When we asked the super-helpful PR representative at EA's E3 booth what game she was most excited about showing off, she cheerfully replied "SimCity Societies." It's easy to see why. The game is a major departure for the series, letting players truly build whatever kind of city they want.
While the previous games in the SimCity franchise have generally avoided restrictions on your city-building options, the general visual style and implied goal of the cities was always that of a modern, metropolitan area. Societies throws that idea out the window, with all sorts of different types of city types available, from "industrial" to "fun."
What type of city you build is your call, and is determined by which of the hundreds of buildings you decide to build. Each building affects your city's "societal values" -- knowledge, spirituality, productivity, creativity, and prosperity -- and these in turn determine what your citizens want and what type of city you will get.
The city's look will change as you slide from one type to another, with a dingy, dirty look for "industrial" cities and bright, blue skies in the "fun" cities, for example. In another departure for the series, each type of city has specific victory goals such as population and financial production which earn the players trophies. Players can feel free to ignore the goals and just do whatever they want, but those who want something concrete to work towards now have it.
The developers have focused on making Societies accessible to players who don't want to get into the nitty-gritty of city building. Societies does away with previous titles' focus on micromanaging systems like power grids and sewer pipes. You only really have to pay attention to four basic building types: power generators, homes, money generators and venues such as stadiums and libraries.
If you do want to get micro, though, you can zoom in on the status of individual buildings. The location of your buildings in relation to one another will affect their individual stats -- for example, building a tight cluster of retail shops together will make each one produce more money (and more tax revenue).
SimCity Societies will be available for the PC this holiday season.