It’s been over five years since Sims 3 came out, and many fans of the Sims franchise have been very excited about Sims 4. Although it wasn’t quite the gem that I was expecting, Sims 4 still has its merits.
Sims 4 was released on September 2 for Windows-based computers only. It is basically a life simulation game that was developed by Maxis and The Sims Studio and was published by EA. The Sims, like games like Minecraft, is a game that some people love and obsess over and some people “just plain don’t get.” Despite this, the Sims franchise itself has been hugely popular; however, has had some criticism in recent years of nickel and diming players with bunches of add-ons and expansions. Compared to its predecessor, Sims 3, there are very specific gaming elements that were improved upon and there are also very specific things that were not so good.
The first major improvement of the game was the slick new Create a Sim system, which is the way a player creates his or her Sim and Sim family. This is actually one of the best improvements from Sims 3 to Sims 4. It is quite obvious that Maxis really spent a lot of time into this part of the game: it runs extremely well and is very easy to use. Plus, you end up with a Sim very close to what you wanted. The sliders of Sims 3 have been replaced with clicking on and manipulating body parts. To make adjustments to the body part that you want, click on it and move it around to the desired size and location. It ends up being very easy for you to create a very customized Sim. For those who aren’t great manipulating body parts, there are pre-set Sims that you can choose from as well. There was also a nice selection of clothing and outfits to choose from, and they were easily sorted by types (something very different from Sims 3). The only downside to the new Create a Sim is that the player is limited on hair, eye, and clothing colors because of a Create a Style system (more on this later). I’m hoping that more options are added later in a patch or expansion.
Create a Sim is by far the best updated feature for Sims 4. In this aspect, it blows Sims 3 out of the water.
The second improvement was the addition of The Gallery, an online sharing community. Sims 3 touted The Exchange, a similar online sharing concept. The problem with it, though, was that to get any shared content from other players, one would have to log into The Exchange from a web browser, selection what you want, download it, install it, and then boot up the game. This was very tedious. Sims 4 fixes this because it is all in-game sharing. All a player has to do is click on The Gallery icon in game, and this automatically shows up while you are still playing. You can place Gallery items on lots on the fly very easily which is a nice bonus. Sharing your own Sims and lots is also just as easy.
You are only one click away from browsing through what others have shared.
Another improvement is the overall performance of Sims 4. For those who have played Sims 3 with all of the expansions, the game engine got really bogged down. Although this might also happen to Sims 4 in the future, the base game is very stable (then again, so was Sims 3). The real improvement is the fact that Sims 4 runs pretty well on computers that are not high-end. I’m not sure if I would run the game on the minimum requirements, but the game handled by laptop, which is not a gaming PC, without any issues. Sure, the graphics were automatically toned down quite a bit, but the overall game ran great without any hiccups. Just for reference, if you’d like to do a comparison to how Sims 4 might run on your PC: I am using an HP Pavilion dv6 Notebook with an AMD A6-34200M with an integrated graphics card and six GB of memory. Though I have not had the time to try the game on my actually gaming PC, I was impressed with how the game handled on my laptop. However, with my experience with Sims 3, I am concerned about how Sims 4 will run with multiple expansions added to it.
The graphics are toned down quite a bit on a lower end up, but the game play actually is very smooth as long as the minimum PC requirements are met.
The fourth enhancement to the game was the addition of new and better Sim interactions. This is what Maxis really concentrated on, and overall, they did a pretty good job. “Emotions” were a new addition to Sims 4, which can add some interesting outcomes, though I think they were a bit overrated for as much as they were touted. The Sim interactions were much more interesting, especially since it was a common complaint in Sims 3 that the open world led to less interactions between your Sims and NPC Sims. Because Sims 4 is not really open world, this issue has been fixed. It is very easy to find other Sims and hang out with them. Though open world is lost, it is very fun to talk to multiple Sims at once, which is another new addition to the game.
Although you lose the open world feel, it is easy to find and meet new Sims. I was able to find this Sim within seconds of starting a new game.
The last major improvement in game play is the ability to have Sims multi-task, which is a new thing for the franchise. In previous Sims games, a Sim could only do one thing at a time. In Sims 4, a player can make his or her Sim to multiple things at once. This element adds some interesting game play to the mix. For example, I had my Sim reading a book. When I saw the bladder meter go down, I had my Sim use the toilet. I was delighted to see that my Sim took the book to the toilet and continue reading on it, much to my amusement. This ability to multitask has made the game play a bit more fresh, though the novelty may wear off after a bit.
Sims are no longer forced to do one thing at a time.
With all of these improvements, it at first glance seems as if Sims 4 can do no wrong. Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad with the good, especially if you are a die-hard Sim 3 player. One of the biggest disappointments for Sims 4 is the fact that the open world concept of Sims 4 was nixed for a world of segmented “neighbordhoods.” The open world of Sims 3 was a revolutionary part of the franchise that really took the Sims to a new level. I tried to keep an open mind and thought that if it was done right, neighborhoods might not be so bad. Unfortunately, the neighborhoods concept in Sims 4 are not that great. The six sections of each neighborhood do not feel connected, and you have to use your Sim’s phone to get anywhere. The loading screens didn’t bother me that much, but I was hoping that you could walk or jog from one neighborhood to another (unless there is something that I haven’t figure out yet). The Sims 4 “world” is not that large, either. There are technically two worlds that come with the base game, but there are only actually six neighborhoods for each world, and there’s not that much to each neighborhood.
This is the neighborhood selection screen for Sims 4. As you can see, your options are limited for places to go.
Another Sims 4 disappointment was the lot building system, which was supposed to be a major improvement from Sims 3 to Sims 4. Overall, the building system was actually a disappointment. It is indeed pretty easy to make corrections and add rooms on the fly, but it actually takes longer to build anything overall when compared to Sims 3. This is mostly due to the crazy camera angles that the game forces you to look through. I even spent extra time trying to play around to see if I could get the angles any better, but I still haven’t found any style that I like. I am hoping that this eventually gets fixed in a patch or update. I was also very disappointed to see that the current lot size limit is 50×50 residential lots for Sims 4, which makes it hard to create massive mansions (large for Sims 3 is 60×60 or 64×64).
This is not my idea of a McMansion, but this is apparently as large as residential lots get so far in Sims 4.
The third disappointment is the lack of entertainment options for Sims in the Sims 4. I do understand that you are purchasing a base game when you get Sims 4, but I really was expecting a bit more, especially after getting it for a “next-gen” price tag. There are no swimming pools, cars, or a large open world to explore, so that game can get a bit boring at times. There are some interesting skills that have been added for the game, but overall, I found that this aspect of the game was lacking. The game might pick up a bit when expansions start getting added, but it really shouldn’t take a bunch of expansions to make the game fun.
Oh, I do miss cars and wandering around the open world of Sims 3. Sims 4 entertainment options for Sims seems a bit lacking in comparison. (Photo of Sims 3 game play)
Another Sims 3 gaming element that Sims 4 left out was the Create a Style system. This system was a unique way for players to customize pretty much anything in the game. Maxis ditched this element for a set of pre-selected colors that you can choose from for clothing or home building/decorating. Unfortunately, the pre-selected colors weren’t that great. I had a hard time creating the house I wanted from what they gave me. It felt like a lot of “basic” colors were not included in the pre-selected ones, such as white. This made creating a custom home very tedious, and I never quite ended up with what I wanted.
Sure you have a lot of colors to choose from in the pre-selected colors of Sims 4, but sometimes getting a basic color like white is almost impossible.
Lastly, I was disappointed to see how Maxis went with the Sim careers this time. There are some interesting careers in Sims 4, but it really doesn’t matter because you don’t really to get see them at work or interact with work that much. Sims 4 works a lot of Sims 2 with jobs: when it’s time for work, you leave the lot and disappear for awhile. There’s not even an animated carpool or anything; you just run off of the lot. It’s a really annoying and disappointing aspect to the game that I hope eventually gets patched. When Sims 3 came out, some people complained about the “rabbit holes” (where a Sim would disappear into a building and come out when they were done). What they actually wanted was to be able to see and control their Sims at all times. What we got in Sims 4 is the elimination of rabbit holes for Sims disappearing off of the map altogether. This does not solve the rabbit hole issue, but it does actually make things worse.
What’s the point of these fun careers if your Sim disappears during the workday?
Overall, the Sims 4 is a stable, solid game that has a lot of great elements. If you are a fan of the franchise, you will probably like it. However, it does have a lot of issues in which I hope get resolved in the future.