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Posted on May 8, 2006 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

City Life – Recon (PC)

Armchair General

clbox.jpgStop right there. I already know what you’re thinking – you’re asking "Why is Armchair General previewing a city management game? What’s that got to do with war and military history? Eh?!"

Well, it’s not really such a mystery – I mean, when it comes down to it, managing a city, ensuring it has enough supplies to make it run effectively is no different to managing the massive armies under your command in countless Wargames you may have played in the past. True, you won’t be blowing stuff up quite so often, and there’s no "enemy" as such, but if long-term strategy and logistics are your thing, then you’ll need a grip on how to handle the people under your command. And what better way to do this than to get to know them on the "home front".

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Convinced yet? No? Well then let me run something else past you…if it weren’t for city planners and the like, the only things people would find the need to fight over would be scraps of earth and the occasional forest; "Here Dennis, there’s some lovely mud here". Let’s face it, when you look at the map of any battlefield, if you’re really going to embark on the full business of conquering, it’s the cities you want to capture, and then, maybe, rebuild them a bit in your own image once all the shooting is over and done with. So when it comes down to it, city building is as relevant to your burgeoning empire as that new model Main Battle Tank you’ve got your eye on at next month’s "Bombs ‘R’ Us" trade fair.

Enough justification – this is, of course, a strategy game, pure and simple. Readers familiar with the astonishingly successful Sim City series will already be fully au fait with the daily dilemmas of establishing and building a modern metropolis, but this game handles things a little differently. In City Life (by Monte Cristo), you won’t get away with just zoning willy-nilly and hoping you get the mix right, this game actually features several different social "classes", all of whom have different needs and wishes and, more importantly, who must all get on together.

Determination of which social class lives in which region of your city is dependent on the facilities you make available – but for your city to truly work, you need to ensure that all social classes are catered for. After all, if your entire city ends up being filled with mega-rich entrepreneurs, who will they find to chauffeur their cars for them? So whilst you’re off building elaborate mega malls for the Elites, the Suits or the Radical Chics, don’t forget the no-frills every day grocery stores for the likes of the Have Nots, the Blue Collars or the Fringes. Each group has its place on the twin scales of education/safety and income.

cl3.jpg
Help, my tiny city has yellow icons all over it – what does it mean?

To add to your woes, certain sub cultural groups actively hate others – Suits, for example, hate the Fringes and the Have Nots, whilst having a respect for the Blue Collars. Thus, it is not only important to avoid conflict wherever possible by segregating the different classes in your city, it is equally important to ensure that each group is happy and has what it needs to survive. Unhappy residents go looking for trouble, contented citizens will keep themselves to themselves. Open conflict amongst groups can lead to rioting, which means you’re going to have to call the SWAT teams in to break up the crowds – fun to look at perhaps, but disastrous for community spirit.

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The "Sniffer" is available to tell you what social groups will likely
be attracted by your embryo city

Some things never change of course and there remain the usual pressures of ensuring that city transit systems are as efficient as possible. Residents who cannot get to work on time will probably leave for a better town, so do you plump to make the roads wider or establish a public transportation system? Either way, it’s going to hit the city coffers – and that just might call for a rise in taxes which could force the people away anyway…

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