Not until after playing the Sims 4 had I realized just how much fun playing with dolls can be. The Sims 4 is the latest in a series of life simulation games and the reason I can finally move my Barbie dream house out from behind my weight bench.
Developer: Maxis / The Sims Studio
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release: September 2, 2014
The Sims 4 is a game in which you take control of a character (unsurprisingly called a sim) or a family of characters in a household and dictate their entire lives. Each sim has her physical and mental needs, such as the need to eat or sleep or have fun, that you tell them to take care of. Each sim also has her personal desires based off her long-term aspirations or her current mood. These desires include everything from wanting to form a relationship to desperately wanting to jump in a puddle. After taking care of your sim’s needs and getting a handle on her desires, the dollhouse comparison really takes over, because The Sims 4 is a big sandbox game, meaning you get to do whatever it is your little heart desires. You can buy a house, build a house, get a job, get fired, get married, have an affair, set your house on fire, have a kid, you name it.
Actual gameplay is achieved by selecting your sim, then clicking on whatever it is you want your sim to interact with. Multiple choices will appear around the object you click on, and your sim will do whatever choice you select. You can also queue up multiple actions for your sim to complete in relative automation. If left alone, your sim will take care of her basic needs by herself, but often in a way that makes you wonder how hard it could possibly be to not pee on the floor. There’s also been a nice overhaul on how your sims do things compared to previous installments of The Sims. There are many more options associated with each object, especially with other sims. Also, your sim can finally do tasks like cooking while talking at the same time, minimizing those awkward moments of sims waiting for each other to finish playing chess before talking with them.
You can send your sims to several different locations such as the gym, the nightclub, or to a neighbor’s house, but you will have to sit through a loading screen every time you move locations. The worst part about this is that if you are in control of a household with multiple sims, you cannot easily switch between sims if they are at different locations. It becomes a real pain when you want one of your sims to play at the park and another to work out at the gym.
There is no inherent story in The Sims 4. Whatever story your sims play out is more or less dictated by what you want them to do and what you tell them to do. Even so, you never run out of stories about all the crazy stuff yours sims do to annoy your friends with.
Being a dollhouse simulation, it comes to no surprise that the graphics in this game makes everything look like plastic. The sims themselves look very similar to Barbie dolls, and the buildings look very plastic, and that’s not a bad thing. Everything looks bright and cheerful. The animation is often humorously exaggerated, and the sims’ facial expressions are comical and expressive even with the plastic style graphics.
The sims are fully voice-acted with several different voice styles. Just like in the precious installments to the series, the sims speak in a bastardized language called “simlish.” Surprisingly, the semi-constant babbling has never come across as particularly annoying.
The music in The Sims 4 is pretty impressive. When your sims turn on the radio, it plays simlish versions of real life songs played by real life artists. There are multiple genres to force your sims to listen to if you find any particular genre annoying. Your sims can also learn to play instruments, and as they get better, they’ll play real-world music. Meanwhile, the original in game music that plays in the menus and while you’re building or furnishing your home further conform to the bright and cheerful tone of the game as a whole.
Right now, The Sims 4 is available on Origin for $39.99 or $49.99 for the digital deluxe edition. I have the digital deluxe version and have already spent about 35 hours on it, and I can easily see myself sinking plenty of time into it here and there. While there is plenty to have fun with by itself, there is a little less content than its predecessor has, especially if you have a bunch of expansion packs for The Sims 3. If you’re new to The Sims or at least have not invested too much of Sims 3 expansions, I can safely recommend going for The Sims 4. Otherwise, you might be better off waiting for some kind of value pack.
The Sims 4 is a worthy installment to the Sims franchise. The graphics are pretty. The gameplay feels like an overall improvement over the older Sims games. The sound and music is just as good as The Sims has ever been. I’ve always had a soft spot for simulation games, and this one does not disappoint. As always, there are a few things that could have made it a bit better, the ability to switch between sims in different locations being the first that comes to mind. There was an initial outcry about the failure to include swimming pools, but that has since been remedied. Overall, The Sims 4 feels like a real success.
Score: 5 / 5