Better Than Life: The Sims Revisited

Becky has a design for life and revisits The Sims ahead of the latest release.

With the new Sims 4 due to be released on September 2nd, I decided to dig out my varying expansion packs and Sims 3 disc and politely beg my partner to install the lot onto his PC (a laptop can only handle so much). The Sims is one of those games where, even if you love it or you hate it, you know what it is, what you can do on there, and probably appreciate an element of charm to it. There’s no storyline, owing to the fact that you are essentially acting as God and have created your Sim to do what they do in their life, the mechanics of the game are simple enough to grasp (admittedly, I am using the PC version and not an app), so a lot of it is a matter of pointing and clicking. And as for the graphics, while Sims 3 is a bit more of a step up from the previous instalment, Sims 4 looks to be better still! There we go, then, a basic review of the franchise in one short paragraph…

Not quite. My retrospective is a bit of a weird one in the sense that, we all have our own opinions on the game as it has been out for quite some time now, and it is very hard to find someone who has yet to play it. If you’re anything like me, I love The Sims because of its simplicity. Yes, I love the challenges games like Assassin’s Creed or the Batman Arkhams of the world can offer me, but for a zone-out title, there is no better option. As an example, the day after The Sims 3 and all the expansion packs were installed (I was told this took up to and a little over two hours), I clocked up a total of nine hours in one sitting. In that nine hours, I managed to make one Sim become level five in their military career, and created another SIM and made her level four in business. I also adopted a Shiba Inu called Jojo who likes to bark at nothing in particular. Suffice it to say, these creations (apart from the dog) are all succeeding and doing far better in life than I am right now, sat in a dressing gown at half-five in the evening writing a review.

I think personally, and please correct me if I’m wrong, that it is the concept of creating something and seeing it grow successfully which has helped this game develop such popularity. You can create anyone, from yourself to your favourite movie stars/musicians/celebrities, you name it! You have full control on whether they live successfully or not, usually succumbing to a terrible fate involving a fire after trying to bake waffles with little to no knowledge of cooking. There’s also the amusement you gain in seeing your Sim celebrate and laugh-out-loud at the tiniest things, usually unknown to you and everyone else in the game apart from your character. And then, you have the expansion packs themselves which add just that little be more intrigue to what the game can offer. As it stands, I currently have *intake of breath*: Seasons, University, World Adventures, Fast Lane, Indoor Living Stuff, Pets, Supernatural, Careers, and Outdoor Living Stuff. Purely for the sake of my not willing to own up to the possibility of more money than sense, I dare not work out how much in total I have spent on expanding this particular title, but each of these packs have provided elements of entertainment… apart from University. It didn’t do anything for me, though that may have been due to me studying in university at the time. The thought of obtaining a degree in the space of three days seems a little too farfetched… especially when your Sim is a vampire and works full-time in a medical career…

The great thing about The Sims franchise, though, is that it hasn’t just stopped with the likes of Sims 1, 2, 3 and the soon to be released 4. Developers have clocked onto the fact that not everyone likes this kind of simplicity in a game, and would prefer more of a challenge. So you get Sim City, in which you build up your own metropolis and watch the entire thing progress, making you take into account all the needs of every single Sim in your city. You have to consider the water supply, electronics, waste disposal (don’t even get me started on that one), garbage trucks, emergency services etc, etc. Still not good enough? Fair enough, what about a game that offers certain challenges and a change from the bog-standard modern and contemporary Sims release? Welcome to Sims: Medieval or Pirates.  Here, you are met with the chance to create your Sim as a medieval monarch and you can choose whether you’re lenient with your peasants or a ruthless tyrant. You are provided with challenges which help to upgrade your kingdom and add new buildings, new services and new Sims with specific jobs. The challenges are not limited to one Sim either; you can have a monarch challenge, a blacksmith challenge, a wizard challenge… the list is endless. Not to mention, the outfits provided take into account the medieval or (if you have the expansion pack) the stereotypical piratical look suited for period.

Sadly, not all games developed on the idea of a Sims population have been successful. I need only mention The Urbz: Sims in the City. Specifically designed for the Game Boy Advance, it had a fair amount of potential, but there was definitely something lacking in it for me. I remember playing it in my late teens, and while I could appreciate the concept, I could not help but feel that it was basically The Sims with a different name. And a name that tries to make itself sound like it’s “in with the crowd” which, I suppose, was the general concept of The Urbz. You picked whether you wanted to be a goth, a punk, a rocker, a hippy, oa a street dancer. You had to do all you could to fit in or you were ignored. Story of my school life right there! If I’m honest, I don’t think I’m the only one who thought that, and I suppose that’s why I rarely see any Urbz games on the shelf in retail stores (unless it’s in the severely-reduced section or pre-owned).

So, to conclude, if you want a game that’s mind-numbingly simple yet highly addictive, where you can create your own character and establish where they go in life, or a game where you develop your own city and watch that grow from nothing to skyscraping heights, then The Sims franchise and all of its offshoots and clones, is definitely something for you to look into! Unless, of course, you prefer the idea of fitting into a niche and doing your best to be sheeplike, conforming to the norms and values of a culture you feel you belong to… refusing to be original in any way, shape or form… in which case, I would highly recommend The Urbz on Game Boy Advance.

Some fun facts which I’ve found out since playing the game:

  • Add “ambitious” as a trait to your Sim and they are far more likely to get a promotion in the space of a day rather than a couple of days.
  • Add “bookworm” as a trait and your Sim speeds through a book like it’s no-one’s business.
  • In Sim City, ensure that you keep on top of the waste disposal technology – if one area of your map starts turning brown and people start falling sick (like my first city, oops!), then you need to upgrade ASAP before you spark a bit of an uproar!
  • Linking in with the waste disposal in Sim City, should you find that the ground is in fact completely brown and covered in *ahem* faeces, cover the plot with trees; they absorb the ground pollution over time and help to ease the Sim’s upsets.
  • If you’re wanting your Sim to lose weight quickly, make them do a cardio exercise in front of a TV which, in Sim world, takes next to no time to become a slimmed-down model. (Not overly sure if this last point is a good notion for The Sims to promote.)

Becky Lenton

Recent graduate from an English degree, Becky has taken to putting her writing skills to good use. Writing game reviews, she hopes to one day get into the gaming industry. When that day will be however, no one knows.

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