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Trucker, mayor, space cowboy: Five sim games that let you live out your dreams

Erez Zukerman | June 10, 2013
Whether you enjoy controlling the fates of countless Sims or driving a truck across Europe, you can be sure there's an excellent simulator out there in which to hone your skills.

Euro Truck Simulator 2's attention to detail, convincing physics, and striking visuals transcend its niche status. This is a game so well-made, it can make you a fan of the category just by virtue of its sheer quality alone.

While trucking and freight delivery fills an important role in our modern existence, it's just one role. If you're looking to get a better look at the interconnected landscape of a modern city, you'll have to go with something a bit more mainstream: SimCity.

SimCity
 SimCityWhether looking at your city from afar or up close, the new SimCity is beautiful.

Much has been said about the new SimCity. The sad story started with fawning reviews prelaunch, escalated to an outpouring of rage in what has been one of the gaming industry's most embarrassing launches in recent memory, and culminated with EA CEO John Riccitiello's quitting. But in the end, it's a game. It may be overpriced, its DRM may be always-on, but if you ever enjoyed a SimCity game before, this is a game you're going to want to play.

Unlike many AAA titles, SimCity holds a wide appeal, attracting both seasoned gamers and casual players. To help acclimate new gamers, the game starts with an extensive tutorial that takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete. Well-made and entertaining, by the time you're done with the tutorial you should be confident enough to take your first steps with a new city of your own. You should also be thoroughly impressed with the new SimCity's graphics, showcased as the tutorial cinematically pans and zooms the map to points of interest.

Cities in the new SimCity are much smaller than they used to be: it's not all that difficult run out of map space. This is a balanced by the fact regions are now an intrinsic part of the gameplay. A region is a large swath of land with several designated spots for cities and Great Works, such as a Solar Farm, an Arcology, or a Space Center. Cities within an area can cooperate: One city can pick up another city's trash, and Sims can commute from your picturesque town to the neighboring industrial city.

Indeed, cities not only can cooperate in the new SimCity, but they pretty much have to, in order to succeed. If you constrain yourself to a single city, it is all too easy to end up with an average disappointment of a town, a place that excels at nothing, yet tries to do everything. Instead, SimCity lets you specialize your town: You can make it into a gambling hotspot, a mining town, a cultural capital, and so on. Your town isn't limited to just one specailization, either: Given the right resources, you can specialize in more than one field.

 

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