The Sims get Medieval in this very interesting addition to the franchise
Experimentation is often a double edged sword. With The Sims third generation now arguably reaching its twilight (judging by where we are expansion wise), the time had come once again for EA to look at what they wanted to do next. Instead of simply going to into the fourth game however, EA have strayed off the beaten path with The Sims: Medieval to bring us a game that's both familiar and yet jarringly different.
You'd be doing yourself a favour to try and forget about the main Sims franchise when approaching this game, as it's probably not what you're expecting. The basic premise is actually amazingly self-aware, and highlights the radical shift in emphasis with this game. In the main franchise, 'you' (if you were anyone), were whatever Sim/Sims were in the household you were managing at the time. In the Sims: Medieval however, 'you' are actually a deity. The vague religious connotations of interfering in a person's life have been brought to the forefront in this game, and you as "The Watcher" are tasked with helping a group of people set up a new kingdom in a new land (throw in whatever Bible story comparison you want here, it's probably meant to fit).
Getting on the wrong side of this guy can be fatal
Unlike previous games, there isn't a selection of areas or environements fo you to choose from - the 'Kingdom', which can be called whatever yo uwant, will always be in the same 'area', and will always look the same. There's a bit of rigidity to this system, as the kingdom always ends up lookging more or less the same, with buildings for the professions always being in the same spot, the features always looking the same etc... it makes us question it's replayability value in the long run.
There are three main 'modes' that you as the player will engage in: "Furnish Mode" is pretty straight forward, and you use it to furnish your Sim's dwellings. It's important to note though that the range of purchasable items has been reduced somewhat (at least, useful ones), and you can't alter the physical dimensions of your Sim's home, severely limiting the usage of this mode. "Kingdom Mode" is the new mode for this game, and is only used to expand your kingdom provided you have enough resources, and choose quests to embark on. Again, this is a mode you don't use that often, compared to the third mode - which is the actual live mode, where you'll spend most of your time.
There's less customization, but the new engine makes the sims look nicer
There are nine professions in the game: Monarch, Knight, Physician, Wizard, Blacksmith, Spy, two different types of priests, a Bard and a Merchant. Each profession has its own building, and the only sims you are allowed to control belong to one of these professions (You're also only allowed one of each profession at any one time). They each have their own meta-games and functions within the world, and are for the most part fairly unique from each other. You always start a game off with the Monarch sim, but which sims you unlock after that, and in what order, is up to you, and will affect how you approach quests.
You've probably already read about the new quests system already in past coverage, but what you may not know is that you have to always be on a quest, and you can't run a sim's life outside of a major quest. Given that a lot of social and lifestyle elements have been stripped away, this isn't too much of a problem, but it does lead to some issues which we'll touch on later. Each quest, usually has several different approaches, and usually can be completed by a pool of different sims. The out-come is always the same by profession (so the same profession doing the same quest multiple times will do it the same each time), but each profession has their own unique way of doing things.
The problem is, with all this chopping and changing between sims, it's hard to get invested in just one - which is what you're used to doing in a Sims game. This creates a bit of a disconnect between you and the people you're role-playing as, and we'd argue it makes you care less about them individually. It's hard to get invested in what you're doing as well, because just as soon as you find a rhythm, the quest is over and you essentially have to 're-start' with a new sim and a new quest.
Give me all your fake money before I kill you with my fake sword!
It's one of those strange things: as a game, as an exploration of where the franchise can go, this is a gold mine - from the quest system, to the era, right down to several of the meta games they've thrown in there, the amount of potential in some of the elements in The Sims: Medieval is really exciting. Paradoxically, as a Sims game it's actually pretty poor. As with mentioned, a lot of the aspects that defined what a Sims game was have been reduced and stripped out entirely, making this an entirely different beast.
THE SIMS MEDIEVAL VERDICT
Still, this is a highly enjoyable experience. Granted, If I could have my way, The Sims: Medieval would simply be The Sims 3 (as in the set-up) but in a medieval town instead of a modern one, but this isn’t a discourse on what we wish it could have been. It’s got a few kinks to work out - both in technical terms and in the way some elements are implemented, but we’d happily recommend this to both Sim fans and newcomers to the franchise. In fact, this will probably work better on new comers, as it provides an easy introduction to the simulation aspect, whilst providing them something fun to do.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Completing one of the longer and more difficult quests can be immensely satisfying.