Throwback Thursday: The Sims 1 Nostalgia

I became nostalgic about the good old The Sims recently, so I dusted the trusty old game and crossed my fingers that it would run on my machine. I swear that if EA re-made this game with better graphics and toddlers aging with the exact same expansion packs, I would just eat it up – and I bet I wouldn’t be alone. While I enjoyed several of the expansions further down the line in The Sims series – University and Open for Business will always have a place in my heart – I don’t believe the franchise ever managed to get its expansion packs as spot on as they did with the first game.

Create a Sim was a tiny bit fuzzy (aside from the fact it can obviously not compete with its The Sims 4 counterpart), but apart from that the graphics did still seem to work fine in my game. I popped my sim into the neighbourhood, and after spending a few minutes fawning over getting reacquainted with the original Mortimer and Bella Goth, I promptly got her a an agent and sent her to Studio Town to find fame.

Sims1.4

I just adored The Sims Superstar. From the jingle recordings and hilarious soap opera scenes to fashion shows and the spas, the only thing I did not care for was the obsessed fan. But this time around, I even welcomed seeing him, for old times sake. The highlight of my Studio Town visits must surely be bumping into the Sim version of Avril Lavigne… ah, the memories.

While I did focus mainly on the Superstar gameplay, I did also attempt to have my sim go on dates Downtown – with little success, but those who follow the story of my sim Vanessa know that problematic love life is a recurring theme in my sims lives. Note to self: If you go on vacation in the hopes of finding a significant other, do not attempt to wash random strangers who join you in the hot tub; it (almost) never goes down well.

sims1.5

On the odd chances the dates were going well, I reveled in seeing my cuddling in a restaurant booth again, something that I really wish – but do not dare to hope – returns in The Sims series. I also caught a glimpse of the lovely Miss Crumplebottom; though sadly my dates never went smoothly enough to see her in full on action.

Further down the list, I also popped down Magic Town and turned a mean sim into a toad, sent my sims on a brief holiday in the mountains and adopted a puppy that only peed in the house occasionally. I’ve spent a good (or bad, depending on how you look at it) amount of hours in game in the past couple days, and I barely scratched the surface of all there is to do.

sims1.8

However, I already feel like I’m simmed out. Why, you ask? The logical answer would perhaps be the dated design – I really struggled to find clothes and furniture I found appealing. But with a fun game like The Sims, I could easily see past that and even appreciate the reminder of how fleeting trends are. No, the main reason lies elsewhere.

It turns out The Sims is an incredibly hard game. The sims’ motives decline at light speed, meaning it’s almost never a good time to do anything. Your sim wakes up hungry, smelly and bored, and by the time you’ve gotten their hunger, fun and hygiene up, they are exhausted again. I like a bit of a challenge, but you always seem to be dirt poor and your house is constantly infested with roaches and flies… and did I mention the daily raccoon visits?

sims1.10

I’m not saying this means The Sims 1 is a bad game, on certain levels it still beats its successors and it was revolutionary at the time of its release. The issue is that we as players, or certainly myself at least, have become spoiled and expect our sims games to be smooth and easy. Making the game more challenging indirectly causes you spend more time caring for your sim and less time exploring features added with expansions, creating the illusion that there is more content in the game. (Note: I still do believe The Sims 4 needs more content, but considering how easy it is to keep our sims in a relatively good mood, naturally you run out of things to do with them quicker).

sims1.3

All in all, I may still return to The Sims 1 every so often when I feel like reminiscing on snowboarding, carnival games, picnics on a blanket, preserve making, modelling and finding your prince charming by kissing a toad… but in the interest of not feeling drained after a game session, I will stick with the more recent iterations of The Sims – for now.

Newcrest – First Impressions Overview

While I am mainly a legacy style player, meaning that I like to stick to one sim family for several generations, I always get restless if I play in the same area for too long. That’s why in The Sims 3, I often uprooted my legacy family and moved them to a completely different environment, and I appreciated the diversity of all The Sims 3 worlds. Naturally, once Newcrest has been announced I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it to give my sims a bit of a change of scenery. Come join me on a first impressions tour of the new world!

The map view of Newcrest shows us the world is divided into 3 different areas, which is already more than we have gotten with the worlds that came as paid content. I commend EA for releasing this as a free update, as it shows they do listen to the simming community (and lets face it, is probably going to help them with the sales of the Perfect Patio Stuff pack coming out next week). I’m going to refer to each of the neighbourhoods within Newcrest in the order I visited them in for the purpose of the review (see image above).

Neighbourhood 1 A

The first thing that struck me when I loaded up Neighbourhood 1 was that we are definitely getting closer and closer to the city. Some of the background buildings seem very reminiscent of apartment style buildings – perhaps this is a hint of a city life expansion on the cards in the near future? (Note, I firmly stand in the semi-annoying toddler fan group, meaning that my preference would be a family-oriented EP before anything else, but let’s be honest… I’m bound to jump on whatever expansion pack comes out next just the same).

Neighborhood 1 B

To me, Neighbourhood essentially looks like an extension of Magnolia Promenade. The area is lovely and looks ideal for a commercial district, but it doesn’t necessarily add much of a new feel. Considering the minuscule size of Magnolia promenade, an additional neighbourhood with a similar style is not necessarily a bad thing though. I also do enjoy the canal flowing through this neighbourhood, since it adds more character to the area – in spite of it mainly being just for show.

Neighborhood 2 A

Neighbourhood 2 is probably my favourite addition to the game. The area combines a a park-like region with the backdrop of skyscrapers – Central park anyone? I feel like this neighbourhood is the biggest change of scenery and look forward to placing hip urban developments in the area for all of my young and trendy sims who are way cooler than I am.

Neighborhood 2 B

I also feel that the second neighbourhood features more details than the other two, such as the adorable boat in the picture above. The only downside is that there’s no way of getting your sims close to them, but I still enjoy the new backgrounds. On the other hand, I have the impression that the backdrop areas seem to get more blurry in Newcrest than in the existing worlds, but I’ll have to play in the area a bit more to be sure.

Neighborhood 2 C

The skyscraper-free area of Neigbourhood 2 reminds me of the Willow Creek neighbourhood where Oakenstead and Cypress Terrace are. Considering I find that particular neighborhooud the richest and most interesting area that came with the default game, this can only earn brownie points with me.

Neighborhood 3 A

Finally, we get to Neigbourhood 3. Again, high rise buildings are prominent in the background, but this area includes a lot more foliage than the previous two we visited.

Neighborhood 3 B

It sort of feels like Magnolia Blossom meets Sims 3 Into the Future, and the emphasis on nature so close to the big city is an interesting concept. My initial thought when I saw the neighbourhood was that there was a lot worth exploring and I wouldn’t be surprised if it even had a secret passage to a new hidden lot.

Neighborhood 3 C

However, on further inspection I realised that your sims can only venture into a small portion of the area and most of the park is indeed just a backdrop once again. As I said, I am always on the lookout for a slightly different scenery, but I can’t help but feel that minimising this into scenery only is a missed opportunity.

All in all, I am quite pleased with the new world though – the sheer fact that all of this content is available to everyone for free makes it hard to complain. I do hope that we will get more diversity in future world themes to allow players to have a truly different experience, even if this means the experience is paid for. Until then though, I am grateful for having the possibility expand without being restricted to the same old lots I’ve played with before.

Side Note: I have not touched on the fact Newcrest is a fully blank slate. In previous Sims games, this would have been a serious issue for me, as I am by no means a great builder and I am only in the mood for building every so often. With the brilliance of The Sims 4 gallery and EA’s inventive idea of inviting the best of community builders to create homes for the world under the #buildnewcrest tag, this is no issue at all. Of course one can think it’s a sneaky move of EA to put all of the responsibility of populating the world with houses on the community, yet you can’t deny the genius of the idea nonetheless. Sure they made it easy for themselves, but with having such an elegant solution at their disposal (and getting two birds in one stone in terms of the community promoting the world’s release), who can blame them? I for one am completely happy with the solution, and am heading to the gallery to download some of the homes tailor-made for Newcrest as we speak.

What are your thoughts on Newcrest?

 

 

 

 

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.