SimCity Closed Beta Makes Players Build in Less Than an Hour
DISCLAIMER: All information below is based on the SimCity Closed Beta 2. City building was restricted to 1 hour. Please note that all information is subject to change between now and the game’s official March 5th release date.
More SimCity fans were given access to the EA and Maxis simulator this past weekend during SimCity Closed Beta Phase 2. I got to spend some time with the game’s tutorial and was also given free reign to design my city from scratch. Once you are set loose on the landscape, players were limited to 1 hour of playtime in this phase of the SimCity closed beta.
Learning the Ropes in Summer Shoals
When you first jump into the SimCity closed beta you are immediately taken to the game’s tutorial in Summer Shoals, a city that must have been managed by the most incompetent mayor ever. Basic services for this city are either not working or not even present. Protesters are gathered outside of City Hall and things clearly could only get worse if a natural disaster swept through. The tutorial does a nice job of walking you through the new user interface but most SimCity fans should pick it up very quickly anyway. Not a whole lot has changed in this respect besides some additional “user friendly” tweaks and a smoother visual design.
Perhaps the most important part of the tutorial is the introduction to the region mechanic and the new multi player aspect. SimCity is set to be an “online all the time” title. While some of us may lament this design choice, SimCity is built around being multi player first and foremost this time around and Maxis cites cloud saving as the reason for the decision. Single players no longer have to worry about every single detail of being Mayor in the multi player mode. Instead, multiple players can build cities in the same region as each other and sell resources back and forth to surrounding connected cities. Cities can even specialize their focus which leads to additional building options. This “multiple cities” aspect can still be tackled by one player as well if desired but since SimCity saves are cloud stored, you’ll still need to be online to play.
Let’s say that Q makes a city specialized in casinos and tourism. Heavy pollution generating industry isn’t an asset to her design. Her city will still need power and waste removal though. Fear not. She can pay my city to generate more power than needed and to send spare garbage trucks to collect waste for her. In return, my city may capitalize on the available jobs in “Q-Town” and citizens can commute from my city to hers for work each day. The cities have a symbiotic relationship that allows players to work together to achieve certain goals without having to drill down and focus on every single mayoral detail.
Back to Your SimCity Roots
Once you complete the SimCity closed beta tutorial it’s time to get back to the familiar for SimCity. You are given a plot of land and it’s off to the races to start building your city. I decided to start construction on GBTVille.
Since building from scratch in the SimCity closed beta was limited to one hour of city building in a region by yourself, the focus becomes old school SimCity-like. Build a city and make everyone happy by yourself. Make power, manage waste removal, build education facilities, provide water, you name it, it’s all there as you would expect. This phase felt the most familiar to me as a SimCity veteran since I didn’t really have time to worry about multiple cities linking together.
The UI provides all the charts and graphics that SimCity players have come to expect. Mayor approval stats, power grids, happiness levels, and traffic patterns are all available at a glance. In the SimCity closed beta I found myself looking at metrics that I didn’t even expect to be included.
Building and zoning seemed intuitive since I’ve played older SimCity titles before and during the SimCity closed beta I never really had a moment where I felt like I was looking for how to do something. Building have a module system by which upgrades to existing facilities can be added without having to demolish an old structure in favor of the new one. Even this module system was easy to use one you had done it once. The game does provide some slight guidance in the way of challenges from citizens to steer new mayors in the right direction, but long time players will not feel like they are having their hands held by the guidance given. Each recommendation or challenge seemed organic with my progress and most of the writing had a touch of humor to keep things light. The game also includes an achievement type system that gives you an idea of the growth you should be focused on. When all else fails, if you need a poke in the right direction you could of course just ask your citizens walking around outside what they would like to see next.
All in all the hour I spent building GBTVille in the SimCity closed beta was pleasant and it made me want to whip out some old school SimCity until the new title is released, but it left me a bit unsure as well. As much as I am looking forward to this title (and believe me I AM) I still haven’t slapped down the money for a pre-order (Even thought the SimCity closed beta does give the opportunity many, many times…). While I like the concept of cities interacting with each other in multi player, it makes me a bit concerned as well. Obviously the SimCity closed beta limited the size of a city I could create through the time limit, but I get the feeling that size could potentially be an issue for those players used to creating every single thing themselves in one city. I also would want to have a region with people I know but am unsure how many of my friends will be getting SimCity. Yes, I know I could play with strangers, but where’s the fun in that?
While the VERY brief SimCity closed beta playtime I had in NO way constitutes a full review of the game in any way, shape, or form, if I had to make the call right now on my limited play time I would say the simulation is back and better than ever, the city building is intuitive and easy to pick up if you’re new, and most of all I had a blast in game. I look forward to examining features such as the global events and leader boards that will eventually be implemented in game as well. While I have some concerns about a new “Error 37″ fiasco or about potential future play-ability issues (read: game shut down), I’ll probably pre-order soon anyway…yeah, I’m a SimCity sucker like that.
Did you get a chance to play in the SimCity closed beta? What were your thoughts? Did you pre-order? Let us know below!