SimCity is the perfect example of a once niche series being brought to the masses.
If you were a casual player of SimCity during its prime, that's nothing but a good thing — developer Maxis has simplified the convoluted nature of running an entire city.
However, dedicated fans may find accessibility has come at too high a price, as the lifeblood of SimCity 2000 has been abridged in search of a larger audience.
Simply put, the rebooted SimCity is for fans of The Sims. It's about building a society — rather than a single household — whereas the original games revolved around designing an efficient city. The livelihood of its citizens was an afterthought.
Developing a city requires the perfect balance between residential, commercial and industrial zones. They feed off one another. The residents need somewhere to work and material possessions, the industry needs shops to sell its products, and the commercial sector needs people to keep buying them.
It's a simplified version of the real-world economy.
With so much going on, Maxis has devised a data-layer system to easily demonstrate which aspects of your economy are striving, and which desperately require attention.
Each integral statistic is colour-coded to emphasise the pros and cons of possible actions. From natural resources to the best water-catchment areas and the value of property, the density of every aspect of your city can be evaluated within its colourful data-layer.
It's all about the roads. Transport, power, water, waste disposal, and sewage run along the roads, and buildings, houses and shops can only be positioned alongside a street.
In a massive design flaw, if a road is removed, so is the building attached to it. Your expensive hospital or secure police station may be accidentally deleted when you realise that tiny two-lane avenue isn't big enough to accommodate the growing population, but when you started that was all you could afford.
Hills and rivers are automatically bypassed when placing a road through what appears to be unsuitable terrain and city zoning will follow them anywhere.
What would have taken hours in the old SimCity games (preparing the land for the city and establishing the basic infrastructure) has been condensed into minutes. Your focus quickly shifts from city planner to mayor as the social and economic problems of between one and 16 cities demand solutions.
Initially, you'll start working on just one city. High income earners want to live near parks and away from factories and sewage treatment plants. Industrial areas need a working class population and will provide a consistent revenue stream through excessive taxes.
Schools will increase your town's intelligence and allow for a wider range of commercial businesses. Building a nuclear power plant in an uneducated city, for example, would be catastrophic and you'll need excessive law enforcement if the unschooled population is too high.
Once you've mastered a single city, it's time to expand with nearby cities. SimCity's problematic "always online" server connection is designed to cater for multiplayer. You can run neighbouring cities with your friends and share resources, or if you prefer, you can manage them all alone.
One city could house a bulk of the high-income population. Another might supply power for the entire region. Mining towns may be high on resources, but can't support a large population, while a Vegas-style party town is the perfect tourist hotspot once the transport network is up and running.
In theory, playing with friends should be fun, but it just hasn't worked following SimCity's well-documented server troubles. Even if you're playing alone, SimCity has to be connected to EA's server, and if it's at capacity (which isn't as frequent now as it was last week) then bad luck, you can't play.
Online connectivity issues aside, SimCity is a streamlined and highly addictive city management simulation. It's been designed to appeal to fans of The Sims with a greater emphasis on social interactions as well as managing an entire region of cities. It isn't as thorough as the old games and has its issues, but once you start playing, the hours will just fly away.