SimCity Gets All Cultural On Us

June 12, 2007

The PC community’s seminal city building franchise is about to get a makeover. SimCity Societies, the latest game in Electronic Arts’ long running SimCity franchise, is notable not only for adopting a new naming convention, but also for being handed off to a new developer for the first time since the series was created by Maxis in 1989.

The game, which was first showcased as part of a cover story in the July issue of Games for Windows magazine, is now being helmed by Tilted Mill Entertainment, a much less proven studio known for lesser strategy titles such as Caesar IV and Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile.

However, the studio is not without talent, having been founded by several developers who left Impressions Games, and who have worked on previous iterations in the Caesar franchise, as well as 1999’s incredibly addictive Pharaoh. So, while SimCity Societies promises a somewhat questionable shifted focus on “social energy” on top of constructing your dream metropolis, there are plenty of reasons for this game to keep your strategy compass pointing north.

According to a statement released by EA, the upcoming game will allow players to create “cultures, societal behaviors and environments” for their cities, which will be able to take a variety of forms. Examples offered by EA include artistic cities, haunted towns, green cities, and spiritual communities. Sure, this is a step away from the pure armchair city planning that we are used to, but this actually sounds like it will draw the game closer to EA’s hugely successful The Sims series, which if accurate could make SimCity Societies terrific…and terrifically addictive.

The trick will be striking a balance between the old and the new, and deciding what elements players have come to love about SimCity can be cut without alienating the vast majority of long time fans. Key to this will be the game’s continuing focus on city building, with SimCity Societies supporting more than 350 building types, each of which will be able to be combined, connected and re-arranged freely. As each city evolves, players will be able to unlock new buildings that “can help advance – or regress – their society,” says the EA statement.

Another feature players can expect are resources called “social energies,” that can be mixed and matched in order to decide their city’s overall direction. These energies are divided into six different categories, including industry, wealth, obedience, knowledge, devotion, and creativity, and together drive the behaviors of a city and its inhabitants.

We will report more on this game as we find out anything else. SimCity Societies is currently expected to ship in November 2007.