The strategy of SimCity isn't very apparent early on, you'll most likely haphazardly throw down roads and zoning, but that tends to bite you in the later game. City sizes are more restrictive, and while there's ample room to work with, once you cap out your land space you'll need to worry about optimizing what you have to continue to grow. In one of my regions as soon as I hit 100k citizens I started to run into trouble. On too many occasions I made errors of where to place sewage outflow pipes, or built key infrastructure right on top of an oil deposit - causing me to lose precious simoleons down the line while I demolished and rebuilt these. Things get further complicated because of the way SimCity requires you to "upgrade" your infrastructure instead of zoning ahead of time.
The biggest difference folks will find if you came from previous SimCity titles is that roads are you delivery system for everything. Water, electricity, sewage, and anything else are tied to it. When you zone an area it snaps to the edge of the roads and the size of what can grow there is governed by the size of the road. This replace the previous density types of zoning. The trick is - as your city grows these areas want to upgrade to the next density type- meaning you need to upgrade the road. If you don't plan for this eventual upgrade - leaving enough space for a skyscraper where a group of townhouses once were for instance - it simply can't happen. Special buildings are also modular allowing you to add upgrades to them like more patient wings in a clinic or more garages for fire trucks - once again you need to plan for and make room for these things when building.
So aside from some of this planning strategy there's so many details going on under the hood of SimCity I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the cities themselves and how they look and behave. Zooming down to street level showcases tiny little Sims running around their business - reminding me a bit of Rollercoaster Tycoon - and clicking on them will give you detailed info about where they are going/coming from and what they want. Making your Sims happy is how you grow the city so this is a very important aspect of the game. But beyond this there's simply so much life happening - police chases, kids playing, firemen putting out fires, baseball games at parks, people getting on buses. There really is a sim life happening here and you can SEE it - it's not something you have to imagine. It really is quite impressive and in a way it makes you care about the game - it gives it such style.
The biggest strategy change in SimCity is the fact that you don't have to do everything yourself. Your city can be supported by other cities - so while initially you might have to have a power plant - later on you can reclaim that space by purchasing power from a neighboring city and demolishing yours. Several core utilities like water and sewage can all be outsourced simply by going to the region view and clicking what you want and deciding which city to buy it from depending on the price.
So while all this is very cooperative in nature there are some pretty big shortcomings here. The biggest I've found is communication. Maxis has only given us a little chat window to do your cross city planning in - and because the game is asynchronous - it doesn't suit itself well to leave messages for other players. If I want my city to be the "power producer" it's difficult to let other players know this. There are other core upgrades you can accomplish that benefit other cities - like building a department of tourism so your other connected cities can build landmarks. It's just completely odd that there are several things going on in the bigger region view that aren't communicated as well as all the graphs and details you can get in the normal city view. Even the big group projects - called special works - which all players contribute resources too are difficult to get off the ground because it's easy to miss there's one even pending.
There's so much going on in SimCity that even after 30 hours of play and two cities later I'm still learning the ins and outs. The disasters are still here and they are more inventive and "fun" than before. The addictive nature of fine tuning roads so traffic can flow smoothly still exists. When you get lost in a game of SimCity hours can go by as you try to accomplish your own internal goals for the city - or one of the many challenges that pop up now for you to complete. While the always online nature of the game is currently a hindrance, once things start to run smoothly it should really open the game up. Hopefully Maxis will be able to improve the region view to allow better communication for co-op play and then we'll all truly be able to build our own megacities.
The Co-Op Experience: Players can join regions and have their cities share resources like power, police, and more.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.