Sims 3 Review: It’s a Control Freak Thing

The Sims 3 logoCreated by EA Games, Sims 3 is arguably the biggest and best life simulation game available these days. In fact I’m struggling to even think of another one. The newest add-on pack ‘Generations’ provides more life events for your Sims this time for the often forgotten younger generations. This is my review of Sims 3 up to the Nightlife expansion pack, and why, when so many games come and go, I just can’t stop myself coming back to this one.

Before I go any further. I should state that it is nearly impossible to include absolutely everything you can do in this game. I tried to write a more complete review, but after 3 lengthy rewrites, it’s not going to happen. I’ve tried to stick to the basics, to give you a general idea, but this game is extensive and has to be played to be understood fully.

So, with no more ado, here we go.

In short, Sims 3 gives you the power to create a number of Sims (short for Simulated person) and by controlling their every action, guide them through their sim-lives to fulfil their every want or, as is often more fun, just getting them to do whatever you want.

Sims 3 Gameplay

‘Doing what you want’ is definitely the key phrase with Sims 3. With the four add-on packs (not including the item only add-on packs) World Adventures, Ambitions, Nightlife and Generations there’s not a great deal that you can’t do. There are no mission or level goals to worry about so Sims 3 can be treated as a sandbox game. Of course there’s the quite vanilla route of getting a job, raising a family, and trying to live the perfect ‘white-picket-fence’ suburban life, and why not? If that’s what you want to do, go at it. Although, there’s so many other ways to play. You can create a kleptomaniac evil, loner who gets great pleasure from doing evil things, but he’s also a fantastic gardener who sells his produce to fund his evil schemes; or maybe create a single parent family desperately trying to raise 7 kids by themselves; or how about an insane fireman who’s scared of water? If you can think of it, chances are you can play it.

Creating your sims can be as simple or as complex as you want. For those who want to jump straight into the game, you can create random sims, with the click of a button. For those who want to tailor their sims down to the very last detail, there are slider bars for every part of their face, from the brow height to the depth of the chin, as well as weight, muscle definition etc. Another, almost curious change they brought in with the ‘Nightlife’ add-on was a slider bar for a female sims breast-size (Is it me or is this becoming rather more prevalent in games these days?). After deciding what they’ll look like you can decided how they’re going to act, are they going to hate children? Love the outdoors? Be brave? A couch potato? Evil? There are so many character types, that you can make your sim act anyway you want.

By the end of the Create-a-Sim process, you’re likely to start seeing just how creative you can be with your sims. In fact there’s a lot of fun to be had just creating sims before you even start playing the game. Although a lot of people would argue that this is playing the game, and to be fair they may be right.

Nearly every aspect of the game has been created with player creativity in mind. Not only can you create your own sims, but you can build their houses, design their wallpaper, even colour the furniture to suit your needs. Everything has been done to make sure you are in control of as much of the world as possible. You can even share your creations with the online Sims 3 community, and help yourself to any of the free custom-made creations other players have uploaded, from whole houses to haircuts. There’s also a healthy amount of stuff created by EA that you can buy from the store, though these items very rarely (if ever) change the gameplay, they’ll just give you more clothes, hairstyles or furniture.

So you’ve created your sims, you’ve tweaked and fiddled until your Sims are just how you want them to be, or you’ve hit the random button and got into the game as quick as possible because you just couldn’t wait. Either way, you’re now ready to jump in and start controlling their lives.

The gameplay itself is very easy to get used to. Your sims are controlled by clicking on certain objects or sims and selecting the various options that appear. For example clicking on the sink will give you options to wash your hands or brush your teeth. Selecting another action whilst your sim is performing the first one will queue up a second action for you sim to undertake directly afterwards. Up to 8 actions can be queued at any time so there’s no necessity to be reactive with your sims, if you can see them needing something like a snack or shower, queue it up and watch your sim do it. Actions can be cancelled at any time, which can be quite handy if your sims sets the kitchen on fire, it would be far more useful to have him put out the fire or ring the fireman then to stand around screaming and pointing at it.

This demonstrates an example of when something is added to your sims queue automatically. There are times when actions will happen automatically. For example, getting food poisoning will result in your sim rushing to the bathroom to be sick, he or she won’t wait until they’re finished reading the paper or weeding the gardening to do that.

Sims have their own AI. If a sim is left alone, they won’t just stand there like a dummy awaiting their next command, they’ll perform actions based on the type of sim they are or their current needs. If their ‘bladder’ bar is getting low they will nip off to the bathroom, or if they’re tired they may go to bed or nap on the couch. You can interrupt this automation if you want, as long as it’s a sim controlled action you can cancel it, an external action you can’t. Of course if a Sim can’t get to somewhere to do something or is too tired, or hungry etc to do what you wanted, they won’t do it. They’ll shake their head and let you know, by way of a speech bubble. Incidentally, stopping a sim fulfilling their 6 basic needs (hunger, bladder, energy, social, fun and hygiene) will have negative effects. When a bladder reached the bottom, they will wet themselves, hygiene will show green fumes coming off your sim and other sims will comment on their odour, a low energy bar will cause your sim to be grouchy and in the later stages fall unconscious on the floor.

That’s it, really, that’s the fundamentals of Sims 3, it’s nothing more complicated than that. Everything in the game is dependant on queuing up the actions you want your Sims to do and letting your sims follow them, or just watching them and letting the AI control them.

This basic gameplay is embellished further with a number of other events of actions.

Skills

As your sims go through their lives, either accidentally or through direct action, they will pick up skills. Skills are developed as you do various interactions. As you increase your skill you are able to use this skill to better effect. So by increasing your cooking skill, your sim will be able to create more complex recipes and at a greater quality. Every sim, can learn every skill but the traits you have chosen your sims could influence who quickly they develop that skill. The ‘Natural Cook’ trait is helpful for building the cooking skill, whilst ‘Virtuoso’ helps a sim to develop their guitar skill, or ‘Athletic’ will improve who effectively your sim exercises. Inversely, any coach potatoes will have a harder time exercising, any sims who ‘Hates Art’ is unlikely to develop the painting skill very quickly. I’m sure you get the picture.

Opportunities

Opportunities are small optional challenges for your sims, based on their characters or skills. A painter may be asked to paint a self-portrait of another sim, or an athletic sim may be asked to visit the gym for a few hours. If you complete the opportunity your sim is usually rewarded, either with Cash (simoleans), or increases in either a skill or a relationship.

A quick word on time in Sims 3, time is shared across all sims. By that I mean as you play one sim (or one family) time continues for all the other sims in your current game. Older sims may die, young baby’s will grow into children, Sims could lose jobs or get married. Even if you start a new family in your current game, any other family’s you created will continue to be affected by time, without your control. After a while, you start to get the idea that even though you may be controlling one set of sims, the entire town is changing and will continue to change.

Right, there you go. So, to say the above is a brief synopsis is understating it. In fact the review above is the equivalent of stating the history of the world as ‘stuff happened’. There is far more in this game that can ever be printed in one review. Well, I could try, though I suspect by the time we got to page 10, I may have lost half my readers either to other articles or to catatonia (The mental state not the Welsh band of the 90’s,of course)

Sims 3 House screenshot
“I don’t know why, but to me this is a definitely an all female house”

There must be a downside to this game? Well, yeah. Of course.

For a start the game is a slow-paced game. If you’re an adrenaline junkie with an itchy trigger figure it might not be your cup of tea. There is nothing in this game that requires adrenaline or skill, in the conventional sense. Everything is quiet and if you’re not a fan, probably seemingly quite boring.

Secondly, when I say you can do what ever you want, bear in mind that this is rated for kids to play. So, if you have ideas about getting your sims to murder people, grow drugs or any other illegal (or X-rated) stuff , it’s not going to happen. For example if two people ‘love each other very much’ in the Sims 3, you can get them to ‘WooHoo or ‘Try for a Baby’. In both cases you’ll see those sims dive under the bed-clothes, the bed will show two lumps moving about, and a few giggles and groans will sound. Anything any more adult than that would ruin what Sims is about in my opinion not to mention alienating a large portion of your fan-base, although I suspect that most people who play sims may be adults anyway.

Loading times, can also be quite long. Luckily there are no loading screens when visiting other people who live in your town, but the initial load screen, plus when you change to any of the other foreign holiday places (Yep, your sims can go to Egypt, France or China, although they are called different things.) can be minutes in some cases. I find the slow load times are not so much of a problem just because sims 3 is a slower paced game. The delays just seem a little more in keeping with the pace.

So, to summarise…

Go for it if…

  • …you enjoy micro management, and derive pleasure from high levels of control.
  • …Want a quiet calming game away from the high-octane FPS, and actions games.
  • …Enjoy ‘what-if’ and sandbox gameplay.
  • …Enjoy a high level of customisation option

Avoid it if you…

  • …bore easily
  • …can’t stand long loading times.
  • …can’t see why anyone would release a game not involving terrorists of some kind.
  • …hate games that constantly keep throwing new add-ons at you.
Jim Franklin

Jim Franklin

Jim Franklin is a freelance writer, living in Derby UK with his wife. When time allows he likes nothing more than losing himself in a multi-hour gaming session. He likes most games and will play anything but prefers MMO's, and sandbox RPG's.

2 thoughts on “Sims 3 Review: It’s a Control Freak Thing

  • June 17, 2011 at 9:07 am
    Permalink

    After buying the Sims 3 last week, I wondered why I wanted so long to buy it. Compared to the Sims 2, it is beyond phenomenal. Yes it does have its flaws, but I don’t see them outweighing the good. I will say the story progression does get kind of annoying. I left one family alone for about 10 sim days and when I came back she was pregnant! Usually that’s not a problem, but she had three lovers! If you could only imagine what I went through finding the baby daddy.

    Anyway great review 🙂

    Reply
    • Jim Franklin
      June 17, 2011 at 9:36 am
      Permalink

      Yeah, I also had a problem with the time progression at first. Mainly, when my original sims’ children had grown up and wanted to move out. If I moved them out, I’d lose control of one or more sides of the family. So instead, I keep the sims all living in the same house until the older generations died. It’s quite an effective, if not ‘Beverly Hillbilly’ way of doing it… Of course, sometimes there’s a kid I just can’t really be bothered with, so I throw them out early as an experiment…

      I’m glad you liked the review.

      Reply

So what do you think?

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