Like previous games in the franchise, The Sims 4 is an electronic dollhouse. Players are allowed to create tons of characters, each with unique physical appearances and personality. It is a long standing franchise, one that nearly everyone is familiar with. Every few years, a Sims game is released, and then a multitude of expansions and “stuff packs” are sold in the years thereafter. With each release of The Sims, the world is reset, visuals are updated, game mechanics are changed, interfaces are modified, and consumers are left with the decision to move to the new version of The Sims and start over or to keep playing their current version with all the characters, cars, clothes, houses, pets, and everything else they have come to know and love.
As mentioned above, The Sims 4 is a reset to the basic game, one that developer Maxis will improve upon through a number of expansions. At this point, it is expected that The Sims 4 will be missing some of the bells and whistles players have become accustomed to through the expansion packs. The unfortunate thing about The Sims 4 is the fact that the game seems to be missing some of what made the basic The Sims 3 game worthwhile. One of the major features of The Sims 3 was its open world, Sims could not only come and go as they pleased in their own lots, but they could explore the city with ease and everything felt open and available to them. The Sims 4 has removed the open world aspect and segmented portions of the town into lots. Sims can move between these lots dynamically, but going to another lot requires players to wait through a loading screen. Additionally, car and bike transportation are essentially missing as you no longer watch your sims travel from one part of town to the other; you just wait for the next area to load. These changes not only feel like limitations, but it makes The Sims 4 feel like it should be named The Sims 2.5.
That being said, The Sims 4 is still a good game in its own right, and it does make some noticeable improvement to the typical sim experience. The majority of these improvements are in ease-of-use. Moving your sims around a lot and making sure their needs such as eating, sleeping, and being social are met is much easier to manage due to changes in the user interface. Maybe more importantly, making your characters in Create-a-Sim has never been so great; creating a real life representation of yourself or someone else is quick and easy, due to the fact that you can simply use your mouse to click and drag body parts and facial features to their desired size. The Buy and Build modes are now all-in-one, and The Sims 4 comes with the ability to choose from prearranged rooms that you can connect together like a LEGO set. Those who want more freedom in the design can still build the spaces like in The Sims 3, but this ease-of-use feature means you can spend as much or as little time as you want building a home. Additionally, the interior decorating is made easier by the use of a search feature: just type in a keyword and the related choices appear. These improvements are something that Sims players probably never realized they wanted, but they are a welcome change. But as a related negative, Create-a-Style from The Sims 3 is not in The Sims 4.
Another major improvement comes in the way of multi-tasking, sims can now officially do two things at once. In previous editions, one of the few ways to multitask was to build up a sim’s “fun” need by watching television and invite someone to the couch to watch with you to improve their social needs. The sims can now do this in a variety of ways I won’t spoil, but if your sim is into games and gadgets like mine, expect to see him or her play games on his phone regardless of what else they might be doing. The combinations of options for multitasking are numerous, and they feel realistic.
From a technical perspective, I am at awe at how well the game runs. The Sims 4’s system requirements are much lower than anticipated, and the game plays well on machines with limited resources. Obviously, the graphics take a hit on weaker machines, but the change makes the game more accessible to the casual audience.
Despite those positives, The Sims 4 feels like it is less than the sum of its parts. While at this point it is unexpected for The Sims 4 to have all the upgrades and items that came in The Sims 3’s expansion packs, it is reasonable to expect toddlers, swimming pools, and the ability to modify the terrain on your lot by adding hills. The lack of things you would expect from a Sims game serves to tear down the improvements that make the game easier and more accessible. All things being considered, playing The Sims 4 can still be fun. But at the present, there just is not enough in the game to make you forget that The Sims 3 exists.
+ More accessible due to lower system requirements
+ Create-a-Sim is flexible
+ Building and designing made easy
– No Open World design
– No toddlers, no swimming pools, no transportation
– Loading screens