The Sim City series has provided me with pleasure for nearly ten years. I played and enjoyed Sim City 3000 so much that I actually bought its older cousin, Sim City 2 (which is also enjoyable in spite of its age). When Sim City 4 came out I was in Sim City heaven, although I found (unfortunately) that the developers sort of made Sim City 4 too hard for the Average Joe to get involved in easily. Unfortunately, the developers took the exact opposite approach for Sim City Societies and made it too easy.
Let it be known that Sim Societies is very different from other Sim City games, so much so that I am not even sure as to whether or not I would even include it in the official “canon” of Sim City. Basically, older Sim Cities were realistic city simulation games that included concepts like providing public services and zoning, whereas Sim City societies is not. Basically the whole goal is to get a balance of “values” within your city which are, as followed productivity, prosperity, creativity, spirituality, authority, and knowledge. The whole gist is that by building certain things these values become more prevalent in your city and depending upon which values are the most prevalent the character of your city takes shape.
While it is theoretically possible to build a perfectly balanced city (called the “normal” city) it is quite fun to experiment with different city types. You’ve got the option of building a capitalist paradise, a spiritualist and philosophical utopia, an industrial superpower (which can often pair with the capitalist paradise), a “fun” city that is basically like Disneyland with people actually living in it full time, a self-proclaimed “romantic” city that is more or less a clone of the capitals of Continental Europe, a city that resembles small town America, a futuristic “cyberpunk” city, and my personal favorite, an authoritarian city that looks a lot like the Communist Bloc in the 1970s or the world of Orwell. Of course, you are not restricted but more or less your cities will begin to resemble one or a combination of a few of these unless your decide to painstakingly focus on creating a world of perfect balance.
The graphics and sound of Sim City Socities are execellent and by far the best of any sim city game. It is far more detailed and hopefully when the old Sim City returns they will incorporate the great graphics of Sim City Societies. This is probably the only area that has improved, along with ease of learning game play. The trouble, unfortunately, is that the game is stupidly easy. There is simply no excuse for a city-building game to be this easy, it is not an arcade game and is clearly limiting to the ambitious in a way that Sim City 4 was not. Part of the fun of games is the challenge and there simply is no challenge here. However, though this does appear to be a game based around city-building it is not, rather it is a game built around sociology and how it is that societies sort out their values by prioritizing certain elements within society. This is like a sociology class without all the boredom, although a boring fellow myself I find the subject interesting (although I’ve never taken a class on it).
So do I recommend buying this game? Absolutely not. It would be well worth it if it were free, but it is unfortunately not. Its entire marketing relies solely upon the Sim City brand name (and this is the sole reason I purchased it) and it may succeed in destroying the brand name if this trend continues into future Sim City titles. I think the missing element is the old developers and indeed the whole old Sim City concept; it is a lot like Sim City’s version of the New Coke. A good game as games go, but a dissapointing waste of money for Sim City fans.