Publisher:Electronic Arts Platform:PC exclusive Release Date: June 5th 2009
If you’re a regular bit-tech reader or just a hardcore PC gamer in general then the chances are that you don’t like The Sims. You, like most of the bit-tech and Custom PC staff, think that it’s ‘a baby game’. You think it’s namby-mamby, casual, simplistic drivel produced for the masses that’s exploited through a series of expansion packs.
If so then, while you are right about the never-ending expansion packs, you’re wrong about almost everything else.
The Sims isn’t easy or casual – it’s one of the most difficult and drawn out strategy games ever, with enough micro-management to make Men of War blush. It’s a monstrously difficult game and, I hate to break it to you, but The Sims is also one of the most important PC games out there in terms of how it legitimises a market that many others are abandoning.
A house isn't a home until someone wets themselves over dinner
The Sims franchise is up there with World of Warcraft as one of the most successful games on the PC platform and the fact that your mum or little sister plays the game too doesn’t detract from that achievement.
At the same time though, it’s almost impossible to take The Sims 3 seriously. From the moment you dive in you’re greeted by more pastel-coloured shirts, opiate-addict smiles and engineered, adorable ‘simlish’ than you can shake neon green plumbob at. The character creation segment, which is the first really interactive stage of the game, is both immediately engaging and utterly sickening. The process of adding clothes, tweaking skin colour and enlarging noses offers far more depth than a hardcore game like Fallout 3, but it’s hard to take it as seriously when your creation is mouthing gibberish at you.
One of the great new additions to the character creation stage though is the ability to tweak not only the appearance, but also the personality of the character. You can add up to five different traits to your player and each is anything but cosmetic, serving to give your players certain bonuses or disadvantages when going about their daily life. Your selection of traits, which range from ‘Clumsy’ to ‘Hates Children’ and ‘Doesn’t Understand Art’, also help define your Sim’s life goal. If your creation is very much geared towards working with technology, his lifetime wish might be to become a lead forensic investigator or to master the Logic skill.
Our sims didn't ask for much...and they got it
The addition of these lifetime wishes is one of the most important new features to the series as, while it never restricts those players who simply want to mess around in the sandbox, it does give other types of player an end-game goal. The one thing that The Sims has always lacked is a definable structure, but now it has a point that players can point to as the finish line if they want.
It’s especially interesting to see how thoroughly the trait system has been worked into the game too. Creating a Sim of age 20 or older means you can give them up to five traits, but if your Sim is a newborn, child or teenager then their personality is still very much in flux. Babies have only one trait, while children and teenagers get progressively more and, if your child is actually growing up in game-time then those traits will be chosen automatically based on your actions.
All of this carries on until you hit the middle of the adult stage, at which point you can choose to undergo a midlife crisis and utterly re-invent yourself with all new traits. You may also want to take this point to buy a lava lamp, replace the couches with beanbags and demand that nobody in your household is allowed to eat meat.