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SimCity Preview

Posted by Erin Marcon On Friday 14 December 2012Comments Off

Available on PC l Published by EA l Developed by Maxis l Classification TBA l Number of players TBA l Due to arrive 07.03.13

I was utterly obsessed with the original SimCity during my teen years. So shameful was my addiction to this strategy classic, that I dodged longstanding commitments in order to further expand my towering metropolis. On one now infamous occasion, I repeatedly excused myself from a gathering of family and friends in order to “go to the toilet”.  While most probably assumed that I had a touch of gastro, the truth was far worse. A reptilian horror had emerged from the sea and was rampaging through the heart of my city. It wasn’t the kind of thing I could place on the backburner, at least not if I wanted to be seen as a responsible mayor. In the years since, I’ve dabbled with the series here and there, without ever really recapturing the feeling I enjoyed as a lad.

The unfortunately named Trash Town existed solely to recycle waste produced by surrounding municipalities…

Earlier this week, I had the chance rekindle my connection to the world of SimCity. Maxis producer Jason Haber was in Australia to showcase the forthcoming series reboot to the local media and, better yet, offer us some hands on time with the alpha build. His presentation quickly confirmed that all of the basics were still in place. Cities still required a good balance of commercial, industrial and residential zones and citizens would quickly kick up a stink if their needs weren’t met. At one point, Haber was forced to upgrade the quality of his roads to accommodate an increased traffic load. At another, he had to arrest a crime wave by upgrading the police station in the heart of his capital. I would have exploited the situation to justify the introduction of martial law, but alas that option didn’t seem to be available.

The highlight of the demonstration was the unveiling of multi-city regions. Haber offered us a look at a vast expanse of terrain, upon which he had founded half a dozen cities, most of which appeared to compliment his capital. The unfortunately named Trash Town, for example, existed solely to recycle waste produced by surrounding municipalities, while Monte Vegas, served as a gambling focused holiday destination for hardworking Sims looking to blow off some steam. Mt Denham, on the other hand, appeared to have been designed by a madman, its tiny CBD engulfed by endless miles of rollercoaster highways.

Cities could also team with one another on major projects, such as an international airport or even a space program. Haber had installed himself as Mayor of each Council, so that probably explained the high level of cooperation between towns. The final game will allow multiple players to share a region, so it will be interesting to see whether players compete or collaborate. The fact that each city has access to a different set of resources should encourage a least a modicum of the latter.

When an individual Sim complained about the raging inferno in his neighbourhood, I promptly built a fire station directly across the road from his house. That shut him up.

During my hands on time with the game, I was confronted with one crisis after another. My assumption that the folks gathering in front of the town hall were there to pay tribute to their noble leader was probably a little misguided. They were actually there to petition for improved services. The nerve of some people! The game wouldn’t let me send in the riot police to disperse the crowd, so I begrudging got on with the job of running the city. I demolished some derelict buildings, constructed new housing, kick started the power grid and erected a water tower. When an individual Sim complained about the raging inferno in his neighbourhood, I promptly built a fire station directly across the road from his house. That shut him up. When I expanded the sewerage treatment plant, I watched in horror as a series of brown blobs began to flow from the facility. Everything I achieved in the game was done with a minimum of fuss thanks to game’s elegant and intuitive point and click interface. I didn’t have a great deal of time to reflect on my accomplishments though, as they were soon swept aside by a devastating meteor strike.

While it wasn’t quite as visually stunning as some of the early screenshots had led me to believe, I was still charmed by the alpha build. It felt very much like a meticulously constructed model city and I really enjoyed zooming in to watch small details such as delivery vans pulling up in front of freshly constructed dwellings. It also played beautifully, but for the most part, the game felt like a safe and comfortable evolution of a concept that was almost flawless to begin with. If the multi-city aspect of the game can live up to its potential, the new SimCity may yet end up being more than a well executed nostalgia piece.

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