Gamescom 2012: Hands On with Sim City
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Sim City's back - and this time, they've got curvy roads!...
Sim City has been the standard for city simulations since its debut in 1989, and almost every previous game has been a complex, challenging and immersive experience. The series is loved by many, and with nine years since Sim City 4 in 2003, Maxis have a lot of hype to live up to with the new, simply titled Sim City. Luckily, we managed to get some time with it at Gamescom last week.
The first thing you notice in Sim City is that it is still the game you know and love, which is a very comforting feeling. Most of the things that make this game so special have been faithfully preserved. Gamers can breath a sigh of relief. The worldview, city layout, water towers, powerplants, city halls and facilities are all (mostly) as you remember them, and long time players will have no trouble diving right back into the game.
One area that has seen significant change however is in regards to the solitude of the gameplay. I'm pleased to say that it's no longer the lonesome experience it once was. Now, the whole game has been build from the ground up to be connected, a new feature called ‘Sim City World’, which lets your friends connect their cities with yours to create a world economy, assisting each other with valuable trade. All this connectivity is measured on a slew of leaderboards and logs, with enough stats and facts to keep even the most analytical players happy.
What’s more is that all these global connected cities have an influence on each other. Trade markets are now global, and prices fluctuate depending on demand for resources like metal, oil, water and so on. This, combined with the ability to specialise your city into one specific output means that there is even more emphasis on creating a number of cities with your friends or on your own, forging a complex and interconnected world.
The actual gameplay is largely unchanged. Graphically the game has been given an obvious update - everything is clearer, crisper and altogether better to look at. A number of bugs and issues that had almost become trademarks of the franchise have also been ironed out (crashing the game when zooming out for example). Path-finding has also been significantly overhauled, so now your sims will move around your city with a speedier and more purposeful direction.
Curved roads are also here! In what is sure to be a big change to your cities and the way they work, roads can now be laid out in whatever pattern you see fit, and the game works out appropriately sized blocks between them for zoning. Zoning is another thing that has been tweaked, as you can now only construct zones adjacent to existing roads, doing away with the pesky issues of having no access to your facilities.
Water has also been tweaked so that roads now automatically contain pipes, so there is no more complex pipeline layouts beneath the city. This may be something diehards will come to miss, but for the average player, it removes a slightly unnecessary layer of complexity from the game.
Buildings can now also be specifically modified and altered, clicking on certain municipal and civil buildings opens up an expansion window, where additional facilities, warehouses and upgrades can be purchased and placed. Garbage not being collected swiftly enough? Instead of building whole new depos, now you can just add trucks to your existing facility.
The demo we got our hands on was, of course, Pre-Alpha, so many of the luxurious and exciting new features we have been promised and teased with were not on show. But...if we are to make a quick judgement based on what we have seen here, then Maxis have done a fine job with sticking to their roots, and the new Sim City is going to take over more of our precious time than ever before.
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