Game Review: More "City" and Less "Social" In Playdom's Social City

socialcitylogoJust as farming games like (Lil) Green Patch, Farm Town and Farmville once surged in popularity, the city-building genre is rapidly gaining players. Playdom’s new Social City has gained 5,600,000 users in 2 weeks and is an excellent example of a city building game; it has great graphics, a pleasant interface and some great social features. On the other hand, the game seems to be more about the “City” and less about the “Social”. We review the game below.

  • Title: Social City
  • Genre: City Building
  • Game Developer: Playdom
  • Game Publisher: Playdom
  • Released: March 2010

Summary:

Social City is a city-building game where you use currency and experience to build and expand your virtual city. The goal of the game is grow your population, please your citizens and earn more money. The game presentation and graphics are great, but the game could use more innovative social features.

Pros:

Great animations. Smart, obvious UI. Great sounds and music. Rewarding, addictive gameplay. Unique bonus items for population growth.

Cons:

Not enough innovative social features.

socialcity

Full Review:

Presentation:

MiniTractorThe overall presentation of Social City is excellent. From the pleasant sounds to the small animations on the people that inhabit your city, the game presents a great aesthetic quality. When a player first starts building chairs in their factory and can see the animated bulldozers, they get the feeling that this is closer to a DS game or PC game than a Facebook game. The production quality on the title is high and it shows.

The UI itself is a challenge in these types of games, and while Social City has its flaws, overall the game is easily navigatable. There are big buttons at the bottom of the screen that allow you to build your decorations, factories or residential areas. The top areas of the screen contain information about your experience, money and more. There’s a big leaderboard at the bottom of the screen, as is usual for games like this, and zoom buttons are along the left.

One gripe is that whenever you go into the gifting screen, or the invite screen, or the ‘buy currency’ screen, the game frame seems to refresh and you’re pulled out of your gaming experience. Once you’re compete, the game returns you to the same position, but I think most players would worry that their game state was lost.

Gameplay:

In Social City, a player’s goal is to build the city that has a high population, whose inhabitants are happy, and which generates a lof overall income. To accomplish these goals, the player is given a plot of land and a small starting sum, and begins building residential areas and factories. The factories are able to produce goods of your choosing, and the player must choose which products to buy, based on their profitability. The residential areas include houses as well as decorations and recreational facilities, roads, forests, basketball courts and more. These are all things that contribute to the people’s happiness.

Coin ExchangeThe game is very SimCity like, and you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time building and then adding decorations while you wait for factories to produce goods. That said, there is a time-based element that borrows from other social games like Restaurant City, and that is the collection process. Once a factory is done producing an item, you have a set amount of time to grab the product, before it expires and you lose it. In this same way, residential areas produce population in the same way as factories. It’s a bit strange, but keeps the gameplay lively as you’re constantly producing and consuming. It’s funny that the game ends up feeling like Farmville, but instead of harvesting crops, you’re harvesting goods… and people.

You gain experience for every action in the game, and as your experience rises, you gain levels. With each level, you unlock new buildings and opportunities, and your world expands. You can use your earned “coins” currency to purchase your buildings and factories, but you can also use the premium currency called “City Bucks”, which are each worht 1000 coins. City Bucks are available by paying real money at $4.99 for 25 City Bucks. Some quick math would say then that since $5 is 25 City Bucks is 25,000 gold coins, that $1 is 5000 gold coins, which can buy you a red bungalow or half a factory. City Bucks can also be used to expand your land, which is necessary and the only other way to do it easily is through social means.

Lasting Appeal:

This is an area where Social City shines. The game is designed to be extremely scalable, and with the variety of buildings available, your city can expand far beyond what you initially imagine. You can build a megalopolis or a small suburban area, or both. The game acts as a canvas of sorts, and players are able to customize their city to their liking and show it off to friends. Certainly, the game could get a bit tedious once you have hundreds of factories, and you’re required to click through and ‘harvest’ each one, but that hasn’t stopped Farmvillers and it won’t stop the players of Social City, as well.

Sociability:

introfeedThe social elements of the game are not as many as I would like. Instead of having any sort of team play or shared cities, the game takes a Farmville-style turn to gift your neighbors to gain experience. One social bonus is that your land mass expands if you have enough neighbors, and this is useful because the only other way to do that is through City Bucks.

There is a cool “news feed” that appears when you start the game, and it keeps you abreast of your friends’ latest activities. Otherwise, the game doesn’t really involve any particularly innovative social features, and that’s disappointing. In any case, the game will surely iterate, and it would be interesting to see something like ‘states’, where a group of cities could band together and form a bigger union.