SCS is primarily a resource management game. Each "Social Energy" is either produced or consumed by the buildings you decide to place in your city. So if you want to build a (cliché from overuse of the term) "Orwellian Society" you must build most of your city with buildings that produce and consume that social energy while not using many of the others.
SCS is non-judgmental in that it will not tell you that what you are doing is wrong. The goal is to make each of the social energies as valid as the next so that the player doesn't feel forced or that they're wrong to build in any specific way. This leaves the player to make up their own mind about what kind of city they want to build. The danger of this is that the player will have no direction, guidance or goal to strive for and might start wondering what the point of it all is. Scenario modes may be in the works but nothing concrete was revealed.
The game rarely if ever challenges the player to find a solution to a problem. For example, the lumber mill is a workplace that includes a risk of injury to the sims who work there. Now just because you plop a lumber mill doesn't mean you care if the people who work there get hurt but you'll lose production in your city if the cities sims are injured. The problem is, unless you see people wandering around in crutches you won't know why you lost that production when a multitude of other buildings can cause a lack of production for many other reasons. The game doesn't make the suggestion to build a hospital to heal your injured sims. This lack of feedback from the game leaves you simply placing buildings you find in the build menu that you like the look of or have a need of the social energy benefit they provide.
Buildings seem not to gel well with buildings in different social themes. Oppressive overpowering structures look out of place next to the garish "fun" buildings. Tilted Mill has for the most part abandoned the realistic look that SimCity fans enjoyed in SimCity 4, instead opting for a more cartoon like artistic style for their buildings. Things tend to get mixed up between the styles and can cause the whole city to look like an underwhelming patch work.
Thankfully the game is built with Modding in mind. XML drives the buildings stats and most of the rest of the game and according to EA the C# is well notated for the more adept coders among us. A BAT was also discussed and is planned for release maybe with the game but more likely shortly after release. The specifics of whether the BAT will continue to use GMax or be something entirely different were not revealed. Based on the simplicity of the building models in the game, Gmax isn't necessarily going to be the best tool.
Transportation in SimCity Societies currently includes Roads, Dirt Roads, Subways and Bus Stations. More transportation options are not planned for the release of SimCity Societies though they seem to be an option for an expansion pack. Diagonal roads have not been implemented and may not be in the final release, but the buildings do rotate to 45°. More transportation options in SCS seem unimportant given that the goal isn't to build and manage traffic networks. Still it seems like quite an oversight to not include more network types even if they're functionality would have only been cosmetic.
Buildings all have cards displaying the buildings properties. Click on a building and its card will pop up. The cards feature icons that you can mouse over to learn what unexpected attribute that building causes and the percentage chance that the event will take place. For example, certain buildings have a chance to injure a visiting sim or produce a drunk. The icons are nice but will take a player a long time to associate their affect with their graphic mainly because there are so many of them.
This leads to the learning curve. Plop and play is very easy to figure out. You pick a building from the list and plop it in your city. Finding the building you're looking for can still be difficult because the building menu is cumbersome even though it can be sorted. After you get familiar with the simple control scheme and get over the building menu, you'll be plopping buildings with relative ease. Once you get in-depth and start trying to build for a specific goal, the games learning curve seems to sky rocket. Maybe that's because you have to come up with that goal yourself and attempt to reach it. While this style of play is rather open ended, it can also be a turn off if there isn't anything cool for the player to do.
With all of that said, if Tilted Mill can come up with a goal or scenario mode that is compelling enough, SCS could be a very entertaining strategy game. It's not the SimCity we know, but there is the making of a potentially fun game of another sort altogether.