The Sims 4 – Game Review

This review was originally published on 1st April (i.e. before the Get to Work expansion pack release).

The Sims franchise has been something near and dear to me for the past 14 years. The series have been with me from my awkward teen years (including the brief dark and gothic phase) and throughout university, all the way till now. At 27 I should by all means be considered a grown-up, and yet whenever I hear about a new Sims game being released, it ignites a child-like spark within me. The announcement of The Sims 4 was of course no different. I was ecstatic to see how the series can be improved and how the amazing ideas from The Sims 3 can be taken to the next level.

Unfortunately, as more information got released about the upcoming instalment of the game, I had for the first time experienced disenchantment with my beloved series. The endless cycle of Create A Sim videos combined with marketing catchphrases and constant news of missing features causing community outrage made me all but hopeful for the sequel. I was ranting about how my favourite game being ruined to anyone and everyone that would be willing to listen (and in many cases, to the lucky friends and relatives who wanted to hear nothing of it). I dramatically proclaimed that this was indeed going be the first The Sims game that I would not be purchasing… and then, having watched a couple Lets Plays, I folded and got the game a few weeks after its release. With the game being out for approximately half a year now, I thought this might be a good time for me to review it.

The Gameplay

While I was originally sceptical about content that The Sims 4 was lacking compared to its predecessors, I soon discovered that the new incarnation of the game is incredibly fun to play. It runs significantly smoother to the bugfest that The Sims 3 – as much as I adore it – turned into. Playing out the stories of the sims in The Sims 4 is very compelling, and injects endearing and humorous aspects into the game; something reminiscent of the original Sims 1 game that perhaps got lost from the series over time. I found myself being much more willing to experiment with my sims lives and the styles of my gameplay, perhaps because the game does not strive for as much realism as it’s last iteration, and instead goes for a charm I can only describe as quintessentially sim-like.

That being said, I’m far from being oblivious to what the game lacks. Although not ideal, I’m willing to deal with loading screens if this means an improved gameplay performance overall, providing the loading times will not increase too drastically as new content is added to the future. On the other hand, I’m definitely in the camp of simmers who demand toddlers. However mildly annoying the life stage may have been, I feel like the endearing moments compensated for it my far, and I find that this feature missing from a fourth generation of a life simulation game is inexcusable. When it comes down to it though, the game will only grow with future content and I have made my peace with toddlers missing from it… for now. I am interested to see how re-introducing toddlers into the game will be handled in the future.

Something I’m still torn about is how task-oriented most of the gameplay is – the career progression and the aspiration milestones both require the player to go through a motion of set actions. While these are entertaining to discover at first, I see them as problematic in terms of replay quality. The tasks can get quite repetitive and I find myself not wanting to choose similar aspirations or careers for my sims in close succession. Of course, one could say that this contributes to the previously mentioned experimentation with different ways of playing the game. Fingers crossed that future expansions will add so many careers and aspirations that the repetiteveness will become less of an issue. For now we can only speculate on how the high emphasis on tasks will stand the test of time.

Create A Sim and Build Mode

As much as this was overplayed prior to the game’s launch, I must say I’m thoroughly impressed with Create A Sim and Build Mode. A big chunk of Create A Sim might be wasted on me, as I always end up going for sims with similar facial features, but I love the extent to which we can customise the sims bodies and go wild with the sims curves. Tugging and pulling to adjust comes natural and I must confess I barely remember how to work with sliders anymore.

The improved Build Mode is even more exciting. I’m not sure how advanced builders feel about it, but for me I now finally enjoy creating houses again. It’s very fool-proof and if the player messes up or changes their mind, everything is very effortless to fix and modify. In The Sims 3 I actually really disliked building and used pre-made homes for the most part, although I would only build my own houses occassionally, while now I love putting my own stamp on things.

It would be a gross oversight not to mention Create A Style in this section. I did use the tool extensively in the previous game, but I suspect this is what took the enjoyment out of building (or even planning outfits) for me. The building process would take forever and be horribly laggy. While taking Create a Style out was highly criticised and reduced the level of customisation greatly, I do partially attribute its lack to making building fun again for me.

Nonetheless, it is a shame that some objects simply do not come in colours that would at least remotely compliment each other. I do hope that the game will move towards a more The Sims 2-esque and give the player a chance to select various pre-made parts of an object (such as changing the colour and style of bedsheets and headboard separately) to prevent the more design-minded of us from going crazy.

 Game Potential – Free Updates and Future Content 

EA’s attitude since the release of The Sims 4 is probably the main reason why I fell back in love with the franchise all over again. The gurus have been tirelessly scouting for player feedback, and more importantly, they are listening.

Since the September launch we got not one but several free updates, adding frequently requested content like ghosts, pools, the MoveObjects cheat and all new careers with no additional cost. The Outdoor Retreat game pack shows a lot of potential, and although camping is not really my cup of tea, the quality of the pack’s additional content makes me hopeful for what’s in store.

I do wish that bugs were addressed a little big quicker (the infamous fridge bug is still causing havoc in my game), but apart from that I feel the game holds a lot of promise. I’m not afraid to say that all of the Get to Work trailers are making me feel giddy about the series once again, and I do believe that the future of The Sims is bright.

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