Throughout the time that I have been writing about video games, I have expressed my love for Sims 3. It is one of my favorite games, and I have probably played it more than most games. Although Sims 4 was a huge let-down for me, I still play a lot of Sims 3. Since it has had such a big impact on me, I have decided to do a belated review of it (the base game only). So here it is, though it’s a bit overdue…
The initial base game for Sims 3 came out on June 2, 2009. It was the third installment of the popular life-simulation game. Sims 3 was developed by The Sims Studio (this was a group that was split off from Maxis) and published by Electronic Arts for PC. The game was a critical and commercial success, gaining mainly positive reviews and selling over ten million copies.
The core aspects of the game play remain: make a Sim (or a family of Sims), control their basic activities, build relationships, establish careers, and create homes. However, there were many changes and improvements to the base game which include the following:
Basic game play
Just as in previous Sims games, the game play itself does not have a definite ending or goal. You play as a Sim or set of Sims until you don’t feel like it anymore. There are mini goals such as certain career or school opportunities, as well as skill-based goals (more on the new skills and careers later). There is a new reward system for accomplishing certain tasks as well. These attribute to a Sim’s overall Lifetime Happiness points, which allows the player to purchase different rewards. Tasks could include something as simple as cooking a meal all the way up to getting a promotion. Players also choose a Lifetime Wish that holds a bunch of points if the Sims achieves it.
The Create a Sim system was significantly updated from Sims 2. The player can customize Sims in a much easier fashion using sliders which adjust for weight, muscle mass, skin tone, and facial customization options. Hairstyles, make-up, and color options were also upgraded. The Advanced Mode feature allows the player to get really in-depth with the amount of Sim customization. Overall, the Sims looks much more realistic than previous Sims games and even include small details such as beauty marks and freckles.
One of the biggest changes was the switch from lot-based game play of the original Sims games to an open world concept. For once, Sims could literally walk out of their house and seemlessly go for a jog around the neighborhood. It was an amazing step in the right direction for the game play because it allowed for the typical Sims-style life simulation of eat, sleep, go to the bathroom to exploration and adventure. Now only that, but the Sims 3 allows for Story Progression, a way for all of the NPCs to get married, advance in their careers, have babies, and move. The open world system also allows for Sims to leave the town with later expansions for visits to other areas (such as in the World Adventures and Into the Future expansions). The open world concept of Sims 3 was a huge leap ahead in game play and really added to the depth of game play.
New skills and careers
Sims 3 added more careers to the base game (and many, many more in the expansions). The main careers range from business to medical to science and anything inbetween. When Sims apply for these jobs, the player can follow them to their place of work in the open world while the Sim goes into a “rabbit hole” for the duration of the work day. Some people apparently hated this concept, but I personally thought that it was much better than the Sim disappearing off of the map entirely.
Along with new careers, there are also a slew of new skills to go with them. Some of the new skills include painting, guitar, charisma, handiness, athletics, gardening, writing, and so on. Each skill compliments a career, so the higher a Sim is at a skill, the better of he or she will perform at the career. The skills themselves have mini-goals that are based in a Skill Journal. There are challenges presented for each skill that include special perks if completed. For example, on the charisma skill, there is a “Celebrity” goal. When a Sim knows twenty-five other Sims, they will hit the goal and earn a large starting bonus in any relationship of any other Sims met afterward. The skill challenges are a great way to really get into a game that doesn’t have actual set goals or an end game. As a completionist, I have found myself obsessed with trying to get all of the achievements for each skill.
Advanced lots and world building tools
Although Sims 2 did allow you to add and modify different lots and venues, Sims 3 takes it to a whole different level. Anything on the map can be changed or modified to allow for complete customization of the game play experience. You can change businesses, houses, add parks, or do whatever. With the open world style with no loading screens, it really feels like a custom city when you go through the “Edit Town” feature.
As well as editing existing towns and cities, EA also included a Creat a World tool, which allows players to create their own custom worlds. It was a really neat idea that allowed those really creative players to make the game their own. Players could also share their worlds (as well as any other content they created) with other players online.
Just like with any other PC game, the graphics really depend on the type of PC you are playing on. I’ve played Sims 3 on a laptop with a low-end graphics card up to a heavy-duty gaming PC, so I know the span of what the game is capable of. On low settings, the game will look tolerable, but at this point, the game might start to show its age. On maxed out settings, I personally believe that the game looks amazing. Sims 4 is very cartoonish with its graphics, and Maxis didn’t focus on them to make the game more accessible to everyone. Due to this, I believe that Sims 3 maxed out competes with Sims 4, which is why I don’t have an issue playing Sims 3 instead of Sims 4.
Although I am mostly positive about Sims 3, I will call the game out on one of its detractors: the game engine. Although I did say that I would only talk about the base game, I did want to give a warning out to anyone wanting to purchase more expansions on top of it. The game engine is fine for the base game. It runs well. It’s fine for a couple of expansions. But once you start adding a handful of expansions onto the base game, the game engine just cannot handle it. EA and Maxis pushed the game beyond what it could reasonably handle. I have every add-on available with my game, and it can be frustrating since it is so glitchy. However, for the purposes of this review, since I am only looking at the base game, this was never an issue with just the Sims 3 installed.
I do love Sims 3. It is one of my go-to games, even at its age. If you are looking to get into the Sims franchise, you may do better with getting 3 then 4 (if your PC supports it both with stats and operating system). There are some issues with Sims 3—mainly with the game engine—but overall, it is a solid addition to the franchise that adds a lot to the typical, mundane game play of the previous Sims games.