EACH OF THE SIMS GAMES has brought us a fun and different way to play god in a sandbox environment. SimLife gave us an entire planet to play with, while SimCity was more successful and entertaining despite (or because of) its smaller scope. However, the series really took off with the release of The Sims, which narrowed gameplay down to a single, thoroughly customisable household and quickly became an icon for casual gaming. Its success led to a sequel in 2004, which brought improvements like varied neighbourhoods, optional goals in the form of lifetime wishes and, of course, the shift to 3D graphics. So what’s changed since then?
From the moment you begin creating your Sims, the changes are instantly apparent. While the graphics have improved significantly since Sims 2,the real feature that makes this game such a step forward is the removal of the somewhat sterile personality sliders, and replacing them with a series of traits. These traits are both self-explanatory (no more figuring out what three points into ‘Nice’ and four into ‘Playful’ will do!) and pack in far more variety. While traits such as ‘Friendly’ and ‘Neat’ return, there are over 60 traits ranging from ‘Evil’ (a personal favourite) to ‘Hopeless Romantic’ and so forth, which really go a long way towards making your Sims unique. Personality traits also affect your Sim’s lifetime wishes, which are now far more interesting and varied – after all, becoming an international super spy is a much more interesting goal than seeking ‘Fortune’.
So after you create your Sims and choose where you want them to settle, the second major feature of The Sims 3 makes itself apparent. Unlike the previous games, the entire town is seamless, meaning that your Sims can walk freely from one lot to the next while the world continues on. It’s a nice feature that has opened the door for collectables scattered around each town if you’re a player keen on exploration.
The removal of your Sim’s comfort and environment needs might appear to be a “dumbing down” of sorts, but both have been integrated into the new moodlet system. One way to describe it is as a set of icons that represent positive and negative infl uences on your Sim’s mood; another helpful feature, and one that gives players a little more insight and control over what affects their Sims.
Construction has also been enhanced. Not only is modifying your house far easier (you can also position household items off the grid now), but the new Create-A-Style tool aids your customisation immensely. In short, it allows you to easily re-skin parts of an item, piece of furniture or even your Sim’s clothes. It’s a neat feature, especially for those who like tailoring every aspect of their game.
While I was disappointed to find that pets didn’t make it in (the supernatural, with the exception of ghosts, has been omitted as well, though this may be a good thing depending on your point of view), several features from past expansion packs have: personal inventories, cars, the gardening and fishing skills, and mobile phones to name a few. It doesn’t look like much on paper, but it ties together nicely, and most of the expansion pack content was rather specific anyway.
Speaking of content packs, E.A. has set up an online store for in-game content, although whether it is successful or overtaken by the modding community remains to be seen.
Overall, I like The Sims 3. It takes everything that made the first two games great and improves on them further, making it a must buy for any Sims fan. And even if you’re not, it’s worth checking out anyway.