The Sims 4 is fun. There’s no denying it. Whether its the joy of stretching and changing your Sim in Create-A-Sim, or trying to get your Sim in the right mood before work, The Sims 4 offers the same great stories and game play we have all come to love; this makes it even more frustrating, however, that Maxis came up short where they did.
Creating Your Sim
Creating a Sim has never been as easy, intuitive, and fun as it is in the Sims 4. Every tiny inch of your Sim is malleable and morphable, from adjusting the size of your feet to the size of your boobs. Noses can be punched and flattened, mouths can be made to smile or frown, ears can be adjust ad nauseam. This can make for some of the most unique and good-looking Sims we’ve ever seen. You can can adjust the type of voice and tone of your Sim, and even the way they strut their stuff. Traits play an even bigger role in the Sims 4, and although there are less slots to fill, they have a much bigger impact on game play than in previous iterations. There is no doubt that these Sims have the most personality of any that came before them… If only there were more things to do with them.
So much personality, so little to do…
The Sims 4 showcases the most impressive artificial intelligence yet, mainly thanks to its new Mood system. Instead of just fulfilling base needs for your Sims, you will also watch and influence their changing moods throughout the day. Been a while since you’ve been promoted? That would make anyone tense. Been researching random facts on the web? You’re now in a zen-like state of Focus. Each mood has their own unique effects, and opens up special dialogue and action choices. Did a relative just get shipped off to the afterlife by the Grim Reaper and you’re feeling sad? Now your Sim can call the “Sadness Hotline” using their phone and talk it out. Moods add a whole new dimension to the Sims, and I had a great time discovering which actions produce what moods, and what I should do to shake various bad moodlets.
Whats frustrating is that such interesting characters have such little to do in the Sims 4 world. A painfully clear step back is the size of the neighborhoods. Gone is the open world town you could walk around in like The Sims 3. This wouldn’t matter much to me if the locals were as big or bigger than previous Sims community lots, however the public locations this go around are painfully small. The gym in Willow Creek, one of two playable towns, is about a third the size of the gym in The Sims 3. Whats interesting, then, is that there are more Sims on screen than ever before. It wasn’t uncommon for me to find upwards of fifteen Sims hanging out in a bar or just stopping to talk outside my house with one another. The way that Sims walked and ran past my house was incredibly organic and I wish that they had figured out a seamless town even more.
But where is all the content!?
The biggest concern for most on the fence about getting The Sims 4 is the reported lack of content this go around. Pools are gone, toddlers are gone, the open world is gone, and so are cars. How could this be! you may be wondering, and I believe the answer lies in the engine, which is a fancy word essentially meaning the skeletal structure of the game. The Sims 4 runs on a completely redesigned engine, meaning that Maxis itself doesn’t fully understand the engine. The time it takes to create a new engine and then create a new game on top of it with new systems like Moods is immense, and I’m sure EA ended up making a conscious decision to rush the release and cut some content. While the accusations of leaving content out for DLC packs is certainly true to some extent, I think building The Sims 4 from scratch had a bigger role in the lack of content.
That being said, there is a LOT of content in The Sims 4. While there is no more Create-A-Style, there are far more furniture, clothing items, and activity pieces than vanilla Sims 3. Color customization is still available, just at a lesser extent. Actions have also been beefed up, and each item has much more interactive options than ever before, including dialogue options; Mood comes into play when socializing as well, allowing unique actions like sexy posing while Flirty and asking for reassurance when Embarrassed. My first character was a techie, and the sheer amount of things to do on a computer blew me away initially; hacking, writing, gaming, researching… countless options were available.
So the verdict on content seems to be one step forward, one step back. Its unfortunate that so much was cut, but what is present is done so right.
Life as a Sim
Game play in the Sims is standard fare with a few great spices and a loving chef’s touch. If you’ve played the Sims, you know the forumula; Build an affordable house, find a job, slowly gain promotions in your career track, slowly make progress towards your aspiration, invest new money into house, repeat. Its a simple equation but its one that millions of us have become fiercely addicted to since the first Sims in 2000. This familiar grind makes its return in The Sims 4, but a few great changes have made progression even more enjoyable. First is of course the Mood system. Instead of just keeping your Sims fed and fulfilled, you now have to monitor and affect their moods as well. Playing an instrument will inspire you, practicing pick-up lines in a mirror will leave you feeling confident, and doing homework next to a pile of steaming trash will make you uncomfortable. Each unique mood leads to unique actions as said before, but it also affects your work.
As a Start-Up Pioneer, my “ideal mood” was to be focused. Every day before work, I played a quick game of chess then researched random facts on my computer using the ever-useful “Simpedia”. This routine would leave me super focused and ready to tackle and coding my boss could throw at me. On top of these target moods, there are tasks given to you that you must complete to get a promotion. At first, these tasks are trivial and easy; play video games for two hours, mod a video game, drink three cups of coffee in one hour. As you progress in your career track, these get organically more difficult; design three mobile apps, acquire $200 from freelance work, make $2000 on video game royalties. These goals always give your Sim something to do, and its incredibly addicting to try to balance all of your Sims moods to make them perfect workers. These changes have made socialization so much more rewarding than future iterations. Sims will eat and talk, organically changing moods based on topic and how well the conversation is going. Building relationships is also slower and more complicated than before; one of my biggest surprises was when I got friendzoned by a beautiful Sim I had a budding relationship with because I hadn’t called her enough throughout the week.
Monetary gain in Sims 4 is considerably slower than previous Sims, and things generally cost quite a bit more; one of the nicest beds, for example, is $18,000! That’s a lot when you’re only making $49 per hour after your fourth promotion. Personally, I love this change, as I feel it gives the game more of an “end-game” and offers more incentive to keep playing after your initial Sim has passed away. Fortunes can’t be made in one Sim life. Carrying on your lineage is thus much more important than it has been before (barring use of the classic motherlode cheat!).
The Sims 4 isn’t perfect, and it’s understandable less than most people had anticipated. Anticipation aside, however, it is still an addicting and fulfilling game. Content has been cut, but it has been removed in lieu of huge improvements to the core game play of the Sims. Moods offer a whole new dimension to Sims, making them the most unique and personable creations yet. Career progression is well-paced and diverse, and the Tomodachi-esque balancing of needs is as addicting as ever. With DLC, The Sims 4 will continue to improve, however its up to you to decide if the improved core game is worth it in the end.