Review: Sims 4

I have been a Sims fan since my brother bought me Sims 1.  This new game idea, taking SimCity and zooming into the individual lives.  Maxis did some cool things in Sims 1, and when Sims 2 came out they had taken some of the best, strongest and fan-favorite themes and grew the series.  They kept stretching the bounds of the game through Sims 2, really straining the engine completely. Sims 3 required a new engine because they made it open world.  Yeah, at first it was a little bare, but I was ok to have them add (most) of what they sold in Expansion Packs.  It really allowed you to customize your game – don’t like magic, ok you can avoid the supernatural stuff (more easily).

I like the idea of customizing games and when EA put out a survey talking about whether to keep using Expansion Packs or some kind of subscription -get-what-you-want-from-a-store… I was intrigued they might actually try something new and different.

The first time I saw an actual play-through on Sims 4 I was horrified. Loading screens.  Sims 3 had some loading, but I could play hours – days – without them if I was careful. I hate loading screens. With a passion.  And they sure better be worth it.

So this weekend Origin offered 48 hours of Sims 4 game time.  I downloaded the game on laptop and sat down to play.  I’m going to try to talk generalities – my problems with the game – and only use specifics as examples.  So, long intro over: here is my review of the game.

Engine: 1/5

Specifically, this is running the game – not game play (I’ll address that a little later).  The Sims 3 was a huge leap in engine technology (open world) but had some issues that plagued the game throughout its life. Sims 4 is not only NOT open world, they didn’t add anything to replace that concept easily. I will grant them a 1 because I played Sims 4 on my laptop (granted, a nice laptop I can game on – I play Guild Wars regularly on it) and it only locked up once. They say they wanted to improve the game, make it more accessible to people without big gaming rigs – but they didn’t improve the good stuff they had. They stripped it down so it’s more like Sims 2!  Load screens. UGH.

Character creation: 3/5

I almost gave this a 4 because I do like the new interface (dragging around instead of sliders). but they took out Create A Style (CAS)!! I’m stuck with the colors EA thinks I should play with instead of the palate.  And this is something I know has been in the game since Sims 2- so now we’re talking go back to a Sims 1 game play style!

Building: 3/5

Again, this almost got a 4 because they really did do some much-requested improvements.  I was able to take a set of shelves and “stack” them along the wall instead of everything being the same height.  Rooms are quick and easy to build and edit. But without CAS, my creativity kept hitting some walls (no pun intended) and I’d go “well, I guess I can settle for X” instead of being able to make it perfect.  The lots are very limited and I don’t feel like I have a good handle on what the whole world looks like – what you see in the “neighborhood” map and what’s actually on/around that lot…. there is a lot of disconnect so finding the perfect view and the perfect setting for my sims – impossible.

Simulation: 4/5

This is the big area of improvement, as any long-time player could guess (you know, it’s all the previews ever showed us….).  I don’t think the emotions are THAT huge a jump… but I can see some slight improvement.  And I will grant the developers that multi-tasking was long overdue.  Being able to watch tv, eat and have a conversation… note-worthy improvement. That being said, the traits are really the same, achievements are the same.

I was hoping for traits to be more like traits in Sims 3 Pets – wherein when a pet chooses to use a trait more, they get “stronger” in that trait and they can be “trained” to change traits.  Since there is no in-game-non-cheating method to change traits in Sims 4 – once you set the personality it’s locked. Which means when my woman sim started falling in love with a man with “hates children” trait… the only recourse was to break up with him. He had no chance of changing his attitude and having kids with my sim (until I cheated, but that didn’t seem to have 100% effectiveness).

Overall, Sims 4 is as big a disappointment when I sat down for a “play through” as I expected from the demos, previews, etc.  I was allowed 48 hours to play.  After 10 (between Fri night and Sat morning) I went and loaded up Guild Wars instead to take advantage of double XP weekend.  This morning I went ahead and uninstalled Sims 4. With the first expansion pack due out in a few months, there is no way I want to spend money on this game.