Review: The Sims 3
The Sims has always been something of a controversial series. From my experience, you either love the game to bits, or you hate it passionately. It’s something like fruitcake I suppose, which is festive. With all the time I’ve spent playing The Sims 3 recently, I think that even the most devote Sims-hater would have to change their tune after playing this one. It is fun, time consuming and addicting; a lethal combination that will have you up all night multitasking. For those of us who are already Sims fans, this is the game you’ll be playing at least for the rest of the year.
EA has taken several precise steps to make this game better than all the rest, which isn’t something that seems simple for this kind of game. It’s like a giant virtual toy box, in which you can do just about anything most functioning people want to do: get a job earning tons of money, throw the biggest most lavish parties and live in a five hundred thousand dollar house. But it’s not always sunshine and smiles in Moonlight Bay. Read on to find out why this is possibly the best Sims game ever.
After all the success The Sims has had as a series, you know without a doubt that its developers know what its fans want. They know what we like to do and in this game, you’ll see that very clearly. If you’ve played Sims games through the years, you’ll see what leaps and bound they’ve made in efforts to make this a phenomenal game. Not to imply that new players won’t have an amazing time.
And don’t think that I don’t know that this is a port. The console versions of the Sims games have always been far inferior to their PC counterparts, mainly because of how much content and support the PC versions receive post release. Not only that but controlling the game is a task that has been greatly simplified for use on consoles. The game functions pretty similarly to past iterations on consoles and if you didn’t have a problem with those, you have nothing to worry about.
Now why I have mostly always enjoyed the Sims games, one thing I never like is the story. It seems like they force this ridiculous story upon you and make you complete a variety missions fashioned after furthering this mostly pointless story. It seems like it would be a good idea to smack some kind of story into the mix in an attempt to explain why you’re playing God to a bunch of virtual ordinary people, but in practice I think it kind of breaks the immersion. That is why I was thrilled after playing for five hours and seeing absolutely nothing that looked like a thrown together, pointless and usually dumb story.
Now I know it may make me sound a little hypocritical to be talking about how I’m glad a game doesn’t have a story, but if you’ve played those post games then you know that all the stories did was add an irritating timer of sorts on playing the game. It isn’t something that adds to the Sims and I fail to see how it truly could. I think that EA must have agreed with me on this because there is pretty much no story whatsoever. Unless you count the story that you yourself will craft with you characters, but that’s a different…story.
Technically, The Sims 3 fails to impress, unless you compare it to past games in the series. Models and textures are good, but we’ve seen much prettier games this year. Not to imply that graphics are that big of a deal and they certainly aren’t bad here. In fact, if you check visuals in past titles in the series against those of The Sims 3, they’re pretty darn good. And to be totally fair, this game is a port of a game from last year. The graphics convey what they need to and they do a B minus job most of the time,and they don’t detract from the game. Certain elements, like water, look really good and most characters look unique from other Sims. Everything else including the buildings, environments and structures is rendered tightly. It’s really inspiring when you see fantastic houses to think that you have access to all the same tools, but more on building later. Heck, the game looks pretty good on an HD set too. The visuals are tight, but don’t expect to be wowed by them.
The music in this game, as it is in most Sims games, is pretty good. Most original tracks are instrumentals layered with orchestral instruments and soft, bouncy compositions. As has always been the case, different sets play depending upon what you are doing. Different songs play during building, buying and landscaping. Most of the music played during loading screens is nice and you can hear real quality in many of the original pieces. My only hang up with the soundtrack is that none of it plays while you’re in live mode with your Sims. For that you turn to a very diverse set of licensed tracks ranging from genres like rap, classical and pop.
Of special note, I really enjoyed the electronica offering from deadmau5. The voice acting in the game is competent though it’s not as though it matters since the Sims don’t speak English. It’s funny though because in the licensed songs, you can hear many instances where it sounds like they’re using English. Cumulatively, the music in the game is really well done. Even many of the licensed tracks are decent with their simlish (the language the Sims speak) incarnations.
Those other elements, with special mention of the music, are all fairly polished and this is something you expect from an EA game. The gameplay though is an absolute powerhouse. You are dumped right in and things start off the way they always have: by creating your character. Character creation has been improved an ample amount and is generally a very enjoyable and meticulous task. You can pick body type, skin, hair and eye color, gender, and various styles and accessories.
There are two big changes to alter your characters appearance that I noticed. First is the exchange. The exchange is a feature that allows you to pick from a database of created things by connecting to the internet. Say for example I looked through the shoes and didn’t like them or just wanted to check out some other styles. Flip to the exchange tab and boom; a sea of new shoe options, all user-created. The exchange can also be used in the creation of just about everything else so I’ll talk more about that later.
The second big change I noticed when creating your character’s appearance was the inclusion of an outfit selection. In past Sims games, you would design an outfit and your character would wear this selection until they did something specific like go to sleep or go swimming, at which time they would change into a predetermined outfit for that particular action. In this game, you create five outfits which you character will cycle through as they go to work, sleep, exercise, the pool or to hang out with friends. It is a small change but it is very noticeable and it makes dressing Sims in the past look plain boring.
When you are finished editing your character’s appearance, you must create their personality. Giving your Sim a personality is easily the most fun part of Sim creation. This is another area where the developers really pushed for improvement because designing your character is richer than it has ever been. This time, you don’t pick a horoscope or allocate a set number of points into categories like “Friendliness” or “Neatness”. Instead, your Sim’s personality is determined from of a long list of traits you give them. These traits determine what your Sim considers fun, what kind of Sims they’ll be attracted to and even their life goals. In my opinion, the traits are the best way I have ever created a Sim’s personality. This is because the type of trait you pick is clearly visible in your Sim’s behavior.
For example, if you pick the neat trait, your Sim will constantly clean dirty things. If they encounter dirty things, like in a friend’s house or at home, their mood will sink and they’ll become agitated and irritable. Another example is the workaholic trait in which Sim’s love to go work. Being at work increases their mood (while it has the opposite effect on other Sims) and they work harder towards promotions and raises. They’ll also be in a foul mood if they are late for or miss work. They even get special conversation actions with other Sims like “Ask about career” and “Talk about work”. You pick only five from a huge list of traits for every Sim. This manages to make each and every Sim unique which does a good job of contributing to the feeling that you are playing with a vast, sprawling world with lots of different people.
Traits also determine a Sim’s lifetime goals. Lifetime goals are big accomplishments that your Sim hopes to obtain by the end of their life. Completing these goals, along with numerous smaller goals, gains you lifetime happiness points which can be used to purchase awesome things like the fast learner trait. You can also pick things like their favorite food.
After you’ve created your Sim you’re given a small sum of simoleons (currency) and moved into a house. From here you can do just about anything you want. Get a job in the medical field, become a free lance writer or musician or just party until all the money is gone. You can even build a multimillion simoleon empire that stretches through multiple generations. The sky is the limit. Throw pool parties and only invite popular people, buy a house on a beach, become a famous rock star and get paid to perform at sold out concerts. The game lets you do just about whatever you want and it is very entertaining.
If you want to progress anywhere in the work world, you’ll want to sharpen your skills. The skills you need to improve depend on what field you in. For example, you’ll want to improve your writing skill to become a successful author. There are many different skill paths and improving them can be extremely time consuming so you may find yourself sticking to improving the ones you need. Certain traits improve dispositions to learning certain skills, which is a nice addition. For example, the natural cook trait makes a Sim a better cook and allows them to increase the cooking skill easily. These same Sims will also be naturally disposed towards a career in cooking. Learning skills is basically just repeating the same action that stimulates it, like how cooking increases the cooking skill. You can also read books which will increase the cooking skill and even attend classes which increase skills more quickly. Of course the additional methods will run you a few simoleons. You can actually play for a while without getting a job of some sort but that must be incredibly boring.
A combination of two factors determines whether or not your Sim is happy. These are your mood and your moodlets. Mood is determined by how often certain needs are met. Hygiene, bladder, hunger, social, and fun are the six meters you’ll be worried about watching. Their names are self explanatory but I’ll elaborate a bit: Hygiene relates to how filthy they are, bladder relates to the last time they used the bathroom, hunger relates to when they last ate, social relates to when they last interacted with another Sim and fun relates to when they last enjoyed themselves. Between bladder, energy and hygiene, there are really only three things you’ll be doing which is using a toilet, a bed and a shower or tub of some sort. The other three however give you numerous options. For example, you can chat with Sims on the computer, talk to your neighbors, call friends, throw parties, go to work or go to the beach or some other place all for social. Options for hunger and especially fun are equally vast.
A Sim’s social life is apparently very important to them, easily more important to them than my actual social life is to me. Sims like to make friends and build serious relationships with other Sims. From friends you can become a couple and then fiancés and then get married and have kids. Depending on your traits, you may prefer to do this or not prefer it and building these relationships is actually not necessary at all, but always there if that appeals to you.
Sim children are interesting and somewhat fun but I know that their appeal will entertain other types of players far more than me. You can have children by either giving birth to them or adopting them. If you are going to get children, I suggest having them yourself because then you can choose the traits, whereas adopted children have predetermined traits and they give you little control over that. Not only this, but having a child allows him to inherit traits and appearances from the parents. My first Sim was a full-time business guy so he didn’t have time to have kids, so he adopted some because I didn’t want all his riches to go to waste.
There are numerous different items especially for taking care of kids: cribs, swings, potties the whole lot. Children must attend school and their grades will affect the kind of adult they become and the number of skills they have. Obviously, a child who does all their homework will develop more extensive skills than a child who doesn’t. Furthermore, children can be raised with certain talents that Sims who are created as adults might not, like their proclivity for speech if a parent teaches them. All in all I’d only mess with the kids if that’s your cup of tea because otherwise they’re a little time consuming. You also get to watch them grow up, which brings us to aging.
I didn’t like aging and hadn’t learned until after my first and favorite character died that you can actually disable it. They proceed through the life stages baby, toddler, child, teen, young adult, adult and elderly. They also proceed through these stages quite quickly if you don’t alter the lifespan in options. Aging Sims will die when they get old enough. I didn’t like this feature too much although it is a clear step forward. I recently learned that aging can be disabled, so this really doesn’t stand as a complaint.
Moodlets also play a big role in a Sim’s happiness. Moodlets are periods of increased or lessened mood whose length and severity depend on a particular item or action. For example, the well rested moodlet increases a Sim’s mood for a number of hours and is caused by sleeping in a comfortable bed for a long time. The beautifully decorated moodlet also increases mood and is triggered by decorating ones home with art and sculptures. Reversely, there are also many negative moodlets. Lack of sleep or severely hungry sharply drop a Sim’s mood and are caused by skipping meals and short nights of sleep. The moodlets also depend on your Sim’s personality, as you’ll get strong moodlets for eating your favorite food or throwing an awesome party.
As your Sim’s life progresses, they’ll receive numerous opportunities. Opportunities are events that seem to occur randomly and give your Sim a chance to win various rewards by completing a certain task. For example, aspiring musicians may get the opportunity to attend a seminar by a famous guitar player which will increase their skills. Cooks may be asked to cater a friend’s party and this will increase the cooking skill and the relationship between your Sim and the friend.
Karma powers are a new feature which is exclusive to consoles. Basically, karma powers come in good and bad varieties and have effects on one or more Sims. For example, the super satisfy karma ability powerfully satisfies a Sim and erases any negative mood or moodlets they have. A negative karma power, like earthquake, wakes Sims up, starts fires, and destroys property. The karma powers are used by expending karma points, which are gained every night and from certain challenges, which I talk about next. You can have a maximum of 100 karma points at once.
Challenges are tasks that you can complete for reward points. You can spend these points on a number of otherwise unobtainable rewards which is cool. Challenges range from small, easy tasks like take a bath to daunting feats like writing ten best selling books. Some of the challenge rewards, like the new karma powers, are totally worth it.
You’ll want to earn as many simoleons as you can. Just like real life, the more money you have the more fun you have. Therefore you’ll want to earn as much as you can. Keep in mind though that leading your Sim’s life based on the gathering of simoleons alone will eventually get boring. Once you’ve earned some money, you can buy or build things with it. You can choose items from an absolutely huge catalog to furnish your home or your Sims with. Electronics, kitchen items, decorative furnishing, there are tons of things you can buy to make you and your Sim happier. Buying better beds improves the time it takes for a Sim to get well rested and gives them a comfort ability moodlet. Buying a nicer stove and refrigerator increases the quality of the food, the time it takes to cook and a positive moodlet.
You can also deck your house out with all kinds of couches, rugs, draperies and much, much more. When you’ve made a LOT of simoleons though, like hundreds of thousands or millions, you can build your own house on a large lot from the ground up, though you can’t seem to buy any blank stretches of land like in older games. You can buy the most expensive property and then knock it down to build your own house from the ground up.
Building your house and property is insanely fun, even if you have to have played for a while to amass all the money you’ll need to really get creative. Homes can now have multiple floors, a feature I so longed for in past games. Aside from the structure of your house, you can also build your property adding rocks, lacks, hills, mountainous terrain, trees and plants and more to the home. I made a house that was mostly lake with little rooms scattered on small islands.
Don’t feel like you’re throwing your cash away when you spend on your property either. Your house has property value which increases as you add features via landscaping and furnishings. Buying fifty thousand simoleons worth of electronics will increase the furnished value of the property while adding a pool or second floor will increase the unfurnished property value, which seems like the better bet. When you move, which you can do at any time, the value of the furnished or unfurnished property (should you want to keep your furniture) is added to your funds.
The world in which you live feels more alive than ever now. Your Sim has neighbors on all sides of their house (unless you have a house on a hill or something) with whom you can interact. You can also travel around the town to numerous locations and areas, all sprawling with new characters and activities. You can collect insects, seeds and numerous other things by exploring the world. The new characters and locations are probably the best reason to do it. You may be a shut in and never traverse the huge map like many of my characters did, but it is more fun if you explore. All in all, the gameplay of The Sims 3 is so rich and deep that you can play for dozens of hours and still discover and experience new things. It is its own breed of game.
The exchange is a new online feature which allows players to download the creations of others. Furthermore, you can upload just about everything you create to the exchange so that other people can download it. Keep in mind that if you don’t buy a new copy of this game, you’ll have to purchase this functionality by way of the online pass, which EA is notorious for. If you create a character and write a bio and upload it, everyone will be able to download it. This is really awesome and I have seen some fantastic items in the exchange but it’s practically the extent of the online capabilities in this game. Personally, I’d have like to visit my friends house and throw parties which they can attend and things like that, but you can’t and I’m not sure why.
The exchange is neat for what it offers though. When you open it up, you can see things your friends have done recently, if any of them play the game. This also has some interaction with Facebook and Twitter but I didn’t explore that much. Using the exchange feature though is a little easier said than done. It isn’t very easy to navigate and there seem to be dozens and dozens of replicas of locations that are already in the game. The worst part about it though is that these ridiculous load times sprout up between each and every page. It is so annoying that you may leave the exchange behind you completely to avoid having to deal with it. Summarily, the exchange has the potential to be a remarkable tool bringing the creations of thousands of players right to you, even if it is a little rough around the edges. The EA Store will be used for something eventually I’m sure, but as of this writing it’s empty.
While I may have enjoyed myself the majority of the time,The Sims 3 definitely doesn’t get by without some serious complaints. For one thing, there are so many bugs and glitches in the game it is unbelievable. Can you imagine playing for ten hours and then having that data corrupted? Can you imagine that happening twice? Can you imagine a table and chair that will not be deleted no matter what you do? The bugs in this game are potentially game breaking. Heck, if it wasn’t for my enjoyment of the game, I would have never even tried it again after having my game data corrupted twice in two days.
The Sims is a buggy series, it always has been and I think that comes with its ambition. However some of the bugs, the randomly deleting game data especially, are just a huge issue. The next problem I had with the game were the ridiculous, ridiculous load times. I know it is loading a lot of content, I know, but three minute load times, even after the mandatory install, is just a huge turn off. I went to grab water and came back during the same loading sequence. This issue is easy to look past though when you consider what it’s loading.
In conclusion, The Sims 3 is an enormous game with the potential to steal countless hours of your life from you. It is fun and addictive and if you are a fan of the series at all this is a must have. I have a hard time imagining how any open minded gamer who tries the game for at least a few hours will not fall head over heels in love with it. You can create characters that can create and shape their world and it is entertaining to say the least.
My issues with it, while small in number are great in severity. The bugs are potentially game breaking and the load times compare to last generation games and earlier. The bugs alone detract at least a half a point from the score of this phenomenal game. If you can make it past these issues though, The Sims 3 is a smashing good time that I recommend to everybody.