The Sims has returned once again. But does The Sims 4 offer something new or something better than its predecessors? Read along as we give you our verdict of this fourth installment in one of the best-selling franchises of all time.
The Sims 4 doesn’t have a story in a traditional sense. In The Sims you’re supposed to make your own story, and your actions as both a Sim and a creator have you define what happens to your characters. This is basically the concept of a life simulator, and The Sims 4 doesn’t stray away from this concept. The journey from the cradle to the grave does feel a lot more simplistic though, and this is an issue I’ll certainly be addressing in the gameplay section.
You live like you play. Want to be succesful? You’ll have to work hard to get there. Just want to stay home and sit on the couch all day? That’s also possible, but you’ll have to find some way to pay the bills in the meantime. Your Sim’s live can go in many directions, and whilst they have some free will (free will is optional), you’ll need to push them in the right direction along the way.
The Sims franchise has always gone for a mix of realistic and cartoonish art styles, though The Sims 4 seems to rely more on the latter. Even though the game does seem more cartoonish than its predecessors it’s still a visually appealing sight that does offer a sleek visual presentation. The cartoon-based art style of course also applies to the Sims themselves, and ironically whilst they look slightly less realistic, they do seem to feel more lifelike. This is of course also thanks to the new emotion system, which really does give you more feedback on your Sims visually.
Design-wise the game as said is a little more cartoonish due to the adjusted art style, but there is still a sense of realism due to the life-simulator aspect of the game. Interior objects look similar to how they did in the previous iteration, though stuff like greenery and such have taken a more drastic turn in order to fit in more with the art style. In all honesty, none of these design changes bothered me in the slightest, and the gameplay really did feel at home with the newly updated visuals. The colors are vivid and the models are well detailed, which ultimately resulted in a well-polished product visually.
One of the best visual improvements I encountered was the new and improved user interface. Maxis has overhauled the entire system for a better visual product, and once you get the hang of it a more productive gameplay experience. The main features/buttons are presented on a translucent white base, and features have been reorganized in order to improve workflow and ease of access. Whilst the change can be incredibly jarring for returning players I did seem to prefer The Sims 4’s new take on the interface, which is as visually appealing as it is functional.
On lower settings some of the textures did seem to suffer more than others. Overall the game still looks good on the lower quality settings, but things such as ground and greenery textures seemed to take more of a hit than anything else. The game isn’t really a resource hog due to its one-location nature, and even if you don’t have a gaming rig or anything you could still be able to play the game with its highest settings. The game features multiple tiers of visual options, which of course can also be customized by the player at will. The game also features a special laptop mode, which favors a higher speed of rendering, resulting in some loss of visual fidelity.
At the gameplay front The Sims 4 does seem a lot more divided when it comes to its pros and cons. One of the first changes you’ll experience is the new Create-A-Sim mode, which has been changed pretty drastically. Rather than adjusting your Sim with a series of sliders you’re able to make the changes more directly. By highlighting the area you want to edit you’ll be able to drag and shape your Sims far more than we’ve been able to in previous iterations. This new system makes creating a Sim much more streamlined and user-friendly, and in the end also makes it much easier to create a unique style of Sim. Customization for the time being does seem a bit limited though, and the lack of the create a style feature limits your visual options a bit.
The next change you’ll experience when you first play The Sims 4 may seem like both an improvement and a downgrade in a sense. Whilst The Sims 3 featured an entire open world for your Sims to explore directly, this installment will confine you to one location at a time. This system is similar to The Sims 2, and you’ll have to go through a loading screen before going to each location. The positive side of this change is that loading has been significantly reduced, and the initial loading screen should last about 30 seconds in most cases, with every subsequent location load being about 10 to 15 seconds. On the other side you’ll see a few dark clouds though, and it does affect the world of the Sims in a heavy way. You’re Sims are no longer able to drive their own cars, and rather than carpooling or taking a cab to locations they will simply vanish from the front of the lot. Traveling to your neighbours is also restricted to having a loading screen, meaning you’ll have no direct access to neighbouring lots.
NPC’s have also had a change. Whilst the NPC’s do still age, their story progression is absent from this iteration. When you’re not hanging out with them they simply seem to be in a static mode in which they remain till you encounter them again. Character interaction with NPC’s has improved however, and thanks to the new emotion-based gameplay and several other improvements you’ll be far more interested in spending time with your mates than you probably ever have in the franchise. Their jobs and lives however remain static, and you’ll likely see no change to them in any way in between encounters.
Another NPC-related downgrade is the absence of certain characters such as babysitters, burglars, cops, repairmen, repo men, aliens and firefighters. For example in the situation of a fire your Sim will simply have a fire extinguisher appear out of thin air and put out the fire, which is basically one of the not so many things that can happen to your Sim’s home at this point. These absences could be addressed in a future expansion, but for now the one-lot system, absence of NPC’s and story progression can make the world of The Sims 4 feel a little bit isolated.
Story progression for your Sims themselves has also changed a bit. Baby’s are only stationary objects and grow into children instantly, rather than going through a pre-school age first. Teenagers, young adults and adults also seem to have a nearly identical design, making it hard to pin point your Sim’s current stage in the life cycle without looking at the user interface. Interactions and such have never been better though, and the new social interactions and emotional states add a new level of depth to the franchise, and due to this you’ll be spending a lot more time working on your Sim’s specific needs. Wether your Sim be happy, sad or angry, you’ll always have specific goals to achieve in order to help them out and gain points for rewards.
Building has been significantly improved, and the new drag and place tools are simply marvelous to use in the process. Wether you want to build your own rooms or use an existing pre-built room, you’ll have plenty of ways to build the house of your dreams. Thanks to the user interface changes which put both building and buying items in the same tool you’ll be able to build at a much more significant rate than before.