Oh joy! Here we go again! For those of you who don’t play the Sims, you will not know how much emotional turmoil I had to go through before deciding to play The Sims 4. For those of you who have played the Sims before, congratulations, you now have what seems to be a drug addiction fueled by EA, who were literally voted the worst company out there 2 years in a row. For true Sims fans, every expansion is a struggle, simply because we know it’s not worth the >€40 price tag attached to it. But if you don’t buy it, you’re missing out on the joys of being rained on. Everyone likes being rained on, right?!
With this in mind, here comes The Sims 4, the newest addition to The Sims franchise, and probably the worst launch of a new game the franchise has ever had. From the beginning, players have been up in arms on numerous issues from the removal of an entire age group (Toddlers) to the fact that load screens are back, and the vast, active neighborhoods you once had in The Sims 3 are no more. However, despite these issues (And there are issues, I’ll get into that!), I can’t say it’s all bad. There are some improvements.
So right from the get go, we have a whole new game, with all new systems such as the Create A Sim (CAS) to play around with. No longer do you have sliders to poke and prod in order to get that perfect face you wanted. Now you just pull and push apart your sims face as if it were made of clay. And when they tell you everything can be changed, they mean everything. You can change the hips, the calves, the cheekbones, the butt or just the size of your iris.
Am I kawaii yet?
That said though, there are drawbacks to such a system. A lot of the time, you do find yourself accidentally shifting the wrong thing, especially when it comes to the finer details. This can be easily fixed with a quick undo, but it’s still worth mentioning as a minor annoyance.
One of the best changes I saw in the CAS though was the introduction of the gallery system. This comes in to replace the old share function from The Sims 3. Instead of having to go to The Sims 3 website and set up your accounts to download a pre-made sim, you can search directly from the game and plop them into the world in a few clicks. It’s a great system, in my opinion. One of the best things about the previous Sims games has been how creative the community can get on every little detail and this is a great way to showcase that through the CAS. Also, it allowed me to get Alistair from Dragon Age: Origins (also known as my one true love!) into my game without poking and prodding for hours, which I appreciate.
Now, once you’ve created your perfect Sim, you’ll want to move them off into the world to spread their wings. Admittedly, there aren’t as many starter options for you in The Sims 4 by comparison to the previous titles. There are empty lots in each section of the neighborhood, which has been split up seemingly by class. So you can either build a mansion in a semi small trailer park, or a dingy shack surrounded by mansions, whatever tickles your fancy. But like I said, there are only 2 choices per section, the choices being a pre-made house or an empty lot. All others are filled up with pre-made sims. So I moved my new Sims into a nice little empty lot in a middle class neighborhood. To its credit, The Sims 4 does seem to give more money to a starter family. Previously, I’d be lucky to get some semblance of a house that ended up being everything confined to one room. Now, we have just enough money to make a moderately sized starter home with 3 bedrooms and all the essentials. So right from the start, I’m a happy little home owner. However, this is where things go down hill
The new build system in The Sims 4 was heralded to be incredibly streamlined and user friendly, but I found it to be the opposite. You can place pre-made shapes for rooms and push and pull the walls to be the shape and size you wanted, but should you use these pre-made shapes and then delete walls or add them to get them to exact standards, the game doesn’t seem to know what to do. It treats the originally placed room as the be all and end all of the term room. So should you try to place down a new coat of paint or floorboard, it will fill up the space of the original room, regardless of what it may now look like. This annoyed me to no end, as I found brick walls from the outside spreading inside and leaving tiny, 2 block wide sections of wall uncovered. Oh, and for any fans of The Sims 3’s Create A Style system, which let you turn your Victorian era home into a futuristic wonderland made entirely out of metal and plaid, I have some sad news for you. It’s gone. You now only have a few preset colors and styles to choose from. I found this particularly annoying, because it seems a lot of colors have been left out in a lot of cases. I colored my main hallway to a dark forest green, only to discover there were no matching carpets or rugs, meaning the entire floor looked bare. Even after what seemed like over an hour of mixing and matching of every possible style, I couldn’t come to a solution. EA simply hates the color green.
That being said, there were additions to the build and buy mode that I liked, one of which being that it’s all in one section now. This cuts the load time considerably and saves you a lot of time having to switch between one or the other. Also, there is a new feature of being able to adjust the size of an item. So if you’d like, you could make the tiny little llama toy in the kids section into a 10 foot tall lawn ornament. It’s a nice feature which helps to fill the space and takes it a step further to getting everything to look exactly how you want it, but there are limitations, one such being the rug problem I mentioned earlier. There are certain objects that you can size up, but can’t size down, as I found out when i tried to put a rather large rug into a fairly small hallway.
Now, onto the gameplay! There are improvements, such as the emotion system and the fact your Sims can now multitask. However, take the multitasking system with a grain of salt, because just because you can flirt with your crush while sitting on the toilet, doesn’t mean you should!
I’d count myself as a fan of the new emotions system, which affects your Sims mood and how they handle certain tasks. For example, if you make them watch a romantic show on TV, they’ll be in a flirty mood and hence be more successful in their romantic endeavors for a short time. This can also aid your career, in that each one has a specific mood that makes you better at that career. For instance, being a writer who goes to work “Inspired” makes you better at that career. But there are drawbacks to this system in that more than once, I’ve been inspired just up until the moment I was going to work and didn’t get the bonus.
Furthermore, touching in on the job system, there seems to be a few such wrenches in the works. Just to start, there are less options. Careers which have been staple since the first game, such as “politician” and “police officer” were removed in favor of “secret agent” and “pro gamer.” I’m not knocking the new additions, I love playing my little fake James Bond character as much as anyone else. Plus, I’m very aware of the fact these jobs will probably be added in as some sort of “Civil Service””expansion pack. But it seems to me that taking away some of the staple careers really takes away a lot of your options.
Also worth mentioning is this lack of civil service also puts you in a bind when your house catches fire. I had a fire early, and had installed a smoke alarm just in case. Now, thankfully, unlike the previous Sims games, your Sims do not just dance around the fire saying “OMG! THERE IS A FIRE!” until they eventually burn to death. In The Sims 4, they’ll calmly leave the house and wait outside until the fire is out. However, after waiting half an hour with my smoke alarm blaring, no fire department showed up. I had to manually tell one of my Sims to run back into the house and go extinguish the fire themselves. I lost half my kitchen waiting for a fire truck that never came. Plus the removal of a police force, also removes any burglars from the game. Which, while annoying, added to the random nature of the Sims that so many of us love.
Which brings me to my conclusion. In a lot of ways, The Sims 4 has made some advances. But it’s lost a lot of what makes it The Sims. This could be seen a lot when, originally, the game launched without pools. There’s not a single Sims player who didn’t either drown sims they disliked in a pool without a ladder, or mark their wealth in the fact they had a huge indoor swimming pool surrounded by statues of llamas. There are a lot of things that when you think of the Sims just spring to mind. Drowning Sims you disliked, the weird little dance they do when there’s a fire, the joy of watching your Sim go from tiny toddler to CEO by the time they’re 25 and most importantly the God complex you develop after years of play. Nearly all of these features were removed from the base game, and they may not be realistic, but they were fun, and in essence, that’s why people play the Sims. For fun. So even though I enjoyed the little time I spent playing The Sims 4, I think I’ll stick with my out of date, fully expanded Sims 3, if only to keep off the shakes that come with withdrawals.
For anyone who wants to try out The Sims 4 for themselves, it’s currently being offered on Game Time for Origin, which lets you play the full game for 48 hours. Try it out, then come back and let us know what you thought in the comments!