I have been a fan of The Sims franchise for almost 13 years now so it is only natural that I was excited for The Sims 4 when it was announced in May 2013. Following a preview of the game in August, I said that The Sims 4 is “the best Sims game yet” and after playing with the game again I still stand by that comment. The Sims 4, in my opinion, is the best base game so far. It is not a perfect game but the potential is huge.
Create A Sim
As you probably know by now, the new and improved Create A Sim allows you to fine tune your Sims with ease. Sliders are non-existent (except from weight and muscle sliders) as now you edit your Sims by directly pushing and pulling them. There are plenty of pre-set body parts to select from to give you something to work from. The new Create A Sim does take some time to get used to but once you get used to it you’ll find it hard to go back to The Sims 3.
You can create Children, Teens, Young Adults, Adults and Elders in Create A Sim and, of course, customise them to your hearts content. Each life stage has a selection of clothing and pre-set colours/patterns to choose from. The ‘Create A Style Tool’ is no longer present in-game however Maxis do offer a large variety of colours, especially for hairstyles, which is nice. And while toddlers are no longer present at launch, babies are still in-game with more interactions and legs too!
Aspirations have returned to The Sims 4 and give you something to work towards when you play with your Sims. Adults and children have different aspirations they can work towards; you can change them at any time. So if you decide you want to work towards something else, then you now have the option to do that.
Traits have also returned from The Sims 3 and there is a large selection to choose from. Like The Sims 3, they affect your Sims’ behaviour and their emotions. Your Sim can have 3 different traits and completing their aspiration also gives them a new trait. You can not randomise traits but this is because they are more important as they influence your Sims emotions. For example, if you’ve made a romantic Sim then they’re more likely to become flirty.
The genetics tool in Create A Sim is fun to use and you will end up generating Sims who share features with the Sim they’re based off of. You can create a Sims child, sibling or even parent, which is fantastic for storytelling.
Another new feature to come with Create A Sim that I really enjoy using is ‘Styled Looks’. These are updated regularly by Maxis and give you a range of clothing to select for your Sim. If you are like me and want to get through CAS fast or you’re looking for inspiration, then it’s for you.
Create A Sim in The Sims 4 is user friendly, extremely fast and smooth and great fun. From the Create A Sim Demo alone, people have been creating unique Sims and this will continue as Simmers utilise this tool in The Sims 4. However if you’re not a CAS fan I don’t think the new one will get you hooked on it, however I do spend more time creating Sims now.
The Sims 4 launches with two worlds right out of the box – Willow Creek and Oasis Springs. Both of these worlds have different Sims, lots and environments and very detailed (most of the time). The world system has been greatly improved compared to The Sims 3 as you no longer have to exit the current world to load another and lose your progression. They are integrated and you can click and travel between any lot between these worlds, thanks to the addition of loading screens.
The open world is no longer present and it is kind of a mix between Sims 2 and Sims 3. There are quick loading screens, often quicker than Sims 2, and means that we can switch between these worlds and that the active lot is.. well, active. In The Sims 3, the world always felt empty whereas in Sims 4 something is always happening where your Sim is.
The world is divided into 5 separate neighbourhoods and your sim can walk about this area but you must load to enter another lot. Some may view this as a step back however it’s worth it as you no longer have to wait for objects to render, for sims to travel and the game is much smoother as a result. Plenty of Sims from the world will appear wherever you are so you have opportunities to interact with them.
Maxis have also added a secret location to Willow Creek and Oasis Springs which you can discover as you play. Within Willow Creek you need to view the tree at a nearby community space several times and eventually you will gain the interaction to view it’s leaves. This will take you on a text adventure and if you successfully complete it you’ll be on your way to the beautiful Sylvan Glade. Alternatively, once your Sim reaches the level 10 handiness skill they can head to the Desert Bloom Park in Oasis Springs to discover the forgotten grotto. The secret locations are a very rewarding feature of the worlds and stunning to look at.
It is important to note that the worlds are smaller in The Sims 4 and the maximum lot size is 50×50. This means there are only a few free lots to build on (many of which are smaller than 50×50) so some builders may feel a little claustrophobic. I also noted that worlds are very detailed ‘most of the time’…. In some areas you can see that some houses are messily placed around the world to make the world feel larger – maybe a future patch could tweak this so we can’t zoom as far back?
I have always felt intimidated by build mode in previous Sims games. The Sims 4 introduces redesigned, user friendly build tools that makes building much more fun and easier. Rooms are now like blocks which you can pick up and move at any time, meaning that it’s pretty difficult to make a mistake. In previous games if something didn’t go to plan you had to rip apart the house and start over. The fantastic thing about this is that you can pick up rooms – or the entire house – and move it. It’s a fast and smooth process, no waiting about.
Some fan requests have also made their way into the new build mode. You can set the height of walls as short, medium or tall on each floor and even add/remove foundations at any time using a slider. Little details such as roof sculptures, the ability to change the tile colour of individual roof pieces, spandrels and exterior trims tops it all off. But probably the biggest addition that fans have long-awaited is curved fences which I have used so many times when building in-game. These features, among many others, allow players to customise their Sims’ homes even more.
Maxis have also added ‘Stylised Rooms’ which allows you to place down pre-made rooms created by Maxis or player-made rooms from the gallery. This is ideal if you are not a fan of creating interiors and want to get straight into playing with your Sims. Another time saving feature is the ability to search for specific items of furniture or categories, which saves you having to endlessly search through buy mode. I have been using these a lot while playing the game and after spending some time with them you think “how did we manage without these in previous Sims games?”
Pools and terraforming tools are not currently present in the base game and that has sparked some complaints among players, but there is a new fountain tool which is beautiful for landscaping and looks like a pool, so it does the job for now. It would be nice to see some terraforming tools in the future too as all lots are currently flat. Advanced builders may also miss the ‘moveobjects’ and ‘constrain floor elevation’ cheats aswell, but while they’re not currently in the game I’m sure we will see them return in a future patch.
The new build mode has made me extremely interested in building homes in The Sims. I have actually been able to make some ‘decent’ places for my Sims to live and even if I can’t, I can still have a tonne of fun making ugly homes.
Emotions have been spoke about a lot since The Sims 4 was announced and it is one of the biggest game changers for this generation of The Sims. Our Sims’ behaviour is now influenced by their emotional state and this will affect a variety of things such as interactions available, the way they walk, facial expressions and much more. Much like some of the build tools, emotions are something that we’ve been missing for three generations of Sims games.
Sims have ‘Whims’ which can change depending on their current emotion. For example, if your Sim is inspired they may want to go and write something or if they’re flirty they may want to kiss a Sim. I quite enjoy these as they offer short-term gameplay which can be rewarding as fulfilling a whim gives you points.
Emotions are unpredictable and influence all Sims living in the worlds. In the neighbourhood surrounding the active lot, Sims will walk by expressing their emotional state. You may see a Sim walk by who is extremely happy with a bounce in his step or a Sim hunched over with a quivering bottom lip as they’re sad. They can also influence the outcome of a social situation between Sims. If your Sim is sad or angry then they’re less likely to get pregnant when they Try for a Baby, whereas flirty Sims will get the best results.
The work that Maxis put into emotions paid off. They are great fun, despite Sims transitioning between them a little too fast at times, and allow your Sims to express themselves like never before. A phrase we threw around during the EU Preview event was “Sims are now 3D on the inside” and that is true. Prepare for more unexpected situations now that your Sims have emotions.
Sims Are Smarter & Can Multitask
Another huge thing in The Sims 4 is the addition of multitasking! Your Sims are no longer limited to performing one action at a time and as a result you can save time and experience some funny things in-game. I didn’t truly appreciate the multitasking feature until I played with Sims 4 after the game released.
One example of multitasking is that in previous Sims games you would have to watch TV, talk to Sims and use your phone at different times. Whereas in The Sims 4 you can watch TV (perhaps the cooking channel to skill up?), talk to other Sims in the room (increasing your Sims social need) and use the phone (look for a job, browse the web, etc). My Sim went to the bathroom and continued to slurp their drink they made at the bar. These small details make you laugh, smile and, combined with the emotions system, makes your Sims more realistic than in previous games.
Sims are also a lot smarter and aware of their environments, which is one thing I love to death in Sims 4. Routing is a lot better most of the time, Sims can all go up stairs at the same time and they don’t shuffle about for ages before they perform interactions, leaving more time for you to do other things with your Sims.
At times the multitasking system doesn’t go to plan, sometimes my Sims will be too busy “multitasking” that they don’t stop what they’re doing to perform other interactions. However, most of the time, multitasking is a pleasure to have in The Sims 4 and has brought some funny, unexpected moments to my game.
One huge change with The Sims 4 is the new user interface and it is a radical departure from previous Sims games. The UI only takes up a small percentage of the screen and information, such as your Sims’ needs, hides away until you click to view it. You can clearly see that it has been greatly been inspired by SimCity (2013)’s UI.
The traditional blue colour for The Sims has been ditched for a refreshing white, transparent white. At first, I did feel a little overwhelmed and lost with the new user interface as it is completely different to older Sims games. But after a while, once you start learning your way around it, you fall in love with it and so much space is saved for you to see more of the game.
Probably one of the biggest additions to the UI is where your Sims’ emotions display and where the actions queue has been moved to. The Sim will change depending on the emotional state they are in as will the colour behind them to reflect it. I highly recommend trying out the Steelseries accessories as they change colour at the same time as the game.
Music & Sound Effects
I am obsessed with The Sims 1 soundtrack by Jerry Martin and The Sims 2 soundtrack by Mark Mothersbaugh. Sadly I felt that The Sims 3’s soundtrack was weaker in comparison to these.
The Sims 4 soundtrack is composed by Ilan Eshkeri and he was the right person for the job. The soundtrack gets stuck in my head after playing the game and it changes, like in SimCity, depending on what you’re doing. If you zoom into detail mode in Create A Sim then less instruments are used and when you zoom out they return.
In my hands-on preview I mentioned that I found the emotions sound effects irritating. These sound effects have grown on me since playing with the game more and experiencing new emotional states (as different sounds play). But I still believe an option should be present to disable these sound effects if we don’t want them – especially if our Sims keep changing between emotions…
The gallery replaces the web-based exchange that The Sims 3 had and is now integrated into the game itself. This is a robust system that allows you to find new Sims, lots and stylised rooms or upload your own in just a few clicks.
You no longer need to go to the website, open the launcher, download and install all of the files. Instead, you can open the gallery and import something straight into your game or send it straight to the gallery. I’m in love with this feature because I can bring Sims into my household as I’m playing, I can quickly download a house and it’ll be playable in seconds, and I can use custom stylised rooms when I am building or want to extend my house.
There are a few minor limitations that come with the gallery, though. There is no easy way to export houses out of the game and there is no web-based version to view creations if you’re not playing the game. But overall, the gallery is a faster and more efficient system that The Sims 3 exchange.
The Sims 4 is the most beautiful and addictive addition to The Sims franchise to date, despite a few of the ‘missing features’ that were in prior base games (toddlers, pools, create a style). I have been playing the game everyday since release and I don’t see any signs of that changing as I’m having a blast.
The game itself is buttery smooth, thanks to the studio focusing on performance, making the game more accessible to players with lower computer specs and enjoyable. The creation tools have been simplified but are more powerful than in prior Sims games – I have even been spending a lot of time in build mode which I have never really been fussed with in previous games. And finally, emotions and multitasking are huge improvements to how our Sims behave and when I now struggle to play Sims 3 because of this. Sims are aware of their environments, behave better in social situations and emotions add a whole new level of realism (even though they can change a little too often for my liking at times).
I am also pleased to see the return of loading screens as we now have a world thats ‘in between’ The Sims 2 and The Sims 3. A short load now means better performance and active lots, so if we ever get a Nightlife/Late Night expansion we can expect bars to be PACKED as community lots are full of life. This means there are more opportunities for you to meet and interact with other Sims. You can also switch between Willow Creek and Oasis Springs without a long load like in Sims 2 and especially Sims 3.
But as with any game, there are a few minor shortfalls with The Sims 4. The tutorial system is handy if you have never played Sims before but it is very intrusive to a stage where our first Sims 4 tutorial was “How to disable tutorials”. When you are doing things it keeps popping up and sometimes will not go away until you do what it says. I think there needs to be an option present in-game to disable them instead of an Origin command.
In addition, worlds are a little too small at the moment although it has been confirmed that they can be expanded upon in the future. It would be nice to see more empty lots, especially for those who enjoy building.
Overall, I love The Sims 4 and it is the best Sims base game to date. I highly recommend purchasing this game if you are a fan of The Sims or even if you are a newcomer to the franchise. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go and play Sims 4 some more 🙂
As of writing this review, my Origin play time for The Sims 4 stands at 85 hours. You can purchase The Sims 4 in physical format from all good games retailers and digitally from Origin.