Release Date: March 5, 2013
Developer: Maxis Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform(s): Windows / Mac OS X
Will you be a benevolent mayor, working to keep taxes down and offer a deep well of city services for your constituents to draw from? Or will you go the route of a despot, choking the populace with crippling tax rates and building pollutant-producing power plants in the heart of your residential community? Maybe you'd prefer to play God, smiting the innocents for nothing more than sheer amusement? All of this is possible -- and plenty more -- in Maxis Games' revived take on SimCity.
What We Know:
The new face of SimCity is both familiar and forever changed. The game's heart remains the same. Players are still given a barren stretch of land on which to erect anything from a small, sleepy little town to a bustling metropolis with a population that numbers in the millions. You'll still deal with issues ranging from the conventional -- power needs, city services, tax rates, public happiness -- to the completely insane, such as meteor strikes and giant monster attacks.
The difference in 2013's SimCity is how you go about addressing all of this. The new GlassBox Engine that powers the game essentially turns your simulated city into a macro-level take on The Sims. You won't spend time managing the life of a single person or a family, but each and every resident of your city is a fully conceived person with his or her own needs, desires, and daily routines. While you can zoom in for a peek at life on the micro level in your city, the collected personalities of your residents serve the much grander purpose of directing the course of your city's development.
This attitude toward delivering a realistic rendering of public opinion speaks to Maxis' larger goal of grounding your simulated city in some sense of reality. Much noise was made when SimCity was first announced about the ability to build curvy roads -- a first for the series -- but that early boast is symbolic of the bigger ideas in play. This revised take on SimCity aims for a more organic sense of growth, with the hope being that players connect more naturally with their creation.
Constant feedback is important in any SimCity game, since players need to be kept aware of what needs to be addressed. The 2013 reboot aims to offer all of this information in an intuitive manner so that players can know in a glance what the city's needs are. If traffic is always heavy on a certain stretch of road, mass transit alternatives may be in order. Spread your police stations too far apart and graffiti will start to blanket the walls of high-crime areas. It's all about giving players a set of straightforward, easy-to-understand visual indicators to work with.
The big new feature in SimCity is a renewed focus on multiplayer. Unlike previous entries in the series, this new SimCity requires an always-on Internet connection because it's always connected to the larger world of city builders. Your own creation(s) exists on a larger map, a shared map with neighboring cities constructed by other players. We've yet to see exactly how all of this plays out in practice, but the idea is to encourage players to pool their efforts with others and, in doing so, improve the quality of life in all nearby cities. You'll also be able to move in and take over abandoned cities in the final game.
What We Expect:
SimCity isn't going to achieve Call of Duty levels of success -- it just isn't that type of game -- but expectations are high among fans of the genre. There's been a lot of grief directed at Maxis and publisher Electronic Arts over the "always-on Internet" requirement, but the explanation -- that SimCity is designed, first and foremost, as an online game -- is difficult to argue with. This is shaping up to be a much bigger SimCity than fans have ever known, but is bigger necessarily better? Early previews suggest that it is in this case, but we won't know for sure until March 2013.