Game Review: The Sims 4

Game Review: The Sims 4 - Sim interactions & relationships are very much improved.

When a company comes out with a follow-up game to an incredibly popular, long-standing series like The Sims, there’s always the risk (and arguably the reality) that they won’t be able to please everyone. In fact, there’s a very big chance that they won’t end up pleasing anyone. Luckily, that doesn’t seem like it was entirely the case with The Sims 4.

I’m a long-standing fan of the series, and have been playing ever since getting my first computer as a preteen. I owned nearly all of the expansions, and invested countless hours into Sims legacies, often documenting them on various community sites for other people’s (and my own) entertainment. So, when The Sims 4 was announced it seemed like a no-brainer that I’d pick it up and continue where its predecessor left off. Except…there was a lot of content missing from the most recent game in the series. Among some of the most shocking of these missing features are swimming pools, toddlers, and a lack of open world to name but a few.

However, I picked it up all the same and gave it a try, and frankly I’m really glad I did. A lot of the changes they’ve made have been vast improvements, such as their self-proclaimed “smarter Sims”. It’s now easier to see what’s on your Sim’s mind, what they want, and how they’re feeling. This also directly influences your Sim’s personality; if your Sim is in a bad mood, that’ll be reflected in the actions they take. Angry? Maybe your Sim will take that out on their little brother, or in my case, on the giant teddy bear upstairs in your little brother’s bedroom. Your Sims also have goals, not just one single aspiration, giving a lot more options for development of a character. This isn’t even scratching the surface; there’s a lot of new career options including professional gaming and livestreaming, games development, and a more dedicated author career path.

Game Review: The Sims 4 - Building has been made a lot smoother, with emphasis on making it easier.

Building is also a lot smoother. I don’t personally use the room-building method — which allows the player to modularly build their house by slotting in rooms one at a time — but it’s definitely made things a lot easier on people who aren’t comfortable with normal building in the game. I’ve found myself inspired to make prettier houses all over again, whereas by the time I’d reached the third game I was bored and using the same style of house over and over.

There’s no doubt that when it comes to the player’s Sims themselves, though, they’re the focus of the new game. The character development and relationship options are much more realistic, the facial expressions making the characters seem more approachable and lifelike (without bordering on Uncanny Valley!), and the social interactions far more fleshed out than they’ve ever been at all ages.

Game Review: The Sims 4 - Missing features & bugs can get frustrating.

That doesn’t mean that The Sims 4 is perfect. The missing features do get to you after a while. Most of them are unimportant: I don’t really miss swimming pools (except for the chance to kill unwanted Sims off easily…), and toddlers were an annoyance to me more than anything. But things like the lack of open world do get frustrating, and I can’t fathom why so many careers are missing. Since I’m playing a sort of legacy, it’s bothersome that there’s no particularly expensive, large lot to waste all my money on, and that babies are just objects that can’t be moved from their bassinet. They’re also incredibly annoying!

I also didn’t like some of the changes they made that were meant to be improvements, such as only having three traits to begin with and having to unlock more traits as you play. That sounds like a great idea, but I’ve been playing the same family for over 20 hours and none of my Sims have unlocked additional traits yet. They haven’t got enough lifetime achievement points to do so! That makes me wonder how it’s possible with a normal Sim lifespan, as I currently have it set to “Long” just to make sure I achieve everything I want to.

Some of the lacking or “crippled” features do make it feel like the game took a massive step back, sometimes back as far as The Sims 1 if you remember the babies there. I’ve also encountered quite a few bugs, such as my recurring maid never showing up unless I exit the game and restart, in which case she apparently “showed up” while I was gone, but she still hasn’t actually cleaned anything. The game is meant to be pretty stable, but first of all, I’ve had several crash-to-desktops that have resulted in several hours of lost gameplay, and secondly it only utilises 4GB of RAM as it’s a 32-bit executable.

All in all, the game is fun, and I’m glad that I picked it up. But frankly, I’m more glad that I got it for a reduced price from a third-party retailer. As much as I love The Sims and am enjoying its fourth installment, I don’t think it’s worth shelling out the €60+ for it through Origin. Maybe if they fix a few of the issues and implement a few more features without them being DLCs, but otherwise I’d suggest waiting to pick it up from somewhere on sale if you’re interested in playing it. Otherwise, you can watch me streaming The Sims 4 on my Twitch.tv channel beforehand, if you’d like to see what it’s like before you buy.

Game Review: The Sims 4 - I'd recommend picking it up, but not for the current price tag.

Life Lately (15/09/2014)

I apologise for the lack of posts lately, once again! Things got quite a bit busier over the last few weeks and it’s been hard to sit myself down still long enough to catch up on posts. I know I say that a lot, but honestly, I travelled to LA in July and a week later to Germany for gamescom, followed by two extremely busy weeks at work and yet another business trip! I’m just now recovering from all the travel.

I’ve been picking up on my stream schedule as well, streaming at least two or three times a week which is fun! I’ve been getting very much back into it, which has been great because I really missed talking to people while I played games and this gives me a great opportunity to do so.

Due to all my travel, I completely failed at Blaugust, so I apologise to all of my fellow bloggers who were taking part! I wanted to do so much with it, so I hope we’ll have more opportunities to do blogging events that will help with the gaming blog community. I did meet some great games bloggers through it, however, which has been a real treat!

Gaming wise, I’ve been playing an inordinate amount of The Sims 4, and I promise to write up a review here over the next few days! I’ve also been playing Final Fantasy XIV, with a focus on levelling the classes I need for cross-class actions, practicing T5 with my FC, and farming for my atma weapon. All in all, I’ve had a lot to keep me busy, and I’ve been neglecting this place a little too much.

I hope everyone has kept well! Thank you for putting up with my sporadic posting.

First Impressions: Banished

First Impressions: Banished - The fun part of RTS games, city-building!

I’ve heard a lot of interesting things about Banished in the last two weeks, with people recommending it and others crying in frustration at their village being destroyed by a tornado. I knew I had to check it out, and I was only too pleased that it wasn’t an Early Access game; even if it’s just a perception the Early Access phenomenon really bothers me.

I wouldn’t say the game is especially pretty, but its aesthetic fits what it’s trying to do, and it’s extremely impressive that it was all created by one developer. The premise is that you have a group of exiled people who now have to rebuild their life. Think somewhere between Sim City, Age of Empires and Black & White (but without the pet). It’s actually a lot of fun, and I’ve been able to throw 10 hours at it without really noticing. I have just finally stopped starving my citizens, something I feel pretty proud about.

The struggles you’ll face are what you’d expect: starvation, freezing, disease, and natural disasters for example. Most of these can be easily combated by collecting food to store for the winter, gathering logs and changing them into firewood, building hospitals etc. However for a long time I seemed to be perpetually terrible at feeding my people! It’s hard to manage your population as if you build too many houses, your population will slowly expand, and if you don’t have the resources to support that growth your people will start dying. Luckily, Gatherers seem to be an insanely good early game food production method, so I’ve been able to start off a new town and grow to 50+ adults (plus students and children) with pretty steady growth.

All in all, though, it’s a great game for someone like me, who enjoys the building and resource gathering phases of an RTS, but not the micro-managing aspects of army-building and invading my enemies. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys building and resource simulations, it’s a lot of fun and not too badly priced! Pick up Banished for €18.99 on Steam now.