Given that the majority of output coming from EA with ‘Sim’ in the title refers to the tedium of the virtual soap opera that The Sims (and its 385,329,532 add-on packs) has become, it’s often overlooked that the Sim franchise started life in the strategy genre. SimCity kicked things off, but then the likes of SimAnt, SimEarth, SimTower and various SimCity sequels all tried different things, with varying levels of success.
SimCity Societies is EA’s attempt to bridge these two disparate camps. And, with a conclusion you can see coming a country mile away, it pretty much fails to satisfy either, with a hodge-podge of ideas leading to an unimpressive whole.
The idea is that you don’t just construct the cities this time around, you also influence the societies and culture within them. It reminds us, in a bizarre way, of an old 8-bit game called Starring Charlie Chaplin, where you had to make a film and let a computer assess if it was any good. How do you actually create a culture, or gauge its highs and lows?
With difficulty, is the answer. The game presents itself at first in the usual SimCity style, as you have a blank landscape onto which you place your creations. But differences quickly abound: whereas SimCity had you creating zones and watching the buildings shoot up, here you place constructions down on an individual basis.
And in much the same way that our strange past example, Starring Charlie Chaplin, ultimately gave you points for hitting people by way of assessment, SimCity Societies awards ‘points’ across six criteria that affect the culture of your society.
These criteria cover knowledge, productivity, creativity, spirituality, authority and prosperity, and the decisions you make affect each of these. There are umbrella issues common to all SimCity games, such as power, but the grand landscape of management has been surrendered in favour of this new micro-management approach.
Much of what you lay down in SimCity Societies has a positive impact on one value, and a negative on another. Yet bizarrely, there are elements – and we’re looking in the decorative camp here – that simply enhance your creativity score with no damage to anything else. That’s not management, that’s just point scoring.
The game also presents you with lots of icons and stats, but these give a perception of a depth that’s simply not there. For SimCity Societies is a simplistic strategy wannabe that gives you an unsatisfactory amount of useful feedback, a lack of challenge, and – damningly – not much real entertainment for your money.
Company: EA Games