SimCity is as challenging as you make it.

At its essence this new installment in the SimCity series is still that good ol’ city building game we all know and love. You still have to build up Residential, Industrial and Commercial zones. Beyond that, prepare yourself folks – there’s a new Mayor in town and boy does he have some surprises in store for you!

On the extended hands on day, we got to play the game in 3 stages, which was the perfect way to get acquainted with all SimCity had to offer. First up, play a solo city game. Learn the basics and how to play the game (and in sww’s case search endlessly for money cheats as she got very broke, very fast – more on cheats later).

To begin with, you need to pick a region. Within this region, you need to choose a city to play – regions can have anywhere between 3 and 16 cities to play around with, so there is plenty of choice. Not sure which city might be for you? No problem. Each city has a preview button detailing what it has to offer in terms of resources. We strongly recommend you pick one that has water as it makes life much, much easier!

Once you have chosen the setting for your city building masterpiece, your first task is to connect a road to the highway that runs through the entire region. You do this because the entire game depends on the regional play, workers travel between cities, services can be sent between them.

After you picked a city, using the data layers, you should decide where you want to start your residential area. Doing this will mean you don’t have to destroy a bunch of lovely homes in order to drill for oil. Wind is also a factor that needs a lot of consideration – we wouldn’t want our wonderful, tax paying Sims to be choking on the fumes of the industrial area as it blows across town. So you need to make sure it will be situated somewhere upwind of your potential industrial zones. Once that’s done, it’s down to simple road building. Just so you know, there will come a point where you’ll regret using regular roads and wished that you built avenues.

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Sims moving in.

And after all that, you’ll need to work on getting land values up, making your population happy and ultimately, not going broke. Even people who think they are pros when it comes to making the perfect city will need to think twice!

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One unhappy house

Zone density has also had a bit of an overhaul. You no longer have to decide ahead of time if you want an area to be low, medium of high density, just if it’s Residential, Commercial or Industrial. The density now depends on many other factors, including demand, land value, Sim Happiness and, most crucially, the type and size of the road. Want to keep an area quiet and low density? Use a low capacity road and have less space between the roads. Want to mark out the busy city centre area where, someday, skyscrapers will flourish? Use higher capacity roads, and leave more room. If you find you change your mind later and want to expand or contract an area? No worries, no bulldozer needed! You can simply upgrade or downgrade the roads, within their type. So roads to roads and avenues to avenues. Sadly, you can’t upgrade from roads to avenues Pay attention to the services you provide in each area, keep it looking pretty and use the right roads. It’s as easy or as complicated as you make it!

By the time we got the hang of this it was suggested we start playing multi-city in the region. in case you have been living under a rock somewhere, multi-city means you can actively play alongside other players’ cities, exchanging resources, services and even Sims under the right circumstances. It was suggested that the first city would supply the 2nd city with power, water and services. This meant City 2 had a much easier start up thanks to its friendly neighbour. During this time, sww had a go at switching between the two cities, to see the effect each one had on the other. In the end, I dedicated most of my time to City 1, which meant City 2 was nice and happy with very little effort and supplied workers to City 1.

The third phase of the day presented us with a challenge! We each had to play with several people in a region and earn 1 million Simoleans in taxes from the wealthiest class. For your information, Sims do not like taxes higher than 9-10% – when I put the tax rate on 20% they all moved out! (Good job they don’t live in the UK or The Netherlands)

And that, in a nutshell, was our first blissful few hours enjoying SimCity. But don’t think we’re holding out on you guys – a little more info about the various features (some old but improved, others new) can be found below:

Land value / zones
A Sim will be more likely to want upgrade their house if they are happy enough, but this doesn’t mean they actually can. Building upgrades can only happen if the land value is high enough, so there is even more importance placed on parks and flagship buildings in an area. Just as people would not build a mansion in the middle of a terraced street, neither can your Sims improve their homes if the surrounding area is not of the right calibre. Higher level buildings, like apartment blocks, also require high density roads because more Sims live there. A single lane road would never cope with the additional traffic, so simply put, the zone won't develop beyond its transport capacity.
In the game we played there were two types of roads with each three density levels, which were regular and avenues (with the option of a streetcar in the middle). Avenues allowed for higher level buildings than than the regular roads. Don’t, however, be tempted to start the building of your entire town with avenues – it’ll empty the coffers faster than you can say “bankrupt”.

City Size
After a while, you might decide that you didn;t quite allocate enough space for certain zones, and the obvious answer is to “spread out” more, even if that means sacrificing space for other zones. Your sims are crying out for more workspace or even jobs. Fear not! If you can’t build out, then build up. Skyscrapers will offer an immediate solution for these problems, offering additional office space that should keep your sims employed and out of trouble. And when even that isn;t enough, you can always tap in to the region next door who can provide you with work spaces (or even workers if you need them). Those other cities can supply your original city with workers, or places to work, or education.



Building unlocking and upgrades
Not every building is unlocked immediately at the start of the game – like many things in life, you have to earn it! Most buildings that need unlocking will have a list of goals or requirements you need to fulfill before it becomes available. This might be to have a population beyond a particular number, or that the Townhall has an upgrade.
Buildings themselves are also editable in a way we haven’t seen before. For example, you can add patient rooms to clinics if it’s a little overworked or more ambulance bays.

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As you can see, higher level casinos are not approved yet!

Specialization
There are six different ways to specialise your city in game, depending on what you want out of that city! Which one – or more – you choose will govern the type of buildings available, the people living and visiting and the look nd feel of the city. Got a city in the mountains, with lots of coal and oil? Specialise in mining, which will allow you to build lots of power plants and sell energy to the rest of the region. On the coast, with no natural resources? Maybe you want to attract tourists, either through culture or gambling. Each city will look very different, and will present its own set of challenges and benefits. And, of course, if you want a real challenge, you’re not limited to just one specialisation, you can have multiple in each city – oil and tourism, here we come!

While education is not a specific specialization, it might be worth looking into with your regional friends that there is one specific education city so that the other towns do not have to build a university.

Cheats / sandbox
Getting broke is quite easily done, so are there money cheats? Yes and no, at the start of a region choice you can choose to have a regular game or a sandbox game. A sandbox game is excluded from leader boards and has cheat codes. We do not have more information than this, but just well yay cheats!

Roads are fun.
At Gamescom we already knew that we could play with roads however we wanted. Here is an example of road fun sww had during the hands on!
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Great works
Great works are features of the region, which all cities need to collaborate to build. Some regions will only have space for one, some will fit several, it's really just down to the size of the region and the space available.

Each work has different resource requirements – that take a lot of fulfilling, which is why they are best done as a collaborative project.

The projects that you can work on are:
Solar Farm (provides energy to the entire region)
International Airport (helps with tourism and transport of industrial goods)
Space Centre (helps with science? we are not sure)
Arcology (helps with housing)

Challenging vs Not Challenging
So the tagline for this article is “SimCity is as challenging as you make it.”. If specializing in precious metals is not for you, or you don't want to be a cultural centre of excellence, you can ignore specialization and play it as a classic game. but you can also try to make a tourism and drilling specializations within 1 town and make it work. Or build every single great work in a region. It is really as challenging as you make it.

Filters
Filters are a very cute touch to the game, we can talk about them as much as we want but you can see them much better in this blog: http://www.simcity.c…y-image-filters

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Regions
There’s a great choice of regions within the game, and you have the option to try as many as you like. You might decide to play an evil tyrant in one region, who destroys their friends cities with pollution and crime, whilst in another region, you are the ultimate do-gooder who builds great works galore. All of the regions are pre-made, but the choice of region type and layouts are really diverse, so it’s not likely you’ll get bored.

Other stuff worth knowing

  • It is possible to run out of resources – during the summer you will notice water start to evaporate, but don’t worry, it comes back during the autumn/winter with rain clouds.
  • Running out of oil will take a long time but is possible!
  • You cannot trade water for oil, it will always go through the the money first.
  • While seasons might influence water levels, we do not have to worry about Snow storms affecting our traffic, creating traffic jams
  • We have to remember that in SimCity 4 time, the mod kits came a whole year after the game was released so we should not expect anything at release
  • Industry/mines work 24/7 so you have a constant flow of goods.
  • No word on future expansion packs.
  • Within a region you can gift each other goods, share services. You can not however do this to another region.
  • No set number of regions at this time, they are still making them!
  • Can have a public or private region. In a public region anyone can join, in a private region you can invite people to it or play alone.
  • Landshape has influence on land value, for instance the land value near the coast will be higher.
  • No terraforming, not even in sandbox mode.

Why online?
Jason Harber said this at the Dutch event: We are simulating the region on our servers, when you leave a city, that city stops simulating and goes into this frozen mode. But all the resources and services they are sharing the region are still active. We needed to simulate that somewhere and as its so much to simulate we have it all on our servers. Should also not underestimate how great it is to have cloud save.

In Conclusion
First of all a huge thank you to EA Benelux and EA UK for inviting us to the SimCity events. The events were amazing!

sww's conclusion: I am going to love this game, previous SimCity could not hold my attention after the initial city was built up and working well. The challenge was gone for me then, I think I will love playing SimCity for a long time because of the specialization, multi-city play and trading!

moza's conclusion: SimCity was one of the first PC games I played, 20 years ago, and is partly responsible for my love of the Sims as well – what can I say, it's an addiction! The latest incarnation, for me, is another winner. One thing we were told early in the day – forget what you think you know from previous games. And it's true. On the surface, a lot of things look very familiar, but they've made a lot of changes as well. The game play feels a lot more straightforward and intuitive. Playing cities in collaboration with each other – either alone or with friends adds a new aspect which opens up so many other possibilities. The only problem I have? Why is it getting release on the same day as TS3: University Life and I only have one PC!?

More Screenshots
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Author: sww

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