Hands on with the latest installment in The Sims franchise.
I’ve spent a great deal of time immersing myself in the life simulation game over the years, and so when I was asked to attend a preview event at EA’s offices in Cologne, Germany as part of Gamescom 2014 week, I was more than a little excited.
The Sims franchise has evolved over the years, with the latest installment being almost unrecognizable from the very first game. This is great because each time a new Sims game comes out, we expect that little bit more for our time and money, and are rarely disappointed. With each new release, be it a major game release, an expansion or a stuff pack, Maxis raises the bar and extends the Sim experience.
Although my time with The Sims 4 was limited, it gave me an insight into what to expect in September. To be honest, I had reservations that the game would just look better and nothing more, but that turned out to be far from the truth.
Beginning the game, you can choose from setting up home in either Willow Creek or Oasis Spring. Don’t panic too much with the choice as you can still travel between them once in the game. The neighborhoods offered a nice selection of properties to invest in and the locations all looked pretty decent. You can then choose the pre-made families that already exist in the game, or jump straight into Create-A-Sim and make your own household. Eventually, I found a property I wanted to purchase and headed into my new abode.
Once settled and comfortable in my beautiful new home, it was time to find a job or career. I’m more of a career orientated person and there was a nice line-up of careers to choose; writer, astronaut, Tech Guru, painter, criminal, culinary, entertainer and secret agent. After looking through a brief synopsis of what each job required of me, and how many Simoleons I could make a day, I decided I wanted to become an astronaut. Becoming an astronaut would mean traveling each day to the Sim Space Academy, where I could pursue studies of space, time and exploration.
For some reason, I expected a car to pull up at the front of my house at the designated time and whisk me off to work. That didn’t seem to happen, and I ended up missing the first day of my new career. Eventually, I realized that I had to click on my Sim, which gave me the option to “go to work”. Not a great start to my career.
Anyhow, not wanting to waste my unscheduled day off, I decided to explore the world outside my window. I wanted to know what this place could offer a new girl in town. Wandering in and out of buildings, I managed to find the Movers and Shakers Gym, which was inhabited by very sweaty and exhausted Sims working out. The place had everything from your standard treadmill and punch bags to free weights. This was as good a place as any to get involved in conversations with the locals.
The main thing that I noticed in The Sims 4 is that everyone wants to talk to you. The interaction between Sims and the multitasking, in which you can carry on conversations while doing something else completely, feels very different to the previous game. As other Sims gather to join your conversation, you can discuss interests, describe new ideas or even start your own preposterous rumor. Your conversation choices will come down a lot to the traits that your Sim has, and whether you want to good or just a little bit evil.
I did begin the game intending to be nice to everyone and enjoy the rewards that good behavior brings. It lasted a little while, but then I had a strange desire to start using a handbuzzer on the surrounding Sims and become a bit of a prankster, gaining a mischief skill. Being mischievous does have its benefits and can change the Sims personality to some extent.
The use of the handbuzzer however, led to Sims being unamused and feeling slightly conned, resulting in a lot of shouting and Sims being damn well disgusted with my behavior. In The Sims 4, the Sims reactions seem really heightened, but much more realistic. It is worth trying lots of things out just to see the reactions. Options for being naughty sound like a lot of fun, such as lying about careers, spreading fake bad news or even inviting Sims to a fake party. But everything will have an effect, so on your head be it!
So I had made some Simoleons at the Sim Space Academy, and was having lots of fun, but dirty plates were piling up at my home and my time was far too precious to waste washing up. Looking through the services available on your phone, you can choose to have a one time maid for forty Simoleons as a starter with an extra twenty on top per hour. I only ordered the maid once as I wasn’t happy about draining my hard earned Simoleons that quickly. She came in while I was at work and made my slightly messy home into a more comfortable abode. I didn’t notice any other services on the phone except for the pizza delivery guy for twenty five simoleons, so maybe I would book him for Friday night.
Once I had saved up enough Simoleons, that didn’t go on take away or other little pleasures, I decided to have myself a little party. The social event planner is divided up between; house party, dinner party, wedding and birthday party, with each costing a hundred Simeolons except the wedding which was a thousand. Once you’ve decided on what sort of party you want, invite some Sims and select a venue. Some parties require you to have some kind of entertainment, so I could choose from mixologist, entertainer or caterer. The party went very well and it was a good chance to form new friendships. However, my new friends did get very distracted by the television and my PC. Occasionally I would wander into the room to find them fully immersed in BlicBoc, which is the Sims interpretation of Tetris and Sims Forever, which is their very own life simulation game.
You may find yourself investing time in discovering new things about your neighbors while reaching certain goals, building skills and unlocking achievements. Your needs are still located in a bar on your right hand corner and clicking the bar enables you to quickly select an interaction. My sim did spend a lot of time drinking energy drinks when her energy levels were dropping, providing a quick boost when needed. The needs of your Sims seem well balanced and you’ll find plenty of time to do the things you need to, whether it’s jumping in the shower for a thoughtful or steamy wash, or running around with your new found need to go jogging everywhere.
The Buy Mode is easily accessible and there is a wide selection of new stuff to purchase for your Sim and their home. In The Sims 4 they also have styled rooms, which are pre-made rooms you can purchase and merge into your game, which was cool. Keep an eye on your Simoleons though, because if you don’t pay your electric bill, they will cut you off, and you know what that means. That’s right, no computer games!
As my time playing The Sims 4 was coming to a close, I decided to have a look in Build Mode and see what I could quickly create. I don’t usually tinker with the building side of The Sims, preferring a pre-made house, so it took some getting used to. I didn’t have time to build an entire house, so just decided to put a bathroom at the end of the garden, just for laughs. Build mode allowed you to place down your room, or entire house, very easily with various paints or terrains. Everything can be resized with a simple touch of a button and you can create some beautiful architecture. You can more or less place windows where you want and move them around at will, although they cannot be stacked on top of each other on the same existing wall. There are loads of objects to be placed in your house, some of which have a grade showing how reliable they are. Some objects are locked down and various achievements need to be obtained for those to be accessible.
The environment is beautiful in The Sims 4, just wandering around watching the trees move in the wind or children nose dive from climbing frames in the park was delightful. Balancing your time between goals and objectives will soon have your Sim reaching all new career heights. Yes, I made it to Module Cleaner!
There are plenty of collectibles to find in the game, by rummaging through bins for a treasure map or wandering in the various garden areas. You can dig for precious gems and send them away to be analyzed.
My short time with The Sims 4 really only scratched the surface of what Sim fans will be able to do in the new game, which is only a couple of weeks away. However, playing the game, I found that the whole interaction between the Sims was more fluid and more varied than ever, and they seem able to do more with their time thanks partly to multitasking. Friendships seem much deeper this time around. However, keep in mind that if you accidentally set fire to your kitchen, Sims will still take their time to fetch the extinguisher or even raise the alarm.
Make your own stories when The Sims 4 arrives in stores on September 5th for PC.