Historically, The Sims 4 expansion packs have been polarizing, with many players feeling like EA hasn't been able to find the perfect balance between introducing new gameplay elements and satisfying the most popular requests. The Sims 4 Snowy Escape, however, is certainly the expansion pack we've been looking for.
There's a unique and previously unseen balance in this pack that suggests EA did its homework. Snowy Escape has new gameplay elements that deepen the Sims experience, new build items that offer both beauty and functionality, and a new world that is large and explorable. You'd be hard-pressed to find another expansion that tics these boxes.
The Sims community is passionate as hell and don't respond well to packs that seem like they're hobbled together. The Sims 4 Star Wars: Journey to Batuu is the most recent example, an expansion that didn't offer all that much to die-hard Simmers like myself – perhaps it's no surprise to see it already listed at 50% off. But The Sims 4 Snowy Escape is nothing like that – it's exactly what we've wanted out of an expansion pack, and frankly, it's about time.
It's not a game, it's a Lifestyle
Snowy Escape's most promising features aren't the new world of Mt. Komorebi, or its extensive build items, or even its wide variety of snowy activities. Hell, it's not even in the reveal trailer. The best features introduced in Snowy Escape are Lifestyles and Sentiments, which add much-needed and oft-requested depth to Sims' personalities. If you were worried this new content would fall short when it was announced (as other attempts to deepen relationships and personalities have felt a bit half-assed), but I'm happy to report that is not the case.
The Lifestyles feature isn't like Aspirations, the lifelong goals you set in the Create-A-Sim menu that includes things like becoming a bodybuilder or a master mixologist. Instead, Lifestyles manifest in response to specific habits and actions throughout gameplay, and adjust their autonomous behavior accordingly. Within just a few hours my Sim, Ahsoka Tano, had done some rock climbing, hiking, and snowboarding, prompting three Lifestyles to appear as 'In Progress' with the promise of unlocking them if I maintained her behavior.
Keep in mind, Lifestyles will be exclusive to Snowy Escape, while some Sentiments will be added for free in the base game, with others exclusive to the expansion pack.
Unlocking a Lifestyle has myriad effects on your Sims. The 'Energetic' Lifestyle Ahsoka obtained from doing winter sports means she'll prefer high-energy activities and will become tense if she's inactive for too long. She'll also prefer high-energy careers, and perform better in them. Ahsoka's 'Outdoorsy' Lifestyle offers benefits for being outdoors, and an increased performance when working in outdoor careers. Naturally, she'll grow tense if she's inside for too long.
While these may seem fairly innocuous, I did notice how it affected Ahsoka's behavior over time. She was vacationing in one of Mt. Komorebi's rental properties with a newfound girlfriend (who had a husband, it's complicated), but everytime we came back in from a day on the slopes, Ahsoka would head right back outside to play chess in the freezing cold. Now that's a woman dedicated to the outdoors.
The other new feature, Sentiments, are inspired by shared experiences between Sims and will have lasting impacts on interpersonal relationships. For instance, I met Nadine Tye on a hike up Mt. Komorebi, and invited her to come hang out at my swanky BnB (more on why it's so swanky later). According to the sentiment card for Nadine, we bonded over the happy memory of successfully calling the fire department after the fireplace both set the rental and Ahsoka on fire, and soon Ahsoka had convinced her to leave her husband. Sentiments, they work.
A whole new world
Aside from in-depth changes to Sims' personalities, Snowy Escape is bringing the Sims community what it wants out of a new world: exploration, innovation, and inspiration. Mt. Komorebi is by far the most intricately designed world in The Sims 4, and that intricate design is extended to every corner of an absolutely massive space. Unlike in other worlds (ehem, Glimmerbrook), you can actually explore huge swaths of this magical new land – including the giant mountain that pierces the wintry clouds or the fishing spots dotting the river in the lower-elevation towns
The towns at the base of Mt. Komorebi (which is Japanese for "the filtering of light through trees") are absolutely gorgeous, with set pieces that genuinely took my breath away. The Wakaba ("young leaves") neighborhood is something of a tourist spot, and is peppered with both traditional Japanese mansions and more contemporary homes. Senmabachi ("thousand leaf town") is a more traditional Japanese town, with narrow back alleys, natural hot springs, and beautiful fishing spots.
Every single one of the pre-built lots are gorgeous inside and out, which is not something you can usually say about The Sims 4. Many of EA's pre-built homes are – quite frankly – ugly, with bizarre architectural elements and interior decorating that's either too crowded or too sparse.. That's why so many Simmers dedicate videos to remodelling the atrocities. The reason why Snowy Escape's builds are so beautiful is because EA brilliantly tapped into its most precious resource – the community. That's right, each of the lots throughout the entire world were built by players like lilsimsie, Deligracy, simlicy, and James Turner - and the vision and creativity of these veteran players are on full display throughout the lots. Speaking of building, for those of us who spend most of our time in The Sims 4 designing homes we could never afford to live in, Snowy Escape is here to eat up even more hours of your day.
Do you wanna build a snow home?
Oh my, these build items. Not only does Snowy Escape introduce a litany of modern and traditional Japanese architectural and home decor items, but there's a brand-new build feature that will drastically change your designs. Yes, my friends, we now have platforms.
Platforms were introduced so that Simmers can build genken entryways, which are sunken entry points traditional in Japanese homes whereby those who enter can take off their shoes before breaching the interior of the home. You can build these entryways with platforms that come in all shapes and sizes, and are fully customizable in terms of height, width, and shape. The build process is more than a little confusing, but I managed to build a sunken entryway lined by raised decorative platforms, with a gorgeous lotus flower on top of each for a modern and comforting entrance to a home. Granted, that took me over an hour of messing with the platform tool, but it was worth it.
There are over 130 new build and buy items for you to create the perfect Japanese-inspired escape. And since, for the first time ever, Mt. Komorebi is both a residential world and vacation destination, you can buy a home and immediately go on vacation to get some design inspo. And there's tons of it, whether it's in the beautiful reds of the Japanese maples in Senmabachi, the glittering snow at the peak of Mt. Komorebi, or in the koi fish in the decorative ponds. Koi fish, dammit!
There hasn't ever been a pack in The Sims 4 that's brought me so much inner peace while building – the items are beautiful examples of Japanese minimalism and traditionalism, with detailing that just makes me want to get up and go to Japan. And if somehow all of this isn't relaxing enough, you can add some hot springs to your backyard for both you and your Sim to reach a state of complete zen. Who needs therapy, right?
The Sims 4 Snowy Escape costs $39.99 and will release on November 13 for PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Mac.