The Sims 4

Two steps forward, two steps back…
The Sims started out as an ambitious project many years ago, and the franchise has never had to look back since. Sure, it may not be the biggest seller on the planet, but there are those out there that ardently rabidly, even follow the series and purchase every single new expansion and stuff pack, to make the lives of their virtual families more… well, more everything.

So it’s hardly a surprise that Maxis has released yet another version of the Sims. It’s the pattern. Release the main game, follow up with a bunch of expansions, and then reset the whole lot with a newer version of the title. And this time round it feels more like a reset than ever before. The Sims 3 did, too, because the Sims 2 had grown massive by the end of its run. But the Sims 4 feels like they have taken all of our cool toys away.

Not that it isn’t a cool game. With improved graphics and smarter Sims, it really is a great game to look at and experience. The Sims themselves have much more personality, and controlling them requires much less micromanagement. In fact, their ability to multitask effectively makes it much easier to keep their moods up.

They socialise while eating or working out, for example, and things like that make a big difference.Two things that truly stand out in the Sims 4 are the creation tools and the new emotion system that has been employed.

In the first case, whether building a house or creating a Sim, the player has a lot more control (particularly over Sims). All kinds of faces and body types and be made, and the player will be able to happily tweak for hours with a massively intuitive toolset that determines everything from physical dimensions that are much more natural, right through to the style of the character’s walk.

The emotion system supplants a few earlier game dynamics, and Sims will get into moods based on the gratification of their limited aspirations and traits (there are fewer than before, sadly). Feeding these emotional states results in better moods and easier management of the Sims in general, which is a great touch.

Sadly, though, The Sims 4 really has stripped away a lot of what could be done in the Sims 3. Sure, the likely expansions will sort these things out, but the transition to Sims 4 is jarring. The neighbourhoods, for example, are tiny, and options for clothing and furnishings are much more limited. It’s happened before, but this time it feels like a bigger pruning.

In short, The Sims 4 has all the potential to be the best Sims title ever, but it requires a bit of work to get there; that potential is only a glimmer at this point. There are plenty of reasons to try the game out, and even invest numerous hours in to it; the characters themselves, despite living in a world that is almost barren in comparison to earlier versions, are as endearing as ever. But be warned that you will likely feel as though you’re taking not just one step back, but several, when you leap onto The Sims 4’s bandwagon. It’s going to leave you delighted in some aspects, and disappointed in others.

Perhaps Maxis have intentionally put these restrictions in place to ensure that they have lots of room for the numerous expansions that we will see for this title. Whatever the case may be, The Sims 4 will only achieve its full greatness after one or two of them have arrived.

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