No, the title isn’t a typo. After the release of The Sims 4, I heard a lot of gamers claiming it wasn’t as good as The Sims 3. Granted, a lot of that criticism may be due to the fact that the fourth installment doesn’t have any expansions packs yet. But I’ve heard a lot of people say even the base game, while improving in some areas, cut out a lot of stuff. So I decided to give The Sims 3 a try to see if it could rekindle my love for the franchise.
After messing around with the base game, I purchased some of the expansion packs (University Life, Ambitions, Generations, Supernatural & Seasons). Some of my views may be based on content from these packs.
The Sims 3, as the title would suggest, is a simulation game. It simulates life. The premise of the franchise is to allow you to create any type of person you want & control their life. What kind of job will they have? Will they get married? Will they die in a horrible accident? You control your Sims in their daily routines, either to help or hinder their pursuit of happiness. The game offers a wide variety of things to do & play around with, breaking from the monotony of our regular existence.
Although you can make your Sims do anything, that doesn’t mean they always will. They do have a certain amount of autonomy. Yet while they’re usually content to follow your orders, if you neglect their needs, they might just complain as they stare defiantly at you. Sims have several needs that have to be kept in check for them to remain happy, & slowly deplete over time. Hunger, Energy, Bladder, Hygiene, Fun, & Social. Sims also have moods, which are affected by what are essentially buffs or debuffs. Did they get singed while discovering a new potion formula? That negatively affects them. Did they buy a new TV? That’s puts them in a better mood. Sims also develop Wishes based on their personalities that you can help them achieve. For example, an athletic Sim may wish to workout for an hour. Completing these Wishes grants your Sim Lifetime Happiness points, which you can use to buy rewards that make your Sims life easier. You also choose a Lifetime Wish for each Sim, which acts like a life’s goal to aim for. Sims can aim to reach the pinnacle of a career path, achieve perfection in a certain skill, or any number of things.
Narrative: The Sims 3 is one of those games where you make your own fun, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. Your Sims’ story is whatever you want it to be. There are many interesting & unique builds that you can play through. The fun is in playing out these stories & the shenanigans that happen along the way. In one of my games, my kleptomaniac hacker went out for a date & as soon as her vampire boyfriend got there she (somehow) learned he’d been cheating & got in a fight with him. A few days later, she got invited to a house party by his roommate & ended up stealing his coffin. Another memorable moment was while my gold digger had her husband trapped in a dungeon for him to slowly expire, I had him make a blog about his imprisonment, taking pictures of his cell & posting cries for help. I appreciate the more focused approach the game has. In my review of The Sims: Medieval, I commented that one of my problems with the first Sims game was that after a while you lose purpose. I think the combination of wishes, goals & the ability for your Sims to age & eventually die, add a much-needed sense of purpose to the game. You’re not just playing the same Sim forever. And each Sim you create can have a different story. Score: 4
Mechanics: For the most part, the controls work well. On the PC version, you just point-&-click, selecting which options you want your Sim to do. The addition of keyboard shortcuts for some of the controls is helpful, although I do wish the camera was faster, especially when it comes to focusing on multiple Sims. The camera can be slow when your switching between Sims that are far away. There are a lot of additions since my time with the first Sims game that I appreciate. You have a bit more control over your Sims while they’re at work. Although most of the jobs are “rabbit holes,” meaning your Sim just disappears, you have options on what tasks they should focus on, which affects their performance. Other jobs let you get more hands-on, actually controlling what your Sim does at work. The Wishes add a nice focus to the game, although sometimes it seems a bit wonky, like the game wasn’t aware of what was going on. A couple of times a wish would come up to move in with my Sims spouse after I’d already been living with them. These aren’t major issues, because you can always just dismiss the wish, but it was weird when it happened. I also liked the variety of activities included & the progression of skills. There are legitimate upgrades as you improve in your skills other than just being more successful at it. For example, improving your Handiness skill lets you upgrade various items while improving your Painting skill gives you more types of paintings to make. Overall, while the controls are still the same familiar Sim controls, with the same flaws, there’s a good variety of actual gameplay elements. Score: 4
Aesthetics: Average. While nothing stunning, the game looks nice enough. There are enough options in creating a Sim to make just about anything you want. I like that you can create a style for your clothing & furniture, letting you customize the patterns & colors to make things feel unique. Sometimes, though, the textures would be slow to pop in, especially when jumping between Sims. There isn’t a lot of music in-game. In fact, in the game proper the only music comes from the radios. But at least they have some good music. I’m positive some of the songs on the radio are legitimate songs, just in Sim-speak, I just couldn’t place them. Score: 3
Replay Value: Very high. Especially with the ability the die (from natural or unnatural causes), the game is built for multiple playthroughs. Just playing through all the Lifetime Wishes would keep you busy for a long time, so you definitely get your money’s worth with this game. Score: 5
Final Word: For as much as I enjoy The Sims 3, it’s not the sort of game I can recommend to everyone. If you enjoy more complex or action-oriented games, this isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for a bit of casual, lighthearted fun, The Sims 3 has plenty to offer.
Title: The Sims 3
Console: PC, PS3, 360, Wii, DS
Developers: The Sims Studio
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: June 2, 2009