The number one city-builder on Facebook, CityVille, has a new challenger. EA and Playfish, with a little help from series creator Maxis, have unleashed SimCity on Facebook as SimCity Social. As the number one game in the sub genre is threatened with losing its crown, we revisit Facebook Game Face-off, a one-on-one, all-out battle between like Facebook games to decide who does ... whatever both do better. You should know how this works by now, so let's to fightin'!
Now Try It With Feeling
If there's one thing that separates SimCity Social more from the competition, it's that this city-builder feels more like a living, breathing city than any other. That's thanks to the ripple effects that players come across at almost every juncture while playing. (Including the literal, visual ripples of population increases whenever players introduce new decorations or attractions.) The cities in SimCity Social feel more alive because of considerations like fires, pollution and crime. Friends' mayors living in your city and chiming in on your actions also help make it feel as if your city responds to your actions. But what's most impressive is how Playfish has somehow delivered these features in a way that isn't too complex for the casual player.
There's no doubt that CityVille has way more in terms of content to shake at its new found opponent, but each addition simply feels like more things to do. Sure, there's an interactive police station in Zynga's game and even its very own superhero, but these features feel as if they have little to no consequence to whether you succeed as a mayor. Failing to keep the city safe and clean doesn't seem to have any adverse effect, and even the most casual of games need some sort of failure mechanism to keep the intrigue.
Fun Loves Company
SimCity Social certainly earns its title. While the crux of social play in Playfish's game is borrowed from The Sims Social, it makes for an interesting consideration for the player: How will I interact with my friends, and how will that reflect in my own city? This doesn't have much of any effect on whether players succeed, but it's at least more interesting than, say, visiting friends for nothing more than the freebies.
Friends in CityVille never felt like much more than a means to an end. Surely that can be said of its competitor, but that fact is more obvious in this city-builder. The motivation for visiting friends in CityVille is free energy, plain and simple. This game is often credited with popularizing the reputation system in social games, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily interesting.
The Great (Pay) Wall
One thing that tends to bog down the SimCity Social experience is its energy system. It's not terribly different from any social game--actions require energy, which refills over time--but it's not conducive to playing for more than about five minutes at a time without paying up. That's a problem when games like these almost demand to be played for longer sessions. Also, can we just say that this whole "staffing buildings with Facebook friends" thing needs to die, and fast?
Surprisingly enough, CityVille has come a long way in allowing players to enjoy its sprawling cityscapes for longer spans of time. With energy-producing items like the Dam, Wind Farm and Electrical Company, there are plenty of ways for players to, well, play longer. However, CityVille is a main offender when it comes to requiring friends for progression. (A note to all social game makers: This is a quirk we players could all do without.)
The Final Countdown
There's something to be said of the game that made, broke and set almost every record in the books. By the same token, there's even more to be said of the game that has watched very closely and improved upon that formula through staying true to and celebrating its roots. SimCity Social, while it could be more welcoming to the free players, is simply more lively and interesting than its competitors, thanks to over 20 years of city-building DNA. But we're more concerned with what you think:
SimCity Social or CityVille?
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