Simsville’s Got Talent.
Many gamers look down upon the Sims games, thinking of it as a money train that so easily tempts cash from the fans with offerings that consist of virtual goodies and the occasional new gameplay mechanic. But what I don’t think that they understand is the sheer joy that comes from a new expansion which builds upon the very core of their little virtual towns, whether it be offering a new town to explore or something as small as a new sofa.
With the previous incarnation of The Sims, I had every single expansion and more downloadable content than my PC knew what to do with. Playing the game was a constant headache as, with all of that extra stuff, the loading times were astronomical on my lacklustre machine. But the point was that I had it all, or at least the majority of it, and I could create families exactly how I wanted and send them away to college, or on holiday, whenever I chose because they were my families, my creations, to do with as I saw fit. To many, this constant attempt to take more of our money through expansions and DLC may seem pointless. But to a fan, it is one step closer to being able to do anything within their little Sim world, and therefore an essential purchase.
But not all expansions are created equally. Whilst I may quite happily spend my cash on a new virtual pot plant that would look rather nice in the two-bed apartment of a young couple I am currently working on, sometimes the money is just not flowing enough and difficult choices must be made. So even though all expansions may well be desirable, sometimes you have to look more objectively and work out exactly how much a new expansion is bringing to the Sim dining table.
Showtime makes a strong case as an essential purchase for a number of reasons, but there are also a few throw-away features that simply won’t bring much to the average Sim fan. The entire expansion is themed around the addition of four new careers: Singer, Acrobat, Magician and DJ. This is a good start as there can never be too many ways for a Sim to make a living, and all of these are interactive careers rather than the type were you just disappear to work for eight hours. Players actively move their Sim through the career progression from a lowly Sing-O-Gram performer to the dizzying heights of pop super-stardom, for example. These are not the only interactive careers available, as others were introduced in previous expansions, such as the interior designer. But they are a welcome addition as they do make the game more involved, if more difficult if you are trying to run a family.
With the new career paths come more skills, traits and wishes, allowing the player to create Sims that will make the most of these new career choices, along with the expected new furnishings, clothes and such. There is also a new town, Starlight Shore, which is the perfect place for any Sim in the pursuit of fame to start out, with a nice collection of clubs for performing in and fancy housing to aspire to.
Those Sim players who are hooked on the social networks will be pleased to hear that the integration of a chat feature, along with FaceBook and Twitter, is added with this expansion. Whilst I guess I can see the benefit of these features, they are not really something I ever felt was missing from the game, and can happily live without them.
Another new function is Simport, which enables the player to send their stardom-seeking Sim to perform in their friends’ towns. On paper, this sounds like a ground-breaking feature that takes us one step closer to the Sim holy grail – Sims with multiplayer (but better than the ill-fated Sims Online). However, in practice the feature is not quite as impressive. You simply pack your Sim off and then wait for them to return. Disappointing it may be, but there are rewards to be had from this function and it still adds one more aspect to the game.
So, the question remains, is The Sims 3 Showtime an essential purchase to the avid Sims fan, especially given these difficult financial times? Well, there is a decent amount of new content and a new town to play with, but the new mechanics are either nothing we haven’t seen before or not particularly exciting. If you are a massive Sim fan who takes advantage of the social networks, then it is quite possible that you cannot live without this expansion. For the other fans, and for those who dabble, this should be a considered purchase and not one that they need to rush out and buy.