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The Sims 3: Barnacle Bay expansion review

Expansion packs for The Sims 3 tend to come in two varieties. The ones that contain the suffix “stuff,” such as Outdoor Living Stuff and Fast Lane Stuff, are mostly collections of new items and clothing to mess around with in your Sims 3 game. Non-“stuff” expansions, like Ambitions and Late Night, historically have added significant new gameplay features to the experience.

Above: Little Murray wants to go hunt for sunken diamonds, but the game won’t let him

But with Barnacle Bay, EA seems to be tossing that naming convention aside, and if you expect anything revolutionary you’re going to be disappointed. Even if you buy Barnacle Bay in a retail store, the expansion is a download – and not a very large one. For your $20 (or 2,000 Sim Points if you buy from the Sims Store) you’re getting just over 100 MB of content. This includes a new town (the titular Barnacle Bay) as well as over a dozen new items, some new outfits and new locations.

Barnacle Bay is all about the pirate theme, and for the most part it does that well. You can replace your house’s windows with portholes and put a barrel in your living room and pretend it’s full of grog. But what you can’t do is engage in pirate-y gameplay. You won’t suddenly get into swordfights in bars or take up a career of terrorizing the high seas. When making our own Threepwood family, we were dismayed to see that there was no Lifetime Wish option for “Become a mighty pirate,” nor could we adjust our Sims’ personalities to make them more pirate-like. All Barnacle Bay really offers is new aesthetics.

And aesthetics can only get you so far. The restaurant shaped like a wrecked pirate ship? Looks great – shame you can’t look inside it, though. And while Goldbeard’s Gym may have a great name, it contains the exact same treadmills and weight systems you can find in any other Sims 3 building. Honestly, seeing cool pirate items just makes it more frustrating that there’s no pirate gameplay to go with it.

Above: Cool looking restaurant, huh? Too bad it’s just a facade

Of course, Barnacle Bay offers a whole new town to start new families in, which could be pretty valuable to some players, especially if they’ve already filled up the other areas available to them. It’s nice that you aren’t merely expected to play with these pirate-themed items in neighborhoods in which their inclusion is completely foreign. Instead, you get an area in which they are only kind of foreign.

It’s not as if EA is charging more for this than they typically charge for new items, either. If you’re way into all things pirates, then you might find the cost worth it for the new design options alone. But if you’re a more casual Sims 3 player who is bored with the current gameplay offerings, Barnacle Bay will do absolutely nothing to entice you back.

Above: Fishing isn’t new, but Guybrush is excited about his little fish anyway

So it might be misleading for EA to omit the “stuff” prefix when putting this expansion on retail shelves, even though it contains a new town, but hardcore Sims fans may feel like they got their money’s worth anyway. Everyone else can probably pass on it, at least until the inevitable ninja expansion pack.

Mar 17, 2011