While The Sims 2 had destinations beyond your own house, visiting them meant a discouragingly long load. Now your hometown is exactly that, explorable on foot, bike or car. While you run your Sims, others are living, dying and breeding all around you. This once claustrophobic game now has a greater scope and a sense of exploration.
Each location serves a purpose. Tom’s Lifetime Wish is to become a Creature-Robot Cross Breeder, so he gets a job at the science facility. Tim wants to be an international secret agent, and starts by working at the police station. If you have the funds, you can become a partner or owner of these businesses. You can’t see inside any of the work-related buildings. Your Sims’ actions there are influenced via a drop-down menu. Buildings you can see inside include community lots – a gym, an art gallery, the park – or neighborhood houses.
Traits let you clearly define the personalities of your characters and create entirely different situations. Craig’s Evil trait inspires him to pursue the criminal career path, but he struggles because he’s also Inappropriate and Insane. Aside from being arrested after his first day of work, he’s also stolen candy from a baby, insulted that baby to her mother, and eventually entered into a fistfight with the woman. Which he lost. These things wouldn’t happen with Tim, whose Childish and Over-Excitable traits mostly just cause him to really like playing computer games.
Fundamentally, The Sims 3 is still The Sims. Although a significant improvement, wishes are just a small change from The Sims 2’s wants and fears. Traits are just a better version of the previous personality points. The roamable town feels essential, but it’s mostly a technological leap. There are new video editing tools, letting you create sets, soundtracks, edit and share custom content, but people were doing that before, too. You’ll be doing exactly the kinds of things you did in previous games. It’s just a lot slicker.
What EA has done is create a platform for a new generation of expansion packs and downloadable content. Depending on where they take it, this might be like ‘needing’ to buy all your old films again on Blu-ray, or it might allow for new, exciting additions as towns expand in scope and scale. If you already have expansion packs for Sims 2 that add seasons, pets and witches, the basic Sims 3 feels like a step back. Yet the core of The Sims 3 is more powerful than ever. Their world, all jaunty music and exaggerated animation, isn’t just a platform for expansion packs, but for exploring your own feelings.
June 3, 2009