The latest instalment of EA’s hugely successful life simulator is upon us, and with it comes a whole host of new features and improvements. This latest game however, is not without its frustrations. By now everyone should know just exactly what The Sims is all about; using an ever increasingly complex and powerful creation tool, players can create a family of virtual people or ‘Sims’ – drop them into a virtual neighbourhood and watch as their lives unfold before your eyes, all the while interacting with their Sims to either help or hinder.
The Sims 4 boasts a highly sophisticated ‘Create-a-Sim’ feature and Maxis has really outdone themselves this time – the amount of depth in the creation tool is staggering, almost any part of your Sim can be tweaked and manipulated in order to create the perfect Sim. My favourite addition to the creation tools was the ability to choose a default body and face type, then after tweaking the minor parts such as eye or nose size – I could then use the cursor to drag, pull or squeeze the features until I felt like my Sim was perfect. In addition to choosing the perfect body type and facial features, players will also be able to choose a set of traits and aspirations for their Sims which will help to determine their personalities and life goals.
As well as an impressive set of Sim creation tools, the building tools have had a massive overhaul as well. During my time with The Sims I was able to build some pretty impressive looking houses with the available tools. One of my favourite features is the ability to pick up and move entire rooms and reposition them without having to delete them to start again. The menus are intuitive and simple to use, while the houses I built were fairly basic, I can definitely see the creation tools being tremendous to others in the Sims community.
Once you have created your Sim family, you can move them into one of the two neighbourhoods included in the game. Oasis Springs is a faux-California style suburb while Willow Creek is a more ‘small town USA’ location. I have to admit after some of the previous games, the lack of choice when it came to available neighbourhoods was a little disappointing. After much deliberating, I settled on Willow Creek and after chosing one of the pre-built houses, I moved my family in.
Once you’re in the Sims 4’s ‘Live’ mode, thing will become immediately familiar to any previous players of the Sims series. The camera perspective in the Sims 4 allows you to observe the daily actions of your Sim, and you can zoom in and out as required to get a bigger picture or to see the more minute details of your Sim’s lives. As your Sims go about their lives, they will be governed by a set of basic needs such as hunger, hygiene and energy. While your Sims do a pretty decent job of looking after themselves, players can queue up actions for their Sims to perform such as eating or sleeping. Skills are also present in the Sims 4, actions such as cooking or repairing something will raise their cooking and handiness skills respectively. The amount of skills in the Sims 4 is staggering – I found it was best to choose the skills which directly affect my Sim’s career performance. Speaking of careers, that’s another feature which I felt was a bit lacking – there are a total of 8 career tracks in the Sims 4 ranging from Astronaut to professional writer. Compared to previous games there is a serious lack of available jobs – you can’t even have a law enforcement or fire fighter Sim.
One of the newest aspects of the Sim’s is emotions, in addition to looking after their physical needs, Sims will also be affected in either positive or negative ways by the events that unfold around them. A lack of social activity will make a Sim lonely and flirting with another Sim will make them feel flirty. Rather than just being amusing to watch, emotions have an impact on the actions that a Sim can perform, for example in conversation with another Sim when angry, the available social interactions reflect your Sim’s mood, I also found it funny that when my Sim was in a ‘flirty’ mood, they could take a ‘steamy’ shower. The new emotions system underpins the entire Sims 4 experience, while aspirations and life goals return, Sims will also develop short term wants which range from preparing a meal to trying for a baby. Fulfilling these will have a direct positive impact on your Sim’s emotions and will in turn change how they can interact with the world.
While the Sims 3 brought an open world dynamic to the series, the Sims 4 seems closer to the Sims 2 in terms of how the neighbourhoods work this time around. You can still go with your Sim to visit a litany of locations within your town, however rather than being able to seamlessly walk or cycle from one area to the next, Sim’s must call for a taxi and get dropped off – and all of the various areas in the town are broken up by a load screen. Oh and forget driving as there are no cars in the Sims 4 for your Sims to drive. It is a little disappointing as it feels almost like a step backwards, especially when you consider all of the positive additions that the Sims 4 brings.
The Sims 4 feels in many ways a huge step up from its predecessors, new features such as the incredibly powerful create-a-Sim and the emotions system all add to an already complex game to make for an even more enjoyable experience. There are however some omissions of features and problems that are hard to over look. The main downside is the small neighbourhoods that have been split up and separated by loading screens. While the Sims 3 made the world feel large and open, the Sims 4 feels small and constricted by comparison. Die-hard Sims fans will find a lot to love here, hopefully with the inevitable expansions that EA will release, they can improve on and add to the superb foundations that the Sims 4 has established.
New features such as the incredibly powerful create-a-sim and the emotions system all add to an already complex game to make for an even more enjoyable experience.