I’ve always enjoyed playing the Sims games… for a while. But eventually they get tedious. Having to look after all of those needs can be tiresome. Is it any wonder there are so many Youtube videos of people killing their Sims? Well, The Sims Medieval tries to take the game in a new direction. Does it succeed?
The Sims Medieval is about as close to a complete overhaul of the franchise as you can get without having to call it a different game. As the title suggests, the game is set during the time of kings, queens, knights & wizards. The game does have a plot… of sorts. Your overall goal is to create & build your own kingdom. Each kingdom has its own Ambition, which include No Quest for the Weary, Imperial Domination, & Best in Show, just to name a few. These Ambitions will determine how you choose to grow your kingdom & complete quests. Speaking of quests, that’s the next major feature of this game. Quests act as plot devices, telling the story of your kingdom. Some of the quests include Book Burning, Golems Gone Wild, & The Philosopher’s Stone. Successfully completing quests can increase your kingdom’s attributes. Hero characters are created & selected to play through the various quests. There are 10 total Hero classes: monarch, knight, merchant, spy, blacksmith, physician, bard, Peteran priest, Jacobian priest & wizard. Which hero you decide to send on the quest determines your goal as well as how you solve it. For example, during the Doomsday quest you can silence to doomsayer with your spy & bard working together (gaining an increase in security & knowledge), or side with the doomsayer using the Peteran priest & wizard (gaining security but losing culture).
A lot of the gameplay has been simplified. You can change the aesthetics of your Heroes’ homes, but not the actual structure. Your Heroes can be customized not only in appearance, but in personality. For each Hero you choose two traits, such as adventurous or “parents ate by a whale” (no I didn’t make that part up), as well as one fatal flaw, like gluttony or cowardly. These flaws affect your character in different ways. For instance, a cowardly character will gain a negative status if they’re out at night. The needs have also been simplified down to two: hunger & sleep. You can still do all the same type of activities as in the previous Sims, but they don’t actually have need bars. Instead, they affect your Focus. Focus determines how successful your Hero will be at various activities. A highly focus spy will be more likely to succeed at stealing. Activities like having a good meal or making friends will raise your Focus. However, if your character is injured from a duel, ate a bland meal, & was trampled by fairies (again, not making this up) his Focus will lower & he’ll be unsuccessful at his endeavors. Of course, Heroes also have job that must be completed within a certain time. These also affect focus, & gain your characters experience. For example, the physician’s tasks may include gathering leeches & examining patients. Beware of not completing your jobs. Leave your duty to the kingdom unfulfilled for long enough, & it’s off to the stocks for you.
Narrative: The addition of quests gives the Sims a much-needed bit of direction. Rather than just being a boring life simulator, it actually feels like playing a real game. Although they lack the complexity of, say BioWare, the game adds its unique sense of humor to the quests. I like that each quest plays out different depending on which Hero you use. Even picking the same path plays out differently based on your class. A spy & a knight won’t find the Missing Child in the same way. Even within each class, you’ll sometimes get an options between two different paths to proceed. That being said, the quests do play out in a sort of “go here, do this” sort of fashion. They’re not particularly complex. Score: 4
Mechanics: Personally, I liked the gameplay in Medieval better than the previous Sims. As I said before, keeping up with all those needs was tiresome. With the needs just down to eating & sleeping, this allows for much more freedom & enjoyment. All the previous activities are available, but don’t correspond to a need. I’m especially glad Social is gone. However, this is balanced out by the fact that completing tasks affects your Focus, which affects your overall success, so you still do them. You just don’t feel pressured. I don’t have to make friends to advance my career. The game allows a great deal of freedom to create the kingdom you want. Aside from this, gameplay is essentially the same as in previous games. Click this, select that. My main complaint is that you can’t play as a character outside of quests, & then it’s only as your selected Hero. Some people might also be let down by the fact that they can’t completely customize their buildings. You can choose the furniture, paint, flooring & other things, but the structures can’t be changed. There were also some tasks that I didn’t really understand, particularly for the Monarch. You can pass laws & build relations with other nations, but I never really understood the in-game benefit of it. But for the most part each Hero’s jobs were fun & unique. Score: 4
Aesthetics: Nothing spectacular. The graphics are nice, but not ground-breaking. Your Sims are nicely detailed, but you’ll only notice it when you zoom in close. Sim-speak is back. There’s no music in general. And because this is not in modern times, the closest you get to a radio is when the Bard plays. Score: 3
Replay Value: Generally high. Some people probably won’t find much reason to play more than once. However, because there is so much variety in the game, most will probably play through several kingdoms. Ambitions, character & quests can all be played out differently. Score: 4
Overall Score: 4
Final Word: Fans of the Sims will enjoy this game. People who liked the Sims but found it tedious after a while will enjoy the simplified needs & freedom to play around. But you don’t like the Sims, or prefer more plot-focused games, The Sims Medieval probably won’t change your mind about the series.
Game: The Sims Medieval Console: PC Rating: T Developer: The Sims Studio Publisher: Electronic Arts Release Date: March 22, 2011