Hello City

I admit to never being much of a PC gamer growing up. However, there were always a few titles that crept their way onto my harddrives, and possibly because of rarely using my PC for gaming purposes as a child, those few games hold extra special memories. One of those games was SimCity 2000, where I would actually stay after school in middle school and head down to the computer lab to try to build more and more fantastical cities. As subsequent SimCity titles were then released, it remained one of my favorite game franchises. So, when it was then officially announced at GDC this year that the first new entry into the series in six years would be coming in 2013, I admit a huge smile crossed my face.

Flash forward to a very recent EA event where I was able to get several hours of hands-on time with this title that intends to re-launch this classic franchise and really pick it apart. Mind you, the version I saw still had a lot of work to be done, but if you’re as much of a fan of SimCity as I am, then I think a lot more people are going to be smiling as well comes early March.

You start by obviously selecting a swath of land and building roads outward from the main highway to where you would like to lay the foundation for your, hopefully, soon-to-be megalopolis. And as soon as you wish to start developing this new city, you realize that more so than ever before, every decision you make is a major one and it affects the world around you in ways that you’ll need to see to truly start understanding.

After cutting out a square of roads and designating land for houses, factories, and retail centers, I knew I would need a few basic necessities for my starting population to survive and the first necessity I wished to tackle was power. I had to choose between coal or wind. Now, not only would coal pollute the city I had just founded, but if my initial land choice wasn’t rich in minerals, I might be forced into wind. The same problem could arise if my burgeoning city was at a low altitude and didn’t get very many gusts, I might be forced into coal, showing how even where you start to set up your city is important.

But if neither of these were an option, the new kink in the game is the social aspects where if I had some friends who had a surplus of power in a nearby city, I could trade them resources for access to their electrical grid, at least until I could afford nuclear power or some other option. This option was demoed for us, but wasn’t as clear to me in my game, but it also could have been because we are on a closed server and there really wasn’t anyone for me to trade with to really test it out.

All this then continues as you expand ever outward in the hopes of bringing in more people to your city to bring in more cash. In turn, more people then need more necessities ranging from very basic things like water and power, to trash collection, sewage disposal, police and fire departments, and much, much more as you tackle the problems your populous encounters. And there were a lot more problems than you might think as there were also new side missions that featured some more vocal members of your community. These civic-minded folks could bring dilemmas to your attention and as mayor, should your choose to intercede as all choices have consequences, could earn extra cash for your budget.

With all this serious stuff going on like managing power grids via the amazing layered graphics provided by the GlassBox engine or watching your people dynamically cause new problems for you to solve, it wouldn’t be a SimCity game if there wasn’t some zany fun stuff either. Beyond being able to transform your city in various ways from that of a potential gambling den to the ideal slice of American suburbia and more, there is also the power to destroy that which you create. Yes, you don’t have to just bulldoze what you’ve built to start over if you so choose, you can do it in glorious fashion via divine acts. Earthquakes, tornadoes, meteor showers, UFO invasions, and more can have you wreck all that you have created in the hopes of re-building it better, or just having some fun with wonton destruction.

After carving out a small, but sustainable little paradise for myself in the mountains, my time with the new SimCity ran out. It wasn’t nearly as long as I would’ve hoped, and the build was somewhat early so it still had a few bugs, but overall a lot of great memories were getting ready to possibly be supplanted by some new ones as this game is shaping up to be special for a whole new generation of gamers and I can’t wait to get my hands on the final product come March.