The Sims 3 Review: The Land of the Green Diamonds Continues

June 14, 2009 § Leave a comment

It was always going to be troublesome making a sequel to a game with eight expansion packs. The Sims 2 now lies as a bloated beast, full of features incrementally added throughout the years in small £20 packages, but unbelievably its long overdue sequel The Sims 3 doesn’t feel the least bit castrated. The same winning formula has been carried over, the fat trimmed, the remains toned, and what remains is something that is as engrossing as ever.

The Sims 3, like its predecessors, is not a hard game to understand. You take control of ‘Sims’ virtual people who must be guided through their life, their jobs, their relationships, and as always, their trips to the bathroom. Chances are though, with the massive success of the franchise, you already knew that, just like you know that it’s never as simple as letting your Sim’s life simply run its course, that the game is much more intriguing than it would initially seem.

As always, the Create-a-Sim mode is your first port of call when starting a game, and typically it’s more powerful than ever before. Not content with just giving you control over every curve of the body, the editor now supports the ‘Traits’ system, whereby instead of choosing an amount of points to coincide with your Sim’s personality you instead pick five traits to define them. These range from the useful (ambitious, brave, lucky) to the destructive (evil, slob) to the seemingly aesthetic (excitable, evil) but this emphasis on personality extremes rather than a sliding scale makes for a game which is much more interesting to watch. With no limitations on how many ‘good’ traits a player can choose the temptation exists to game the system by choosing the most useful traits for each Sim, but by doing so the player will miss out on some of the game’s most amusing features.

With such a robust character creation system its a shame that you hardly ever get to see it. Unlike in The Sims 2 where you took control of an entire neighbourhood, The Sims 3 will see you take control of just one family, and any additional households you make must be played in an entirely different game save. This change allows for every person in your town to grow old at the same rate as your Sims (so you’ll never be faced with the awkward situation of out-growing your teenage heartthrob) but also means that you only ever experience the game from one viewpoint – there’s no hopping out to check out how that family across the street lives – which leads to less variety in the game, unless of course you’re willing to have multiple save games.

As much as I’d like to say The Sims 3 is a completely new game, that simply isn’t the case. Instead what I can say is that whilst every major mechanic from the previous game exists here in some capacity, nearly all have received some sort of tweaking. Career progression for example is no longer completely binary. Whereas before you’d have to have 3 friends and a logic skill of 5 to get a promotion, now you’ll progress up the career ladder for simply going to work for long enough. There still exists an incentive to get these skill points, as doing so will get you promoted much quicker, but this removes the much of the stress involved with trying to reach the top of a career track, leaving you free to explore the entire town without a load screen in sight.

This relaxing of the requirements needed for promotion, as well as the decreased emphasis on keeping your needs met, allows a much greater level of involvement with the world created. There are exotic ingredients to grow, challenges to complete, and a huge range of skills to learn, all of which means your much more likely to spend your playtime cooking hot dogs for your neighbours in the town square rather than making sure your Sim doesn’t take a wizz in the shrubs. There’s more stuff to do than there’s ever been before, and the game is careful to remind you that it’s all possible.

The game does have some rough edges. Sims will warp in and out of vehicles rather than opening the door, which makes having that expensive car in your driveway much less cool than it could otherwise be, and the absence of any form of cutscene for important points in a Sim’s life diminishes what importance they hold. Part of me however, wants to look at these shortcomings and forgive them when there’s so much content in the game. Less forgivable is the small amount of customisation options for certain items such as hairstyles, which starts to rub off badly on EA when the Sims 3 site is full of additional items that can be downloaded for a charge, available from day one.

If you’ve read this far, then I can at least assume The Sims mildly interests you. The Sims 3 removes most of what made the previous games boring to the non-fan, and adds enough new stuff to make it worthwhile abandoning those old expansion packs. Of course if you always hated the entire idea of the Sims then your choice here should be a no-brainer, it is after all, still The Sims.

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