I thought I’d do something different, a video game review. Anime and blogging have cut down how much time I devote to video games but I still dust off the controls and play games like Civilization 4 and Medieval 2: Total War.
I was never a huge Sims player but I bought the first two Sims in part because my younger sister enjoys the game. Certain facets of the game annoyed me and really limited how much I played though there were parts I liked, building and designing the house for example. I resolved not to buy Sims 3 until several of the expansion packs were released because if this game follows the blueprint of Sims 2, only after these expansion packs will the game feel complete and become somewhat fun.
However; I heard through the grapevine that before it’s early June launch, Sims 3 was leaked and it appeared to be the full game. Perfect, I thought, now I can see for myself if EA has once again stripped the game down to force the customers to buy the expansion packs – which means it’s not worth my money at this time – or if maybe EA included enough goodness with the base title to be worth buying now. So while I’m not exactly saying where I got my copy of Sims 3, I will say I’m playing a version of Sims 3 that isn’t buggy and apparently complete (or at least there’s nothing obviously missing that would affect my score).
Final Series Score: 11.5/12 Near Perfect
Pros: Improved mechanics make the game much more enjoyable then past Sims games, many little improvements show that EA wanted to release a highly polished game from the get-go, integrating the individual homes with the neighborhood and allowing seemless exploration takes the entire game to a much higher level and makes it a more compelling game to play, skills are more fleshed out and provide the player with a large variety of activities to have their sims do, seems to be very stable and runs very smoothly even on a machine that’s no where near being top-of-the-line.
Cons: While the game feels more complete then the past base Sims titles, there are things that aren’t in game now that’ll be assuredly released in the form of expansion packs in the future and regular players will miss these options
Like I said above, I’ve never been a huge Sims player. That’s not because I found it boring because it lacked guns and killing – I love slice-of-life anime and the video game Harvest Moon – but mainly because of a couple game mechanics that EA used in the game. The most annoying was needing an ever increasing amount of friends to earn job promotions. It turned the game into a contest of seeing if you could make a ton of friends and were able to maintain all these friends as friends while squeezing in normal activities like sleeping or conversing with your family. My frustration at the absurd number of friends was what always made me put the game aside. In the case of Sims 2, when I read that they released an expansion pack where I could start a home business – I was finally able to enjoy the game at some length without giving up in frustration because I no longer needed to make friends.
So when I started playing Sims 3, the first thing I did was check out how to earn promotions. My sim, named Temp, wanted to join the medical field so I obliged him and started working towards my first promotion. With no hint of needing friends, I continued to advance in the medical field and after 4-5 promotions I realized that I was not going to be asked to make friends to get my promotions. In Temp’s case; I need to improve my logic skill (which makes sense), be in a good mood (also making sense), and to keep reading the medical journals that he brings home – that’s all. He’s currently only one step below the top of his profession and doesn’t have any friends. He does have a wife (who is his boss at work) as well as a mistress (who was the maid – the maid costs too much so I romanced her enough to get her to move in) and several kids.
The next thing that became apparent was that EA spent the time to highly polish the game. There’s new little options everywhere that make sense once you see them in action. For example, if you want you sim to increase it’s logic skill using the chess table, you can tell your sim to either play indefinitely until you cancel the action or play until it gains a level in logic and it’ll auto-cancel and go onto the next queued action. Turning off the aging no longer requires entering a cheat, it’s a normal option found with the rest of the options. And EA goes a step further by offering several different aging options ranging from the sims completing a life cycle in only 25 days to an epically long 960 days. If you forget to pay your bills, as I sometimes do, a notice pops up saying they’re due and allows to click a button to pay them. Remember how it was sometimes hard to find the phone? Noweach sim, starting as the children stage, has a cell phone in their inventory and personal calls and notifications goes to that phone. And the final one I wanted to mention is also the coolest, at least to me; remember how much trouble it was to move a wall in the house, well, now all you have to do is click the hand icon and drag the wall to how you want it. If you move the wall out then all the items on and against the wall go with the wall and it auto adds the needed carpet and wallpaper to the new area.
Another change to the mechanics of the game that I really like is the introduction of moodlets and the use of moodlets in determining how the sim feels. In the past, the overall mood of the sim was an average of the individual wants and this required every single bar to be kept near the top for the sim to be happy. This wasn’t the most realistic and it made the gameplay a bit mechanical since this dictated the order in which to do things. However, with the introduction of moodlets, the need to do things in a set order has been greatly lessened and it also allows a wider variation of things to impact on how a sim feels. So, for example, a half full hunger bar will not decrease the sim’s mood. It’s only when the hunger bar is really low aka when they’re really hungry that a negative moodlet stating that the sim is famished pops up and subtracts from the sim’s mood. Until that point, the hunger bar has nothing to do with the sim’s mood. These moodlets are all temporary, most run 4-8 hours but there are others that last for a whole day or longer like having your first kiss, getting married, or having a kid.
Yet another area that was improved upon and also showing the attention to detail by EA was the character trait system. In the past, you had to pick from twelve packages of traits linked to the zodiac signs and there wasn’t much room for real variation. Now, with Sims 3, an adult sim has 5 traits that you get to choose and you can mix and match however you want. And they’ve included a wide variety of traits; there’s ones you’d expect like genius, green thumb, slob, neat, likes the outdoors, and handy but there’s other’s that can really spice things up like the evil and kleptomaniac traits. These traits influence what the sims wish to do and confer bonuses on the character. I have a sim with a good cooking trait and as a result he won’t ever start a fire while cooking. Another sim is neat and she finds cleaning fun and has the option to “clean house” – dispensing of the need for a maid. A sim with the evil trait is happy when they are around people with negative moodlets and will occasionally laugh maniacally. A handy sim will always be successful when trying to repair something.
I could really go on much further but I’ll settle with mentioning one more area that is improved greatly – skills. Before, skills were mostly there as a needed component for job promotions but now there are actual uses for skills. For example, a sim skilled in tinkering can upgrade appliances to be self-cleaning, indestructible, or fire-proof (there’s probably more but this sim is only halfway to maxing out their tinkering skill). Also, there are challenges that associated with each skill. So, going back to the tinkering skill, if this sim upgrades 10 different electrical appliances then that sim will gain the ability to no longer get shocked while working on electrical appliances. Proficiency in skills also opens new options. A person with the logic skill can attempt to become a chess champion by inviting professional ranked chess players to their house and beating them.
There are only a few minor things that I think detract from the game at this time and I’ll mention a couple just for completeness sake but since these are small things, I bet they’ll eventually get fixed. The first is the very fast speed setting on the game – it’s no where near fast enough. When I started out with a single sim, there are many times that I want the game to go by quickly (while sleeping and at work) but I was stuck watching the progress go just barely faster then normal. Once I started filling the household with a couple of other people, I hardly get the chance to run at the fastest speed so it’s not much of a problem but it is there. Another is how the insides of public building are not visible when your sims enter them. This was probably done to help make the game run quicker as well as make cut down hugely on the programmers needed to do with jobs – I can just imagine the trouble it would take to show your sim actually working – but it is a bit disappointing.
In conclusion, you can probably tell I really like what EA did with the Sims; instead of just shipping a game that only minimally improves on the previous titles, they went the extra mile to make this Sims title the most entertaining, polished, and fun of the series. And this isn’t just me speaking words, I will buy a legitimate copy when it comes out because it’s well worth the 50 bucks and I like to support companies that provide a superior product.