Right off the bat, water pipes are automatically built into roads now. The era of building an entirely separate pipe network so Sims can drink water is over.
Having played every major SimCity to date, I'm well acquainted with the idea of reviewing spreadsheets and charts to get an idea of what's going on around town and the financial state of the city. One of the great innovations in this latest SimCity is there's brilliantly animated visual cues everywhere to instantly understand what's going on.
Opening up the water tower instantly changes the landscape to a clear world where the density of water is recognizable. Place the water tower in a well saturated spot and listen to the glub, glub, glub as water flows through the pipes and provides water to the city. The same animation goes for power plants, where if it's placed at night, the entire town slowly lights up as the generators whir into action.
Municipal buildings clearly indicate zones of strength, creating hues of green to red along roads projecting the building's efficiency. No need to go into a separate chart to check the zones of influence of the police or firemen. It's just instantly shown when the building is clicked.
"Modules" is the fancy word for add-ons for pre-existing buildings to increase their efficiency or capacity. For example, my garbage dump wasn't picking up all the trash in the city, so I added another garage for a truck. The modules will make it so there's no need to create the awkward copy, after copy, after copy of the same support building.
Another nice detail is clicking on any Sim in the city will pop up a bubble telling you what's going on with them. Kevin Ahmen "couldn't find food for the baby," so he was going home. Armando Nelson "left work with simoleans." Cora McCarthy "couldn't find anywhere to eat," so she was going home. Whoops, guess I needed more commercial zones with supermarkets and eateries.
I did notice my Sims were asking for a school, but that whole set of options was locked out of this demo. Not that it mattered, because soon the entire town was demolished by a series of meteor strikes. So sad, but happy to report that I can't wait until the next time I get my hands on the game. Hopefully, with a little more flexibility with buildings.