Pity your poor Sim. So far the biggest worries they’ve had to face have been burglars in the night and whether or not they can really justify buying a telescope. Now, in the first Sims 3 expansion pack, they have to deal with fiery traps, mummies, sinister corporations and still pay all of their bills on time.
For just the price of a ticket, your Sim can now visit China, Egypt or France for shopping, eating and desecrating the resting places of the dead. Each location has a base camp where you can sleep and check a notice board for missions. Some tasks involve chatting up locals or perfecting the martial art of Sim Fu by sparring and meditating, but the best ones are all about raiding the local tombs.
It’s the most game-like that The Sims has ever been. You’ll need to solve puzzles, disarm traps and make sure your inventory is well stocked before you start an adventure. True, the puzzles are basic, such as pushing statues on to pressure pads, or soaking your Sim with water so they can jump through walls of fire, but there’s a genuine sense of discovery within the levels.
As always with the willful wanderers, time management is everything. You can take a tent and some snacks with you, but if you get into a tomb and suddenly hear nature calling, it’s a long walk back to the facilities. Add to all this the collectibles, the special adventuring equipment and all the usual skill levelling-up, and suddenly you’re playing a beginner’s RPG.
The length of your trip abroad is dictated by your visa status. Doing missions in different countries gives you visa points for that location. It sounds complicated, but hunting down flame fruit or talking to the surly locals is still easier than dealing with a dour-faced trout behind a passport desk. As you earn points you can buy special items and potions, stay abroad longer and eventually, you can purchase a swanky holiday home where your Sim can grow old like a rich tax exile.
There’s a catch to all this fun though, and it’s a horribly realistic one. All these trips you can make are damn expensive, more than 1,000 Simoleons a time. Even if you keep your Sim living in a one room slum with little more than a toilet and an old sofa for company, you’ll still need a decent job to save up enough cash to go for a trip abroad. It certainly means you’ll spend time with the expansion pack, but it’s also a long and at times frustrating wait between your various jollys.
This pack also has a more worrying characteristic, which is that it seems more prone to fatal bugs than previous Sims games have. At one point, our Sim, the charming Bella, got trapped in an endless conversation with her daughter Spartacus, from which neither could escape. Later, on a trip across the Channel, earning visa points in France proved impossible when an early mission required Bella to report to a shopkeeper. Sadly, the mission-giver was stuck in a flowerbed and was too busy mouthing off to hear the news and enable Bella to move on to the next mission.
But those were two annoying moments in hours and hours of exploring, flirting with snake charmers and feeling a bit like an incontinent Indiana Jones. On top of the missions, there is an embarrassing number of relics to collect, photographs to take and new cosmopolitan adornments for your home and Sim. There’s no doubt that it’s worth a few real world Simoleons. Just make sure you and your beloved Sim family are prepared to pay in sweat, cash and time.
Nov 18, 2009