The latest iteration of the Sim franchise eases the player (new or old) into the experience with an extremely easy to follow tutorial where the player will be asked to help with certain problems that a freshly abandoned city is facing. This tutorial will teach the player about all of the aspects of the game, as a tutorial should, but without overwhelming them with charts, statistics and other types of information that could potentially scare them away from playing the rest of the game. Instead, all of the items that you need are introduced via simple quests, with the information that you need to know laid out in the form of contextual graphical images. For example, if you currently have the electricity plant selected, because you’re making sure that all of the houses in your new city have a generous electricity supply, then all of the buildings in your city will be overlaid with a graphical image breaking down the electricity supply, making sure you know where the electricity is going and what buildings are using the most resources. This isn’t particularly important in the tutorial, but later, when you start moving with your own city, all of this information is massively important in the micromanagement of your own local government.
The tutorial is a nice, easy way into the new systems in place for SimCity, but what people will really want to do was get into the main game, start their own cities and take things from there. Unfortunately, the closed beta only allowed for an hour of play at a time so we were only allowed to take their cities so far, but it was enough to get a good grasp of the gameplay mechanics on offer as well as being more than enough to whet the appetites of those people already interested.
There’s still something a little bit daunting about being given an almost blank slate in the shape of a giant green field, and being told to start your own city with the hopes of it being successful. Things start simply enough, and the game does a good job at holding your hand through the early stages, only asking you to lay a road and some residential zones, but before long you’re trying to manage residential costs, raising and lowering taxes, and figuring out fun things for your Sims to do so that they don’t leave your brand new city. It’s all the same fun that SimCity was famous for – and more in some cases – but presented in a way that’s easy to get your head around. The Sims games have always been famous for getting people hooked and not letting go and SimCity certainly maintains that.
SimCity has a past which is covered in windows, complex statistics and daunting number crunching but it seems that Maxis have managed to take the addictive formula that’s been perfected in The Sims franchise and applied it to the hugely more complex SimCity universe. Veteran players and newcomers alike should find the rebooted SimCity easy to access, but enough of a challenge to keep them entertained for many, many hours to come. Hopefully the full game is as addictive as just the beta was, because one hour sessions just aren’t enough, such is the quality of the game. Thankfully, we only have to wait another month or so before we can find out.
SimCity will be released on March 8 in Europe, March 5 in North American and March 7 in Japan on Windows PC, and at a later date on Mac.