It is time to get back to your virtual doll house
After I have played the first 100 days in one of the originals Sims’s expansion packs, some new information started appear. It was those “did you know that” windows in the top-right corner of the screen, but this time rather than explain how different elements of the game work, it showed little pieces of text about the game makers. It was interesting to read about the people that started a series that would become the best selling PC game franchise in history. And now, the third installment in this, near-a-decade long series, is released for our enjoyment.
If you have played The Sims 2, then it is basically the same game, but better. So there is no need for you to continue reading this review, and you should be buying it right now. But, if you need more motivation, or you have been living in a dark bunker underground the moon surface for the past several years, let me explain what The Sims is. For some it may be more obvious then for others, but the word “Sims” comes out of “sim” which is short for “simulation”. And some might call this game a simulation of life. The Sims are these computer people, and you take direct control of one, or a family of several of these Sims. As in real life, you have to have a house, get a job, pay the bills, maintain relationships with friends and that special Sim and etc. But the whole game has this doll house feel to it, so none of these actions feel boring or uninteresting like they would in the real world. You are basically a god to the Sims that they are not aver of. So you control their lives, not your own, and that is arguably the most appealing part of The Sims games. You can do practically anything you want, without any of the results you might have to deal with in the real world.
Since The Sims 3 is a game, it has it goals and objectives that you must fulfill. They may be abstract, but they still are there. Your main goal is to keep your Sims happy. Each Sim has six bars representing its needs: hunger, bladder, hygiene, fun, energy and social. When a bar starts to get empty, the respective need has to be satisfied, like eating food, going to the bathroom, talking with other Sims and so on. All these needs have an impact on the Sims mood. If you take care of your Sims needs, there mood bar will start to rise. When reaching a seatrain point, the Sims are happy, which has an impact on activities they may, or may not do. For example, if you Sim is unhappy, it may refuse to paint, fix something, or do other stuff. In addition to basic needs, your Sims have their own wishes. At each given time, one Sim can have four simple wishes and one big, lifetime wish. Simple wishes may vary from something like eating a seatrain meal at breakfast, to reaching a desired position at your Sims job. As you fulfill a Sims wish, it may be changed to another one. You actually get to choose, what wishes your Sim will have. A lifetime wish, however, can only be one, and once you fulfill it, you won’t get another one. These wishes need more time than regular wishes, and their goals are bigger. Usually they are either taking a head position in a job carrier, or maxing out several skill, but there are some others too. For meeting a Sims wish, you get aspiration points, for which you can buy different perks for your Sim, like “multitask” for better job performance, or “steel bladder”, “never hungry” for your Sims needs and many other. And there are already mentioned things, like jobs, skills, friends and others, that need to be taken care of. And it may not be so obvious at the start, but as you more play this game, and invest more time in your Sim and his family, you get more sucked in. You can easily find yourself saying “just one more thing” to the point, where it is 2 A.M., and you really should go to sleep.
In previous The Sims games your lot with your house and family in it existed separately from the other world. If you wanted to go downtown or hang out with your friends, you needed to go to another lot, or even another location then your neighborhood, both of which were separated by a loading screen. Since in The Sims 2 your Sims stopped being immortal and could die of old age, the fact that you where separated, led to awkward moments in the game, where your Sims would die, but your friends from other lots would not grow old. So you could easily be still friend with your school buddy, where you are few days from death, but he is still high school old. But now, your town co-exists with your lot, so you can just move your in-game camera to a down town lot, and order your Sim to go there, without waiting trough those long loading times. The game streams everything at the same time, and if you are not looking at a lot, it stays in low-res quality. So now you can go and visit your neighbors, and every Sim in the game ages, has a job and has a family at the same time as you do.
A big part of The Sims games always were the customization options available to the player. The Sims 3 makes several improvements here as well. There are a lot of sliders and options for you to mess around as you make your Sims physical appearance. You can even go as far as determining the pitch of your Sims voice. When you choose clothing for your Sim, you are presented with a new feature called “Create-a-style”. You can choose a basic shape of a piece of your outhit and completely change the colors and patterns on it. In Create-a-style the game opens almost the whole library of textures it uses, so your shirt can easily have a brick pattern on it, or look like wallpaper. You can even change the general colors, which allows you to make a complete different looking and unique cloths out of what the game has to offer out of the box. The same feature can be used on walls, floors, pieces of furniture and other thing in your house. It is a robust tool without being too complex, and it allows for customizing your Sim and it house the way you want it to be.
In 2004, The Sims 2 gave different Sims different personalities, so that their behavior and the wishes they would receive would be different from each other. But even if you had the original game and all of it expansion packs, you could choose only from six personalities. That is not a lot, to say the least. The Sims3 improves on this idea, by removing preset personalities and allowing you to make your own for Sims, by giving them five different traits. You have a choice out of more than 50 traits, and they may be all the way good or all the way bad, but some are different shades of gray. So you can be a brave and friendly police officer, who hates the outdoors, is afraid to the death of any technology and has a tendency to forget what exactly he was suppose to be doing next. As you can tell, that is only one of the many, many possible personalities your Sim may have. But probably one of the greatest things about the Sims is that despite the robust editor and all the different traits they may have, that makes them feel a bit more real, they still are Sims. They look and behave little cartoony, and the fact that they only represent a modern society, keeps them out of the whole uncanny valley territory.
Despite all the notes that this game tends to hit right, it still has it flaws. For me, it is the relatively small amount to previous games of object models. Sure, you can customize them the way you want, but there are just not enough things to customize. Maybe I am spoiled after all the expansion packs, and the things they brought for The Sims 1 and 2, but still, a bit more verity would be welcomed. Another bad thing in The Sims 3 is that you can no longer see what is inside in the community lots. In previous installments of the series, when you went shopping, or had dinner at the restaurant, you cloud see the inside of the buildings, and what your Sim was doing. But now you can only enter these buildings, and most of the time you cannot see, what exactly is going on in there. This is also disappointing, since you cannot customize community lots or change their location, as you cloud previously.
To this point everything I have written in my review, was the explanation of The Sims 3 by-the-numbers. I talked about how it works, what are the basic elements of the game, what is new in the game and the good and the bad. And that is how I see it. I play it as a traditional game a possible, trying to achieve as much as I can. Make a lot of money, build a big house, get the top rank in carriers, max out skills…ell you get the idea. But for you, it may be a completely whole different experience. This game is big and wide enough to support different play styles and ideas. Want to bring together different people in one house, and see how they get a long? Go ahead! All those traits will help you in your idea. The structure and designee of the game allows for countless ways you can interact with the Sims. There is even a website, where two homeless Sims with the highest free will setting wander the streets, while the creators of the site blog about their interesting adventures.
As in previous games, The Sims 3 allows players to share their created content with others. It may be crated styles, objects and even Sims. It is all build in to the game and easy to use. And since the game has build in screen and video capture, you can edit your videos in game to make little machinima videos, and upload them to the internet. The game also supports microtransactions, so you can buy new elements of the game via the game launcher.
No game is for everyone. But The Sims 3 can appeal to a big mass of people. It is an obvious improvement over the previous games, should please the fans of the franchise. And if by some reason you were turned off in the past by The Sims, maybe this one will change your mind.