City Life: World Edition

March 5, 2007

City-builders usually have one inspiration to look towards: Will Wright’s original SimCity. Most of these games don’t fall very far from the formula that Maxis’ Sim-series presents, but City Life, released last May, aimed to change things up a bit by focusing on social order over financial records. For the most part, City Life did a good job of differentiating itself and gained a good-sized following. Now, about half-a-year later, City Life: World Edition looks to update the original with some new content and same game play as seen in the original. Those who bought the original may not want to bother, and actual strategy can run a bit thin, but City Life: World Edition still remains a nice alternative to the average city-builder.

At first glance, City Life: World Edition looks to be about the same as the most recent SimCity 4. Both encourage building a city with buildings that stretch to the skies, but in reality, the two have some very distinct differences. While SimCity puts a focus on maintaining the financial situation of your city while providing public institutions, City Life concentrates on the social order of the equation. Things largely depend on the social build of your city, which consist of different social groups such as the modest Blue-Collars and Fringes, to the poor Have-Nots, up to the higher class Radical Chics and Elites. Catering to the different social groups includes constructing buildings that employ those specific groups, building social institutions like schools and hospitals, as well as keeping a fine line in-between groups that hate each other like poison.

Constructing your city from the ground up works significantly differently from most city-builders. You start your modest city by placing the City Hall, which acts as the capitol of your city and will enlarge as your city does. Buildings are separated into different categories like in SimCity, but instead of zoning out land for residential, industrial, or commercial development, you’ll place each individual building that either houses, employs, or provides services to citizens. For that reason, City Life leads to a much more personalized city where you place buildings where you want them to go instead of just zoning land and waiting for people to build their own homes.

Social order is the biggest thing to concentrate on, especially in the beginning stages of your city. Blue-Collars and Fringes will most likely be your common citizens in the beginning, and as it happens, they both hate each other, so it’s important to keep warring groups separated. Otherwise, things will eventually culminate in a cultural war. Additionally, building up your Blue-Collar and Fringe groups are the only ways to attract higher social groups to the city, which also lead to more money. Unfortunately, this idea leads to building a city in the same manner over and over again, trying to build up each social class to get to the next one.

The problem with social classes extends to the fact that most of the cities you play will probably grow in the same manner as the last. That’s because once you find a strategy to building a successful city, you’ll probably emulate that same strategy on the next city. There are different maps to play on, with each one being unlocked after you meet the badge requirements for them. Each region and map holds different terrain, and for that reason they vary in difficulty and available land to build on. Though even then, you’ll probably follow the same pattern when crafting your city.

The graphics in City Life are pretty well done. When comparing the two, the overall look of things seems a bit more refined in SimCity 4, but in City Life, the camera has much more freedom and even allows you to get down right into the streets and walk around your city as if you were a citizen. Things do get a bit less polished when you get this close, but it is still a bit impressive looking at all the tall buildings. It actually feels like you’re in a huge metropolis when in reality, there’s undeveloped land right on the other side of the buildings. The game sounds fine, although really the most prominent thing is the background music, which is decent but not entirely great.

Now, I never played the original City Life, so I’m not entirely sure what makes City Life: World Edition that much different. Based on the information I’ve gathered from various websites, the World Edition contains a number of new buildings as well as landmarks, which look very nice but, at least with structures like the Olympic Stadium, are ridiculously huge and look kind of awkward in smaller cities. Other additions include editors- one for playing around with the game’s code and the other for making your own building. Both editors seem a bit complex to use, and many people outside of the people who really love City Life may not get that much out of them. It’s easy enough to put together buildings in the building editor, but unless you really want to get creative and trade your designs over the Internet, making extravagant buildings is a challenge. To me, World Edition doesn’t seem to warrant a purchase of City Life all over again, but for those who haven’t played the original, it’s harmless enough.

If you bought the original City Life, the World Edition probably won’t have enough of an appeal to put down another thirty dollars unless you really want to put the Statue of Liberty in your cities. At the same time, I believe the programs that let you make your own buildings may be available for free at the developer’s website. If you haven’t played the original, however, City Life: World Edition is worth taking a look at if you like city-builders. It even costs less than the original.

Score: 5/5

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