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Review: SimCity


SimCity, purely from a gameplay perspective, is quite good. It’s a streamlined sequel; Maxis has trimmed away a lot of the unnecessary and dull gameplay elements and replaced them with new ones, which are not only fun, but make sense in the framework of city management. Real thought seems to have gone into weighing what gameplay elements were tiresome, unrealistic and complicated, and replaced those with fresh ideas and an easy to use (and understand) interface. The result is a more accessible game that newcomers will be quick to pick up on. Veterans may feel conflicted about the changes, but those with an open mind will see it’s possibly Maxis’ best take on the franchise, and certainly still feels like a true SimCity game.

First up in the myriad of changes is the removal of some of the more tedious elements in the game: You no longer have to lay down water mains or power lines to connect your utilities with the city. As in most modern cities, those things run under the road, and anytime you place a road section, it’ll come equipped with the ability to carry power, sewage and water wherever it goes. You also don’t need to connect anything to the region to have access to it: A road and rail connection is always available and grazes the borders of your city, and through them go the sewage, trade, water and power lines you’ll want to trade with your neighbors.


Every town has a road and rail connection fromt he start… and flexible roadlaying now allows for works of art like this


Zoning residential, commercial and industrial developments has been reworked too. In a way, it’s been reversed – The focus is shifted away from the zones themselves and onto the road network which houses them. Instead of laying down big fields of zoned land and connecting roads to them (or having roads supplement your zones, like in SimCity 4), you now simply paint the edges of your existing road network with residential, industrial or commercial markings. The size of the road you build on determines what density the buildings can get and the computer automatically figures out if there’s enough space behind the road for an office tower, or if it’ll have to settle for small shops and boutiques. The ability to quickly upgrade or downgrade road sizes also allows you to personalize your city, ensuring the zones don’t over- or under-develop beyond your desires.


Once you try to zone though, you’ll discover another change to the gameplay: The massive overhaul in prices. Zoning is free for the first time; a change which certainly makes sense from a logical standpoint, considering you’re just declaring what should be built in the zone’s location. Other prices have been tweaked too, but in the opposite direction. Whereas a police station in SimCity 4 costs §250 to build, the same type of building will set you back a cool §20,000 in this game. And in case you thought there’d be some compensating factor, there isn’t really; expect to earn as much revenue from taxes and to pay roughly the same amount for the cost of upkeep and services in your city as in previous games. However, this isn’t a bad change: Since buildings are so costly, and effect your economy so much, they become more significant decisions in the game: They’re not something you haphazardly purchase if you have the tax revenue to compensate for the expenses. Now these buildings are a costly investment that must be weighed against what else you could buy for that money. They must be saved up for, and when you finally manage to buy them, it feels like an accomplishment to see it sitting in your town.


Expensive, especially with all the trimmings


Once the buildings are in place though, they can be customized, and that helps you optimize your city’s services without needing to buy a whole new police station every time some neighborhood could use a bit more police coverage. As an example, your police stations can add more jail cells or another police cruiser if necessary. The additions are not as expensive as buying an entirely new station, though they will sting your wallet a bit. A final consequence of building customization is that buildings no longer have as much of a zone of influence. A single school for example, can service a whole town if it has enough school bus stops.

David F.
A grad student in experimental physics, David is fascinated by science, space and technology. When not buried in lecture books, he enjoys movies, gaming and mountainbiking

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