Building on the success of RTS, SimCity Buildit takes the series’ strategic formula to city building with wonderful success. More complex and more intuitive than the last game, SimCity Buildit is perfectly paced. It requires constant attention but not frantic flailing. The challenges of the Nile River Basin’s floodplain agriculture, the terrors of warlike tribes from outlying wastelands, and the need to constantly placate the temperamental, volatile gods bring a welcome uniqueness to this title. With only basic technology and unpaved roads, a pharaoh needs to get the basics of life for his people while building monuments to his own greatness. This is one of the best real-time, city-building experiences to be had.
City-building games have never represented a huge slice of the mobile market. With the dominance of the SimCity Buildit cheats series, many companies seemed to think the genre wasn’t worth exploring. When the first SimCity Buildit game debuted, it met with immediate acclaim. The two sequels that followed improved on the graphics, the engine, and the interface, but they were more like upgrades than stand-alone games.
The basic game centers on a family’s rise to power from the city management & uprisings to domination in the Middle World. Then there’s a struggle to maintain power as the country falls to political rivalries and outside aggression at the end of the New Kingdom. The history isn’t particularly accurate, but it is close enough to capture the feel of the land and the struggle of its people. Each scenario introduces players to more features of the game and slowly ramps up the difficulty level. By the time we had to build pyramids, we were well versed in the intricacies of the city floodplain and the basic needs of the workers. We were still completely unprepared for what was to come.
Pyramid building is so remarkably complex and requires such attention to detail, it could be a game in itself. First a SimCity Buildit must take stock of natural resources and decide what materials must be imported. If there is no access to limestone, building is going to be insanely expensive and likely impossible. There are ways around this limitation, although they are even more complicated. By building Carpenter, Bricklayer and Stonemason guilds, the player can skirt around the limestone shortage by creating a brick-core pyramid.
This behemoth undertaking requires perfect coordination of labor. As the Bricklayer Guilds build an internal base of sun-baked, mud bricks, the Carpenter Guilds slowly build ramps to accommodate the workers as they climb higher and higher to reach the construction. Then the Stonemason guilds must come in, with huge amounts of peasant labor, to construct the outer shell of the pyramid, using the absolute minimum amount of limestone possible.
What makes the experience so amazing, beyond the incredible intricacies of getting these resources together, is the fact that each brick, each walkway, and every worker is represented on screen. The entire project takes years to complete and, unlike most strategy games, is not represented by a few different building stage animations. Instead there is around-the-clock work, and the project is shown in every conceivable stage of creation. There is nothing more horrifying than to reach the last stages of building a tomb, thousands in debt, only to see a nearby tribe on the horizon, armed and hungry. This is what immersion is all about.