Earlier this year EA Games opened up application for their closed SimCity beta and like the fans we are we applied for this access. Unfortunately not only did we not get chosen but we also weren’t invited to the media previews that the rest of the world appeared to get.
But after sulking and complaining like we do we set off to gain access another way and that is when our new hero JimSole1 stepped forth and sent us a code to get into the Beta.
After downloading and installing Origin and the SimCity beta I launched the game looking forward to losing my entire weekend making the greatest city ever known to mankind… my hopes were immediately dashed however, when the demo kindly told me that it was time limited and that I’d only be able to play for 1 hour at a time – after which time my beautiful city would be destroyed.
But never mind I threw myself into the game anyway and started Lazytown, Lazyopolis, LazyCity and Bob.. I got bored of coming up with Lazy names…
The beta starts off with you being placed in Clearwater with 50 000 simolians and nothing else. The first thing you need to do is connect a road up to the main highway to allow people into your city, after which you need to zone your residential, commercial and industrial zones just as we always did. However there are a few small changes.
First up is that zoning now costs you nothing at all but you can no longer choose the density of your zone. You simply place down residential and then if you provide the correct types of roads, utilities and location it can grow into higher density housing. But don’t forget we’re all adults here and you now know that no city can only be full of rich people. So you need to zone carefully and make sure you have living space for rich, medium income and low income residents. Your advisor and research panels will help you along this path.
You will also need to place power stations, water pumps, sewerage plants and garbage trucks but thankfully this time you no longer need to place pipes or electricity lines as well, the utilities will all travel under the road (much like real life) and this saves you from the boredom of doing manual labour.
And that really is the end of the game… but once you get into it and start checking out how deeply integrated the city is you can’t help but get addicted. Each Sim is his own person, you can click on anyone and see where they have been, where they are going and how they feel.
Nothing is as simple as it first appears. You need to be very careful where you place your utilities; sticking a sewerage plant next to your water tower will work at first but after a while your town folk will start getting sick and you will have no choice but to close the water tower and build a new one in a smarter location.
Virtually all buildings can also be upgraded by adding extras on to them from the upgrade menu on the building. The game can quickly become overwhelming with so many things to keep track off but Maxis have thought of that with the Sims often trying to catch your attention with speech bubbles. If you click on them they’ll tell you what they think and what would make them happier. Doing what you’re told is what the best Mayors do and as such you will be rewarded for completing these requests.
Unfortunately I’d say about 90% of the game wasn’t available in the demo but from the few towns I did create I have to say that I’m now even more excited for this title.
One of the big selling points for this version of SimCity was the way we could specialise our city to be a gambling mecca, or a mining town or a whole bunch of other things. Unfortunately in the beta all we could do was drop a casino, which didn’t really give me a taste of that feature. Nor were we able to make multiple cities simultaneously; These multiple cities are going to be a big deal in the end product with the idea being that you could overload one city with refuse removal trucks and then sell that ability to your other city. So one will make money from hosting the rubbish while your other will be nice and clean but cost more to maintain.
The beta, it must be said, was a lot of fun even if it was painfully short and hopefully the full title lives up to my lofty expectations.