SimCity Societies is the fifth game in the SimCity franchise, and the first not to be developed by Maxis, though this was due to the fact they were busy making Spore. Developer duties were instead handed over to Tilted Mill Entertainment, the team behind Caesar IV.
The game itself marks a massive departure from the traditional SimCity gameplay, stripping away most of the systems that had made SimCity so complex. The long-time realistic city-building simulation was shifted away from its roots and into a "social engineering simulator".
Perhaps the most immediately apparent gameplay change from previous games is the removal of 'zoning', replaced now by placing actual buildings. Construction of these buildings is now instantaneous.
Revenue has been radically altered; as it is now earned per day from buildings instead of calculated from taxes. Public works such as water and garbage disposal have been removed from the game and are now handled automatically. Electric plants must still be constructed, but power lines are no longer required.
Power plants can now be considered by how 'green' they are, with polluting power plants creating heat waves and other negative events.
A new addition are the "Special Sims", who are randomly generated by sims visiting certain buildings or by using a building's special ability. Faith Healers can cure the sick and the lame, while Tycoons temporarily improve a workplace's efficiency at the cost of workplace happiness. Not all Special Sims positively affect the city; Arsonists set fire to buildings and Pickpockets will rob Sims blind.
Instead of building one large metropolis, the game now centers around creating a society. As a city grows larger, it requires more of six societal values: productivity, prosperity, creativity, spirituality, spirituality, authority, and knowledge. All of these values are generated and consumed by buildings and city ordinances. For example, a clock tower would generate three points of authority.
As previously stated, cities can generate and consume societal values. Several unique types of cities can be made by focusing or neglecting certain values. As a city edges closer to a certain type of society, the aesthetics of the city change and the color of the menus shifts.
- Authoritarian: Focuses on authority. Authoritarian cities echo shades of George Orwell's 1984 and totalitarian states. People are conditioned to not be happy or disgruntled, but merely satiated.
- Capitalist: Focuses on prosperity. A Wall Street executive's dream with numerous shopping malls, stock exchanges, and corporate police.
- Contemplative: Focuses on spirituality. The people will worship whatever flying spaghetti monster they please, just as long as there's a church on every corner.
- Cyberpunk: Focuses on knowledge, prosperity, and authority. Somewhat dystopian in execution with holographic advertisements and polluted streets.
- Fun City: Focuses on creativity. Everyone is happy since there's amusement park rides all over town and free candy for all.
- Industrial: Focuses on productivity. Similar to cities prior to the Great Depression, everyone works at a factory and lives in a slum.
- Romantic: Focuses on prosperity and creativity. Couple will walk the cobblestone streets to spend the night on the town.
- Small Town: Focuses on spirituality and prosperity while keeping a low population count.
- Haunted: A "secret" society, based around building haunted buildings. Special Sims such as Zombies and Ghosts will appear in your town.
- 'Normal': While no city is truly normal, you can avoid creating a different society by neither focusing nor neglecting any one societal value.
SimCity Societies came under criticism shortly after being announced by long-time fans of the franchise over its changes from the traditional SimCity formula. The criticism was so severe that then-President of Tilted Mill Entertainment Chris Beatrice actually responded to the fans.
Opinions were mixed upon the game's release. The game was widely criticized by its critics and many fans for a lack of challenge and for being a system hog. However, some outlets praised the game, such as GameZone's applauding the new direction for the game.
The developers responded to the criticism by adding additional content, such as more challenging gameplay modes, additional buildings, and new disasters.
An expansion has since been released, SimCity Societies: Destinations. The expansion compounded upon the transportation systems in place in the original game, and tourism was expanded.