SimCity, while flashy and shiny and high-tech (at least in Cities of Tomorrow), isn’t exactly living up to expectations for veteran SimCity players. Though the game has been out for a while, playing multiplayer is almost like trying to play soccer in a deserted wasteland.
Banished, while there’s no multiplayer feature, has proven to be a far more interesting experience. SimCity 2013 was incredibly dumbed down compared to its predecessors, such as SimCity 4, where pipes weren’t placed for you and buildings could be placed before roads. Banished, however, doesn’t hold your hand outside of the tutorial. Roads aren’t even a basic requirement, though they do give workers a bit of a speed boost.
I’ve logged a considerable number of hours in SimCity–but never more than four or five on one plot. Why? Because I ran out of things to do so damn quickly. Banished, however, offers days spent on one single town. But how?
5. Hey, look, real consequences
It’s possible to completely lose at a game of Banished. Money isn’t an issue, and the game won’t stop like SimCity when your budget hits the red and you run out of funds. Banished uses resources such as logs, stone, and iron to complete buildings that are essential to life. Fisheries, hunting cabins, and houses require these resources, and you’d better hope and pray that your people get them all before winter hits.
People starve and die in Banished, they don’t just leave your city in hopes of a better life. If all the people in your town die, well… you’re SOL. With no one to gather resources or actually do anything, you can’t actually progress.
The feeling of consequence in Banished is heavier than that of SimCity, and it actually gives you a goal and a purpose. I felt pretty damn pleased with myself when I managed to get through the beginnings of a Hard game and survived my first, second, and third winters.
4. I can build any way I want
Like I mentioned before, Banished doesn’t force you to connect to a highway or build roads before placing your buildings. In fact, roads are completely optional. More like in Sim City 4, you can place buildings anywhere you like, allowing for more planning and strategy on the part of the player.
There’s actual strategy and involvement required from the player in order to succeed, and I believe that these two aspects have been phased out by EA and Maxis in order to appeal to a wider audience.
In Banished, it’s important to remember that placement of buildings heavily factors in to time spent travelling for your townspeople. Sure, that plays a small part in SimCity in terms of your commute, but people aren’t going to die from a longer drive to work. Keeping buildings fairly close together without strangling your resources is key (i.e., you shouldn’t build two fisheries right next to each other, but you can if you want). However, having the choice to completely screw myself over or win at life is like a breath of fresh air.
3. I can customize my experience
SimCity has one difficulty. Easy. I often felt like an ape being trained to stack blocks when playing it. Banished, on the other hand, allows me to choose a terrain (yes, also available in SimCity) and my own difficulty.
The difficulty changes your starting conditions in ways that really change the way you play and the buildings you rush for. In Hard mode, you start with very little and therefore run out of things much more quickly. You have to rush to build houses and food before your cart runs out and you lose workers; like I said, losing workers means losing resources.
Your difficulty also changes the number of families you start out with–the harder you choose, the fewer families, which means fewer workers, which means fewer resources.
You can change your climate to make things even more difficult with insane weather conditions, and even more importantly, you can change your plot size. Thank baby Jesus.
2. I can spend more than a few hours on one town
In SimCity, it’s difficult (for me, at least) to spend more than a couple of hours on one city before I’ve filled up my plot, evened out my budget and have nothing really more to do than sit back and watch people live their lives. There’s no real struggle for balance or survival in SimCity, and that’s including the extra content offered in Cities of Tomorrow, the expansion pack.
Banished fills that void. I can spend a couple of days, perhaps more, on one town. I feel like there are actually things I have to do in order to keep these people alive, and that makes this game a completely different experience. There’s actual strategy and involvement required from the player in order to succeed, and I believe that these two aspects have been phased out by EA and Maxis in order to appeal to a wider audience.
1. It feels like a city builder, not a fancy city-making machine.
More than anything, what I enjoy is the required involvement from the gamer. In SimCity, it’s incredibly easy to sit back and let the game pretty much play itself. More often than not, once you’re about half-way established, aside from the occasional crisis with your garbage, water, or electricity, you’re sitting back and enjoying the high life.
Banished doesn’t work that way, and it may be more because of the style of the game and the technology available to the townspeople; however, it makes for a more enjoyable experience that I think veteran SimCity players will appreciate.
Designating workers for each individual building, making sure people are populating (AKA making more workers), making sure people are fed and healthy is incredibly important in this game. Unlike SimCity, resource management is something that requires constant attention from the player, and that makes me feel like I’m actually playing it and not just watching some shiny engine build my city for me.