The Sims 4 and its players have a complicated relationship. EA's hit-and-miss content releases have frustrated those who have spent hundreds of dollars and thousands of hours on the eight-year-old game – just the mere mention of the maligned Star Wars Journey to Batuu expansion still makes waves on Reddit.
That's why the announcement of The Sims 4 Cottage Living garnered so much excitement. Not only is it finally introducing farming to the game, but its trailers promise a bevy of new, tangible content. Naturally, Simmers were cautiously optimistic, wondering aloud if the gameplay would actually mirror what EA was presenting. Now that I've spent some time playing The Sims 4: Cottage Living ahead of its release on July 22,I'm happy to report that it delivers on every advertised front – and then some.
Because of how broad The Sims 4 experience is, its expansion packs need to cover a lot of bases for all of its different player types. There should be build items that add more variety to home design, Create-A-Sim (aka CAS) items that allow for more character customization, and new gameplay elements that entice players to spend even more time in the life sim. Cottage Living covers all these areas, making it a must-have expansion for every type of Simmer – and EA goes above and beyond with free new content, as well.
Hay girl, hay
Simmers have been asking for a farming expansion for nearly a decade, and the options for introducing farming are endless – do you add a whole host of livestock that require a ton of management, or give players large-scale farming tools like tractors and harvesters? For Cottage Living, EA settled on a garden-to-table theme, which fits in well with the quaint English countryside towns that inspired Henford-on-Bagley.
Cottage Living lets you buy and take care of chickens, cows, and llamas, and all three animals seamlessly integrate into The Sims 4's particular brand of irreverent humor. Chickens can roam anywhere if not properly fenced in, showing up by your side while you're trying to fertilize crops, and llamas will pitch a fit if you try to groom them without getting to know them first. The animals all provide goods for your Sim to use in cooking, baking, and knitting, as well. And with new Lot Challenges, like Simple Living requiring Sims to cook only with the ingredients they have available (goodbye, infinite fridge), Cottage Living is one of the most cohesive packs yet.
Speaking of ingredients, The Sims 4 Cottage Living adds even more ways to garden with gigantic plants that you can turn into delicious meals or put into the weekly Finchwick Fair competition. There's also a new canning option that will let you make a variety of delectable preserves and a whole host of English-inspired new recipes (Yorkshire pud, anyone?).
Be warned: The Sims 4 Cottage Living takes the cuteness factor that we saw in the 2017 Cats and Dogs expansion and turns the dial up to a level we've never seen before. Cuddling your cow will cause it to let loose an adorable chorus of moos, and wild rabbits will hesitantly approach you looking to become fast friends. With that level of squee comes the necessary danger of all of these animals dying, however, so make sure you go into options and turn that off right quick if you want to avoid what happened to me – the camera panned over to a wild fox dying in the far corner of my property and I cried so hard I had to go pet my IRL cat for a few minutes to calm down.
I'm a builder in The Sims 4, spending most of my time perfecting New-Orleans-style haunted mansions or Brooklyn brownstones I could never afford IRL. I dabble in some gameplay, but always find myself drifting away from a household after a few Sim days just to start a brand new family in need of an elaborately constructed home. For my fellow Simmers who spend most of their game time swatching wallpaper and rotating end tables until they're just right, The Sims 4: Cottage Living is going to get you very, very hyped.
Cottage Living is like a wicker basket packed to the brim with delicious goodies, except the basket is the build menu and the goodies are thatched roofs, creeping wisteria, and adorable knick-knacks that would make a minimalist hyperventilate. Do you want a circular stained glass window depicting an adorable fox? Cottage Living has it. Or maybe you'd prefer a toadstool that doubles as an actual seat? Cottage Living has it. Everything you could imagine you'd find in an English grandmother's Gloucestershire home is in this pack, down to the basket of cross stitching supplies tucked away next to a shabby emerald green armchair.
During my preview, I spent at least four hours building a warm and inviting cottage tucked away on a large plot of land that was mostly dedicated to my crops and farm animals. I meticulously placed smatterings of daisies and lavender bushes all over the property, and hand-painted a new pink-hued stone path. There are so many lovely new build options that add an extra layer of lived-in realness to the world of Henford-on-Bagley.
Perhaps most importantly is the addition of the pond tool, which is a free update coming to the base game that couldn't be timed more perfectly. Nothing says pastoral English life quite like a moss-covered pond, and the new tool lets you build one anywhere on your lot. You can even populate it with animals like ducks, swans, and alligators (can you imagine if alligators were native to England? The chaos).
The Sims 4 Cottage Living expansion pack has as many layers as a trifle. There's the farming gameplay elements and cottagecore build and buy items that sit at the top – the obvious additions that we'd all expect. Then the are the unexpected additions that add more depth to Henford-on-Bagley: the townsfolk and their dramatic relationships, tea they willingly serve if you spend a few hours in the pub with them; the mysterious man who lives in the forest, tending to the animals; the return of perpetually cranky Agnes Crumplebottom, who will step out from behind the counter of her garden stall to beat you with her purse if you get a bit cheeky. All of these things make Henford-on-Bagley feel like a real English village and make it easy to spend hours exploring it – even for someone like me, who quite often overlooks gameplay elements in favor of building.
But the July 22 release date of The Sims 4 Cottage Living won't just include paywalled content. EA has folded in some free base game updates in what has become a much-appreciated new normal. Last year's The Sims 4 Snowy Escape brought lifestyles and platforms, while Cottage Living introduces pond tools, Lot Challenges, and the ability for kids to cook (finally they can earn their keep). These are base game updates which means you do not have to buy Cottage Living in order to enjoy them. Considering I recently explored The Sims 4 Kits controversy and how much the community does to fuel content updates, it's lovely to see EA folding in more free base game updates when rolling out a new buyable expansion pack.
The Sims 4 lives on, precariously balanced between "dead game" comments on Reddit and beautiful expansion packs that breathe life into a game that's nearing a decade old. Cottage Living makes that balance less precarious, giving players highly sought after paid content updates mixed with some necessary, free quality of life improvements. If this is a sign of what's to come down the Sims 4 content pipeline, I think it's got another several years in it.
The Sims 4 Cottage Living will release on July 22 on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, and PS5. The expansion pack costs $40/£34.99.