Why I’m scared of The Sims Medieval

Ambitions, quests, and hero Sims makes your entire kingdom the star of The Sims Medieval

A few months ago I made the mistake of installing The Sims 3 on my computer. Before I knew it, my apartment was a mess, my dirty laundry and dishes were piling up, and my bills were being neglected. Meanwhile, my super awesome lesbian Sim’s life was in perfect order. Her house looked gorgeous. I remodeled her bathroom, paid all her bills, taught her how to play the guitar, and got very close to woo hoo-ing a co-worker.

To say that the Sims is addictive is an understatement. So when we got a closer look at a pre-alpha build for The Sims Medieval, the next title in The Sims series, we were both excited and a little scared. Imagine everything you love about The Sims with multiple main characters, each with their own unique stories, in an organic kingdom where everything is interwoven and connected. Find out everything we know so far about the upcoming kingdom simulator so far.

“We didn’t try to take the same gameplay from The Sims 3 and just transport it to the Middle Ages. We asked ourselves, ‘What’s really the heart of a game starring the Sims?’ and the answer for us is storytelling, the stories that players are telling in their own heads about these people in their world. And we wanted to create a game where they would tell different stories that felt medieval in their nature, rather than just transplant the same modern day stories into a different time,” explains senior producer Rachel Bernstein.

Above: Your kingdom is full of Hero Sims with their own story to tell

When you start the game, the very first thing you’ll do is choose a Kingdom Ambition, which will guide your choices and play-style as you build your city up. You could try to develop a very secure, military-type kingdom. Or you could turn your swords to plowshares and try building a more spiritually rich society. By emphasizing the importance of medicine and science, you could also try developing a more health-oriented kingdom, granting good health and plague-free lives to all your citizens.

But even though your Kingdom Ambition is the overarching goal, The Sims Medieval won’t be a city-building simulator. Your Kingdom is full of special Hero Sims, individuals with quests, goals, and ambitions of your own. Of course, the most important Hero Sim of all will be the monarch, the leader of your kingdom who resides in the city’s castle. He’ll have a wide array of kingly (or queenly) duties to deal with, like writing proclamations, entertaining visiting dignitaries, or even improving his skill with a broadsword.

Above: Your Sims beleive in god - and that god is you

Your monarch lives upstairs, above the throne room. And this is where Sims fans who like customizing their living quarters can let their inner designer run wild. The pre-alpha build we saw had a menu system that looked very similar to the one featured in the Sims 3, with options to select different types of furnishings.

But your monarch is just one of the many Hero Sims who has a story to tell The Sims Medieval. There are priests and monks, that need to tend to their flock. There are blacksmiths sharpening their metallurgy skills, and physicians crafting potions and tending to the ill.

These individual Sims aren’t just living in their own little bubbles; they’re all a part of your organic kingdom and often interact with each other. During our demo, we saw a Hero quest pop up saying that the king is ill. This is where your choices really come into play. Bernstein opts to use the kingdom’s physician to cure her monarch’s malady. But before she can get started on her quest she needs to have the physician cure the sick.

Above: Do more quests, earn more Kingdom Points, unlock new buildings with new Hero Units, and... do more quests!

Each Hero Sim has responsibilities that need to be taken care of. In the physician’s case, her responsibility is to keep your kingdom’s populace well. If she doesn’t fulfill her duties, she could face a fine, time in the local stocks, or even be executed. We jump to the physician’s clinic, fully decked out with a waiting room, an upstairs living area, and a space where she tends to the sick. There, we watch the physician cure a commoner’s illness with leeches to drain the bad blood out.

With her daily duties done for the day, the physician moves on to the palace to investigate the king’s illness. It turns out that he has poisoned blood. The physician will need to do some research to discover the cure for poisoned blood, find the materials necessary to create an angel balm potion, and deliver it to the king to make him well.

Above: If a Sim shirks his or her responsibilities they could get punished for not doing their fair share of the work

“Completing quests earns you a variety of rewards, including Kingdom Points. Kingdom Points lets you expand your kingdom, bringing in more buildings, and more Hero Sims, which opens up more quests that you can take on. So you’re constantly choosing from quest-to-quest, which Hero Sims you want to control,” explains Bernstein. The Sims Medieval is an achievement-oriented game, with platinum, gold, silver, and bronze achievements for each quest you choose to take on. Completing quests at the platinum level will help you with more Kingdom Points to help you satisfy the requirements for your Kingdom Ambition and meet your goals.

Above: See those rosey cheeks? Sub-surface scattering will give your Sims a warm and inviting glow

“We’re not historians,” explains Bernstein when talking about the art style for The Sims Medieval. “Our idea of what ‘medieval’ looks like, comes from storybooks and movies – and we wanted to capture that fantasy storybook look that we’re all familiar with,” says Bernstein. She points to fairy tales and even films, like The Princess Bride and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, as sources of inspiration for The Sims Medieval’s art style. She also points out sub-surface scattering, a technology that the studio is using to give the Sims a rosy glow beneath their cheeks, making characters look warmer and more inviting.

The Sims Medieval is scheduled to release in early 2011 and I’m a little worried. If playing god with an individual Sim in The Sims 3 was engrossing, then obsessing over a kingdom full of Hero Sims while questing and achievement whoring just might be the end of me. Expect more details as The Sims Medieval’s release draws nearer.

Aug 18, 2010