Developer: EA Maxis, The Sims Studio
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Life simulation
The latest installment in The Sims franchise, The Sims 4, came out back in early September with promises of great improvements to the series, but does it deliver? Does it do enough to justify abandoning the Sims 3 and running off with a younger model?
The answer to that is a complicated one with lots of umming and arring. It’s inevitable that each new installment in The Sims series will be compared to its predecessors, people spend a lot of time creating their sim families, playing out their lives, and crafting their stories – plus a lot of money on the game and its expansions – so they want to be sure of progress before moving on.
Lets begin with the revamped Create-a-Sim, since that is where every Sims game starts with you creating your sim. It is a great improvement on The Sims 3 version, which when you enter Create-a-Sim for the first time it feels all a bit overwhelming and confusing. Gone are the days when it was step-by-step doing the body, clothes, and then traits and personality with handy buttons on the side showing which was which.
Now you just click on an area, head, upper body, legs, feet, and all the various options come up with menus and sub-menus. Clothes are broken down into type, for example if you go to the upper body, find the clothes, and they are broken down into button-up, t-shirt, vest etc,. Once you get the feel of the layout it all feels quite natural and is easy to use.
However it feels like there is a lot less choice, and not just here in terms of clothing and its design, but throughout the entire game. This is an area where The Sims 4 struggles.
Instead of picking five traits for your sim you can now only pick three, you can no longer pick their favourite colour, food, or genre of music
The whole game feels like there is a lot less compared with the base game of The Sims 3. The lots now are smaller, meaning that you can no longer design and build that dream mansion of yours, that’s not to say that you can’t design and build nice homes however.
The Sims 4 boasts streamlined build and buy tools where the two share the same interface. You can buy pre-built and styled rooms with items already inside that you just click to place anywhere on your lot, rotating to face the direction you want, and then just build the walls to connect all the rooms together like a puzzle or lego.
It’s a great feature that can save you a lot of time if you don’t like or aren’t very good at designing a room, putting in the carpet, doing the wallpaper, placing the objects etc. Just simply pick what type of room you want, kitchen, bathroom etc, pick which one you want, pick the colour style, and away you go. The downside is that there are only three colour styles to choose from for each room and not all of the styles match, leading to an interior design nightmare.
If you are the type who likes to build their own home and not rely on pre-styled rooms then don’t fret because the normal build tools have had an overhaul too. You can now place blank rooms of a variety of shapes and re-size them wall by wall just by dragging them.
Once your home is built its then time to fill it with wonderful objects and items, and there is a handy little search bar to help you quickly find whatever it is you are looking for if you struggle to find it. There are some new items, as you would expect, but again the first thing you’ll notice is that recurring theme of less choice strikes again. There’s no dishwasher, trash compactor, or spiral stairs for instance (the latter ruined a tower effect I was going for on my sims house).
OK so now you have your sim, you have their house and have gotten over the disappointment of how little stuff there is, its time to move them in and start living their life. True to life everything a sim does now is through their phone, which is at the bottom left of the screen at all times, removing the need to keep clicking on your sim to bring it up.
There are no longer newspapers so you need to use your phone to find a career and once again things are missing. The career options to be a doctor or police officer are missing along with a couple of others which is a real shame, but they have added a couple of new careers in their place such as the writing career. Careers now all split off into two different directions once you reach a certain level and you get to pick which path your sim goes down, with the writing career for example you can become an author or a journalist.
One thing that is greatly improved is the social aspect of your sims lives. They now have moods for instance that affect how they behave, for example, you have the option to ‘write a motivational book’ when your Sim is feeling inspired, or do a ‘sexy pose’ for another Sim if they are feeling flirty, or just take an ‘angry poop’ if they are angry. I don’t think the last one does much more than offer a little bit of humour, inspired Sims can also ‘pee like a champion’ which again offers little beside humour.
Basic needs, such as hygiene, hunger and sleep, are still present but no longer feel as needy. Sorry. The needs feel like they go down slower and are easier to feel, meaning that you are longer a slave to them which gives you more of an opportunity to socialise, pursue interests and build-up your Sims skills.
However beyond building up your Sims skills to complete aspirations and move up the career ladder there isn’t much to do with your Sim.
Gone is the open world of The Sims 3. It is now a lot smaller, with very few community lots, and its no longer an open world, say hello to the return of loading screens. They aren’t particularly long loading screens but if you want to visit one of the few community lots be prepared to experience a loading screen. Want to go home or to a different lot? Loading screen. Your Sim gone to work while you were at a community lot with them? Loading screen.
The Sims 4 then takes a step forward in some ways, while taking two steps back in others. The game is sure to be improved by countless expansion packs going forward, but shouldn’t the base feel like an improvement over the base game of its predecessor The Sims 3?
We picked it up at half price (£25) during a Black Friday sale on EA Origin and feel like that is a fair price. The Sims 4 is fun and has improvements but it feels like there is a lot less.