I’m a massive Sims fan, having played every series since the first. All expansions and stuff packs of the Sims 3 are installed on my computer and on my uni holidays I play them religiously (my favourites being Generations, Pets and University Life). Naturally, I was excited for the release of The Sims 4. I did not, however, expect my reaction to it.
First Impressions from Official Teasers
Leading up to the release, many videos were posted on The Sims’ YouTube channel showing the new emotion-based system and new Create-A-Sim interface. Emotions seemed to me like the main marketing point for the new Sims – and to be honest I didn’t feel like the game needed it. The promotional work told fans that their Sims are now “so smart, they’re weird”, which didn’t appeal to me as I like my Sims to be relatively normal! I didn’t see much of a need for such an emphasis on emotions, as in The Sims 3 you could see if the Sim you’re interacting with thought you were being friendly, weird or even very alluring. I thought this was enough, as it did actually alter how social interactions went down – so why were emotions the main marketing point? Edit: upon gameplay, I still find emotions unnecessary. They barely affect gameplay at all!
Starting the Game
The Sims 4 is not Mac compatible! This came as a shock to me when I found out. Even though I don’t own a Mac, I feel like a large proportion of the population owns one these days and to create a game that’s incompatible with a rapidly growing PC platform is just… odd. One thing that has been raved about is the short loading time of the game, as compared to the long-loading opening screen of The Sims 3! The new game engine allows the game to be played on low-performance devices, including the Surface Pro tablet! Edit: I can confirm that loading time is incredibly short and very impressive, however I haven’t tried this on my Surface Pro yet. The game seems to be pushing the limits of my Toshiba laptop as it is.
The new Create-A-Sim interface just looks amazing. Creating unique looking Sims appears to be so easy by just clicking and dragging hips, shoulders, noses etc. Finally, Sims can be made to look slightly on the plump side without being forced to have huge hips and huge breasts! However, the heights of teens, young adults, adults and elders are identical, meaning only children are shorter than the rest of their Sim family (well, toddlers would too, but they kinda removed that life stage completely?!). The selection of hair styles and clothing options is limited, as is to be expected in a base game, but one of the most surprising omissions is the exclusion of the colour wheel – no longer can your Sims have quirky hair colours or that perfect shade of green eyes, and no longer can their clothes be edited to a new pattern or colour to make them appear just right. We’re stuck with the presets, which, frankly, can be ugly. Overall, I think the new Create-A-Sim is fantastic and I can’t wait to try it out.
Build & Buy Mode
I feel like this is something I need to experience before I give a full opinion on it, but from what I’ve heard the building experience is great. The Sims 4 offers a great amount of building opportunities, such as adjusting the heights of walls and where windows sit on said wall! The ability to move fully furnished rooms is fantastic, so you don’t have to completely rebuild your bedroom if you want to move it to the other end of the house. However, the ability to adjust the height of the landscape has been removed as all lots are flat – removing the ability to create rises or ditches in the landscape to build upon. A surprising number of staple items have been removed from this game – most notably, pools. On top of this though, vehicles, dishwashers, hot tubs and pool tables have vanished from the game, but will no doubt be added in further expansions. I really can’t justify spending so much money on an expansion pack to receive features that have been included in base games for generations! Even the original The Sims had swimming pools, so their omission is really weird. As in Create-A-Sim, the colour wheel has been removed. We’re stuck with presets, which are apparently not all bad, but the lost ability to customize will certainly be felt by Sims home design fanatics. Edit: pools have been added in as a free DLC. I love the new build mode, however building rooms that weren’t perfect squares proved difficult for me as they weren’t recognized as rooms despite being closed in on all sides.
Huge improvements have been made to how Sims interact and behave, but huge omissions have been made too. The ability to have group conversations, multitask and have complicated emotions is great and should be praised – especially the inclusion of an autosave feature (great for those whose Sims games crash after hours of gameplay)! Additionally, players can now super-speed through sleeping and working – tasks that seemed to go by so slowly even on the highest speed in The Sims 3. Time in general is also slower in The Sims 4, so your Sims now have more time in a day to perform tasks. The neighbourhood setup of The Sims 4 is weird, with much smaller worlds than we previously know. Just like The Sims 2, we’re back to loading screens whenever your Sim wants to travel anywhere in the neighbourhood – which is disappointing, as this was a major improvement from The Sims 2 to The Sims 3 and it has now been removed again. This has likely been sacrificed for the purposes of smooth running, and although these loading screens are very short, reverts us back to the old situation of once one Sim is out of the house, the player cannot control the Sims left behind in the house until the first Sim returns. This also means that the other Sims in the neighbourhood do not have progressing stories as they did in The Sims 3 – they grow old, but do not have the drive to start a family. The neighbourhoods no longer show schools or workplaces, either! When your Sim goes to work, he or she just disappears into nowhere, with no visible presence in the world around him/her. The community lots of The Sims 4 are limited to just a museum, library, gym, lounge and park – no grocery stores, police stations, public pools, theaters… Actual gameplay is said to be glitchy in the game’s early stages. Pirates are met with a pixelated version – a smart move from EA to curb internet piracy (although pirates have apparently fixed this issue already). Sims walk in to walls and are trapped by invisible objects, and it can only be hoped that a patch will be released to rectify this. NPCs have taken a huge hit in this new generation of the Sims, which is seen by the complete removal of repairmen, gardeners, mail men, repo men, firemen, burglars, grim reapers and ghosts. Maids are said to come less frequently, too. Why have these been left out when they were small, yet incredibly useful aspects of previous Sims games? Edit: my opinion still stands on this after hours of gameplay. I miss the NPCs and I wish that I didn’t have to endure a loading screen just to visit a neighbour!
Overall, the game looks beautiful, albeit a little less realistic than The Sims 3. The addition of emotions and multitasking is great, in addition to a revamped Create-A-Sim and Build mode, but I just don’t see why so many old aspects had to be omitted in the base game when they’ve been included in nearly every previous generation. With EA’s huge budget and the huge fanbase surrounding such a popular game, fans are sure to be disappointed when they compare The Sims 4 to its predecessors. These missing aspects are sure to be included in expansion packs – a clever ploy from EA to rake in more money for users to pay for key features that should’ve been included in the base game anyway. For new Sims players, they are sure to see a fantastic, smooth game – but it just doesn’t make the cut for anyone who’s played The Sims 3 before, even without any expansions. I’d love to give this game a try, but I just can’t warrant spending so much money on what feels like an incomplete game. Sarah May xx