Although it's one of the most recognised 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.
- Pretty architecture
- Relaxing and simplified city building for casual gamers
- Far too simple for existing fans
- Exceptionally easy
- Some framerate woes
Rather than try to slap a next-generation paint job on to 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 of SimCity Societies 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.
Your design choices also don't result in many consequences; no one in the SimCity 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.
The true joy of SimCity 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 within SimCity Societies presents its own set of unique challenges which results in a nice sense of challenge. 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.