Sims 4, The Review
I kept playing through The Sims 4 hoping that I would find the features I loved in previous games, that it would get better. I didn't, it didn't. With The Sims 4, EA and Maxis have taken something deeply personal to a lot of people and turned it into a cold and lifeless shell of it's former self. Yes, there are new tools and user interface options that make tasks much easier and quicker but that's seemingly at the expense of almost everything that's made the Sims franchise loved up for years. Perhaps most sad is that the missing features are so obviously going to be reintroduced in DLC that The Sims 4 is such a shameless cash grab that it rivals freemium games. It may look nicer, but fans are warned to stick with The Sims 3 over the newest game.
For what it's worth, The Sims 4 still nails the core Sims gameplay. It's still fun to create your Sims and their houses and just watch them interact with each other. There's a much more realistic sense of progression to nearly everything your Sims do and thanks to a focus on making each Sim smarter, each will act far more naturally. That's not to say that the game still doesn't suffer from some of the same pathing and progression issues that have plagued the series for years, but it's a noticeable improvement. A lot of that is thanks to the new emotions system, which allows you to be much more specific on with your Sims and what they'd like you to do but they fluctuate far too much to be relied on. It's also a bit strange if you play The Sims like I tend to, putting the Sims in dire situations and watching them react - you now get to know exactly how they feel as you torture them. I disgust myself.
"So just what went wrong with The Sims 4? Almost everything else."
The user interface has also been dramatically improved and it's a lot easier to find the objects you're looking for in build mode. Objects are broken up into easy to identify categories so you're going to be spending much more time living with your sims and less time in menus trying to find certain objects to furnish your house or dress your Sim. EA and Maxis have also thankfully given a number of the building tools an upgrade as well, which allows you to complete tasks that used to take hours in mere minutes. My favorite has to be the ability to move an entire wall or room just by dragging on it. For once, the tools in the Sims are just about as smart as you want them to be, and it makes the game a whole lot more enjoyable for those who like to spend the majority of their time putting work into building up their house.
So just what went wrong with The Sims 4? Almost everything else. EA and Maxis have taken the Sims formula and oddly taken away a number of basic and key features that fans of the series have come to know and expect from the series; features that give The Sims it's own identity. It's been well known for weeks now that The Sims 4 would not include series staples like pools and a toddler phase for your Sims and while these aren't essential, they're very noticeably absent - especially to long time players. Other series staples like basements and trash compactors are completely gone, with no explanation. House building, though easier, has also become more simple, and not for the better. Your amount of available building materials is a fraction of what you had in previous games, and you're limited to only two stories for any structure you create.
Most disheartening about The Sims 4 is just how few customization options your truly have. Similar to building and changing a house, Create-a-Sim is much easier to use, since you can literally point the mouse at any part of your Sim's body and drag it to change it's size (get your mind out of the gutter). That's all well and great, and you can make some interesting Sims, but the rest of the customization options feel very limited. There are a lot less styles to be found and the much loved create a style feature is completely missing. The game gives you the ability to share your created Sims with other players but they all seem the same, with little variations in their clothing. EA and Maxis have seemingly taken all of the personality out of The Sims, and it's a shame.
"...EA has every intent to add a lot of these features in upcoming DLC..."
The Sims 4 also feels like a major step back in terms of gameplay when compared to other releases in the franchise. Not only does it suffer from a lot of the same visual glitches that have haunted the series for years (yes, babies still turn into strange Xenomorph creatures), it also seemingly takes back many of the improvements previous games have made. The open world aspect of The Sims 3 is completely gone and your Sims are limited to a very specific area that if they leave, they'll be met with loading screens at almost every turn. To be fair, the game does run a lot smoother than it's predecessor, but you have to wonder at what cost really?
It's also very clear that EA has every intent to add a lot of these features in upcoming DLC releases. The game is so bare bones and seemingly empty that it would be amazing if they didn't. EA isn't dumb, and they know that getting gamers to pay $60 for the core release is just the beginning, why include all of these features and customization options in that original release when they can charge you $40 extra each time they want to add something? Just expect a lot of backlash from fans when they announce the Pool Party expansion set in a few months.
From the Sims to it's sequel and the eventual Sims 3, there was always a noticeable progression that naturally evolved the series but that's not the story with The Sims 4 as it feels like much more of a step back than previous games. Key, basic features and options are missing that fans of the series have come to expect - and without them, The Sims 4 feels like a shell of itself. There are some great upgrades that make tasks in the game easier, but seemingly at the expense of the game's personality. Even with the new tools and upgraded user interface, there's almost no reason to play The Sims 4, especially if you own the previous game.
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