I’m not a big fan of social Facebook games. I’ve played a few, but gave up on them when the requests needed to progress exceeded the number of friends I had actually playing. So it was with some trepidation that I approached Sim City Social.
I had, after all, cursed at its appearance in E3 this year, hating it for being the social game and not the sequel we have all been waiting for.
I clicked through the tutorial, barely paying attention. Then I clicked somemore.
And I couldn’t stop clicking.
At its core, Sim City Social is your quintessential social game. You have to interact with friends in order to advance – items are needed with which to progress, energy is required to do almost anything in-game. You can’t play the game without friends; or you can, at an extremely decelerated rate of progress. It’s annoying to have to keep asking folk for help, annoying to keep having to wait for your energy bar to refill, and extremely annoying to get spammed daily by requests for energy/business cards/land permits/the like.
But that’s what a social game is. Expecting it to free you from the burden of giving and receiving item or energy requests is like expecting CounterStrike: Global Offensive to be a third-person shooter.
And once you go beyond this pre-judgement of it being a social game, it’s great.
The Sim City Social experience is clear cut and streamlined, and the same humour that permeates the franchise we know and love is still present. One click tells you everything you can do – be it misdirecting the mailman from an apartment complex, or sorting popsicle sticks in your ice cream factory.
Plans that you have to follow are laid out simply. And while many challenges are available at any one time, they’re not something you have to go out of your way to build. Rather, every objective required lies along your progression path anyway. EA has not only been studying its competitors (e.g., Zynga); it also learned from them.
Though this seems to be the most obvious route of progression, you don’t actually have to keep requesting items from friends. Most buildings and businesses are able to give you the components needed for upgrades. The only item you actually have to request from other players are land permits – which is needed to expand your city’s boundaries. Of course, one request every few days never hurt anyone. Or does it?
Truthfully, it’s the game’s ease of use that really draws players in. While other Facebook games have you double-confirming each request, Sim City Social has an option to remember who you’ve gifted items to, and requests become a single-click kind of thing – which, to the discerning social game player, is a heaven-sent convenience.
Sure, you have your city populated with people who don’t even play the game, but that’s the insidious beauty of a social game, isn’t it? To quote a fellow Sim City Social addict: you shouldn’t care about who you send your requests to (the game picks them at random from your friend-list, actually), because eventually they’ll all cave and start playing. That’s the draw of a social game. In any case, should you not want to be labelled as a pest by friends, you can always manually request items from friends who actually play the game, instead of being lazy and spamming the ‘recommend’ button. Which in this case, is certain to drop your friend list count on Facebook.
By the way, Sim City Social also rewards you with its own currency – Diamonds – that can be exchanged for more energy or to purchase premium buildings. This way, you get its full freemium experience without actually having to pay for anything.
I’m a level 12 Mayor in Sim City Social after sporadic play-sessions spanning almost a week. I have a growing population of 4,269 Sims. Only two people on my Facebook list were playing this game last week. Today, there are seven.
So yes, I will keep playing; and you probably might, too.