I’ve been a fan of The Sims for a long while now, and some of my favorite expansions for the franchise throughout the years has been the ones that involve furry, cuddly, cute and lovable companions. No, I’m not talking about your crazy Aunt Harriot who comes over each Friday night to sit on your sims’ sofa and eat their TV dinners. The one thing I still don’t understand, though, is why they can’t just put pets into the actual game itself, at release.
That aside, I always enjoy these expansions – somewhat because I’m a pet lover and somewhat because they seem to be the less outrageous expansions for this already outrageous life simulation title, alien dogs aside.
The Sims 3: Pets treads on familiar ground, considering there’s been a pet-themed expansion for each major release in the franchise. I went into this thing thinking that, since this was the third time around this particular block, there might not be a lot of fresh content to be had, but there certainly is. Not only do you have dogs and cats that you can acquire and customize, but now they’ve added in horses to the fully customizable crowd of pets. In addition, you have less interactive options, such as rabbits, which just kind of sit in your house. What fun is that, though?
Pets, in essence, give you something to do while your hard-working sims are making their simoleons. You can train them to do nifty things and – here’s the kicker – they’re fully controllable. You can send your cat out on the prowl or sniff out other people’s junk with your dog. (Not THAT junk, get your mind out of the gutter!) While training and just generally taking care of your pet does add another element to an already complex and multitask-oriented game, it does feel fun if you can keep up with everything going on.
The addition of horses to the fold also introduces another job for your sims – you can race them. They can be raised as pets only, or they can be raised to race (either by you or by someone else). This whole aspect of owning and raising a horse didn’t particularly click with me. Don’t get me wrong, I love horses, but maybe horse racing just isn’t my thing. I’m more of a domesticated house animal person myself, so I couldn’t particularly get into the complexities of owning a horse.
If you do get into it, however, you’ll find that it is quite the deep and rewarding experience. You can either purchase new horses, or try to train a wild one on your own (good luck with that). I think it’s a cool new animal to add to the group here – something to get people out of the house and something that changes things up a bit from the traditional house pets.
What really stands out in this expansion, however, is the vast array of customization and breeding features for your pets. To start with, you can customize your pets to look like anything you want. They can look more natural or incredibly funky. Then, take them and breed them, passing down their coats and traits to future generations of fur-babies. While the addition of horses might be touted as one of the major new features in this particular pet-centric expansion, I’m a sucker for customization, so the ability to do everything you can – including giving yourself a psychedelic-coated feline with glowing laser-beam eyes – with pets is what really stands out to me.
In fact, I would have focused more on this aspect and made the entire expansion about customizing and breeding pets, instead of tossing in less fun (but, I suppose, equally as needed) pets with little interaction – such as those you would keep in a cage in your house. Who wants a snake anyway? Seriously? They aren’t cuddly.
There was also some new clothing added to the game, but much of it feels uninspired to me. I would have liked to see a bigger variety of clothing proclaiming your love for your pet, and not in the obvious way. Swimwear, sleepwear, evening attire and the like went largely untouched in this expansion, and there is so much potential there. Perhaps various pet-themed slippers or matching clothing items for your sims and your pets would also have been nice. There are obvious opportunities that were missed that left me feeling a little disappointed at the whole thing.
Ultimately, you can seriously sink some time into just customizing and breeding your pets, and that adds another hefty dimension to the already tight package that is The Sims 3. It isn’t the best expansion yet (that goes to World Adventures, in my opinion), but it does add a much-needed element to the game. I wonder, again, why they don’t just include pets in the original release, considering how vital they are to our real world lives; you would think they would be just as vital to our sims. However, this expansion fixes that failing, and pole-vaults itself above previous pet-themed expansions because of the bevy of customization features and the addition of a large, outdoor, fully controllable pet. It’s certainly something to keep your eye on if you’re a Sims fanatic.