Presented by EA GameChangers.
Early access to The Sims 4 StrangerVille was provided by Electronic Arts. All views are my own.
❗ Spoiler Warning ❗
This review has spoilers! If you are looking to complete the story within the StrangerVille game pack without any spoilers then please stop reading now and come back once you have finished the storyline. This review will tell you what happens in the story and what happens at the end!
The Sims 4 StrangerVille, the first game pack in almost a year which was announced earlier in the week, is almost here. Game Packs typically take a particular gameplay theme and deliver this in a smaller package than an expansion pack, and have been quite a good way of exploring new ideas for The Sims team.
StrangerVille is no exception here and is potentially the biggest risk they have taken in a long time with exploring new gameplay avenues without rehashing content we have seen in previous Sims generations. I admire the development team for trying something new, as I feel like this is very important instead of just reusing old ideas again and again. Sometimes this works well, such as Outdoor Retreat, and other times risks can fall flat on their face, like with My First Pet Stuff.
In this game pack, you can live in a brand new world called StrangerVille which has two neighbourhoods with lots, and a third one dedicated to a hidden science facility, where Sims are becoming possessed by something. Your Sim needs to find out what is causing all of the strange occurrences in town by solving the mystery of StrangerVille as you work through the storyline and eventually reach the big conclusion at the end.
Please remember – you are about to see spoilers!!! Please do not scroll further if you are not ready to know what happens in this pack!
When you first move into the world of StrangerVille, you will be made aware that there is something strange going on and will be prompted to start talking to people around town about StrangerVille and what they’ve heard going on. You may also bump into a few people who are a bit… well, strange. This is because they have become possessed, from the new infected trait, and will run around the town and talk about the ‘mother’. You need to be careful, as your Sim can also become infected if they interact with the strange plants found around town – approach with caution! When a Sim is infected, this only lasts for a few hours and they will then return to their normal state, until the next possession that is.
You will find yourself creasing with laughter at how Sims behave in the game when they’re possessed and I love seeing this humour in the game. I always found a flaw back in The Sims 3 days was that it felt too serious, and missed the ‘Maxis humour’ that we find in many Maxis titles. The Sims 4 is better at this but could still hone into some more of the crazy things like older titles did. StrangerVille capitalises on this and brings something different, not realistic and fun to your game which is a nice change from the fairly realistic experiences you get in The Sims 4. I’d like to see more weird and wonderful things sprinkled into packs in the future.
The pack also brings some additional new things to the game, apart from the story, such as the new military career. You can send your Sim to work as usual, or if you wish you can allow them to work from home where they will need to do things like exercising in order to boost their job performance. Of course, this new military attire is something your Sims can wear and show off in CAS.
The story itself is an interesting idea and the game encourages you to walk through it. I did find, however, that it seems difficult to always know what you need to do next. Sometimes you’ll hover over items in your inventory which will suggest what you can do next, other times when you load a lot you’ll finally get a prompt updating you about what is happening in the story. I feel like this system could be much better at guiding the user through the steps, or perhaps provide an item in the UI which allows them to see their progress, as I found this particularly irritating at times.
As you work through the story, you will start to discover the secrets of StrangerVille and reach the finale…
SPOILERS! Last chance to avoid finding out what happens at the end of the story in the pack…
The finale was probably the most entertaining part of this pack as it is essentially a boss battle, which you wouldn’t expect to find in The Sims at all, against the mother plant underneath the science lab. The mother is the one who has been possessing Sims. You will need to recruit two other Sims and attempt to beat defeat her. Once you have done this, you can revive the plant if you wish to play through the story with another family in the future and also select the possession level in the world, which is nice to have.
As you are battling the mother, you can choose various group commands to try and defeat her and minions that appear. It’s fun and interesting to watch although I didn’t feel like my actions had a huge impact on the game and was a little underwhelming to be honest, especially as I feel like the story has been quite hyped up on social media. It’s fun, something VERY different, and you’ll feel satisfied once you have defeated her.
While the story / quest approach is an interesting idea, you may know that I am not a fan of quest or story gameplay in main Sims games. I just don’t feel like The Sims is the place for this as it is a life simulation game where you can do what you want, when you want, with the content you are provided. This pack has no replayability value in my view. You will want to complete the story but won’t feel compelled to play through it again with another family for a long time, if at all, and at times I found it difficult to motivate myself through this gameplay.
I can see myself using the world of StrangerVille in the future for a few families, and playing with the possession gameplay at some point, but I think that will be all that I get out of this pack and I think that is one of its biggest flaws. Perhaps this is just my own opinion but I think a Sims pack should be reusable and I’d be disappointed if future game packs, or expansion packs, followed a similar format to this. Or, if they do, need to balance it with gameplay that you can integrate into your existing games. Now, if this was a spin-off title, like The Sims Medieval was, then I would argue that quest gameplay is completely acceptable. I loved how it all came together in that sequel, and don’t feel like it works the same in The Sims 4 itself.
Overall, The Sims 4 StrangerVille brings something very different to the franchise. A story for you to work through, discover, and solve. Some people may love this as it’s something we have never seen before and I commend The Sims team for making a brave decision to try this. I can see that a lot of thought has gone into the style of the world, the way Sims behave, the story itself and overall gameplay.
In my eyes, however, I did not enjoy this game pack. It has no replayability to make you want to come back and use content from it in the future, which I feel like is a must for any Sims pack, and is a one-trip pony. If you are looking for something that will take you on a completely new experience, and enjoy story-based gameplay, then this is the pack for you. If you prefer having content that integrates into your existing games which you will still be using for months and years to come, then I’d recommend something like Dine Out, Vampires or Outdoor Retreat. While I love how this is a quirky pack which is very different from anything we’ve seen before, and encourage The Sims team to continue exploring new things, unfortunately it isn’t a pack for me.
You can see the final score below.
Presented by EA GameChangers. All views are my own.