A pointless observation this may be, but three games in and The Sims’ little floating, green diamond plumb bob has grown into quite the piece of iconography. It takes pride of place on the box now, the mere sight of it invoking all things Sim-related in just one abstract symbol. It’s indicative of The Sims’ popularity and its place in the cultural zeitgeist that the franchise is now recognisable by association with just this one simple object. Just a small musing…
Since the first Sims hit home computers and consoles, it has sold in its millions and attracted gamers of all types, - and even a few non-gamers - due to its unique and arresting charms. Universally appealing, The Sims grants you your own digital life, wherein you can pursue your long held dreams, make friends and enemies, or just throw your Sim into a swimming pool, remove the steps and watch them drown. Alternatively, you could shove their fingers into the electrical mains or starve them to death. We’ve all done it, right? Outside of wanton sadism, The Sims 3 looks to expand the Sims universe much further than ever before. Previous games gave you your own lot, consisting of a house and a modest garden on a street. The Sims 3 gives you an entire settlement to explore, from the simple comfort of your own home to the surrounding areas in the locality.
There are far more options at your fingertips when creating your Sim.
God only knows what kind of deal is going down here.
The Sims 3’s biggest triumph is undoubtedly the seamless nature of its expanded world, which you can navigate your way around with ease, completely free of loading screens. As ever, achieving success initially relies upon gathering a source of income, and as such there are plenty of opportunities to be found around the town. Beaches, parks, libraries and shops are just a short hop away via a free taxi ride, so getting around for some leisure time or a solid day’s work is simple enough. Unfortunately, watching your Sim at their place of work is pretty dull since the roof doesn’t cut away to show him chopping vegetables or whatever, so you’re forced to stare at the building with the option to slack off or work extra hard, which puts added stress upon your Sim. Most of the actions can be automated, except for paying bills and jumping on any unique chances that come your way. You can adjust the degree of autonomy to suit yourself, so you don’t have to remember to go to the bathroom every few minutes. You can still miss showers and pee yourself in public though, which is a relief.
Every option that you had at your disposal in the previous Sims games remain largely untouched, so you can decorate your house as before, but this time you’re given full control over the finish and design of every element. Want a carpeted fridge with a wooden door? Ok then! How about a metal, leopard print interior wall with round windows? Consider it done. Any tasteless, hideous mess you desire can be edited and tweaked to your heart’s content. You can also build your abode in any shape (providing it isn’t curved) thanks to the ability to place walls at diagonals, so you can get creative with both the interior and exterior of your Sim’s home. And you’ll want to lavish a bit of time upon your house, as it’s still very much the focal point of The Sims experience despite the ever-present lure of the town and all its social haunts and hangouts.
There’s always time for a bit of romance in The Sims.
There are loads of diverse activities to get involved in around the town.
Equally improved is the initial creation tool that allows you to build your bespoke in-game avatar. The options in Sims 3 go far beyond anything seen in Maxis’ Sims titles, taking customisation to almost Tiger Woods PGA Tour levels of detail. You can even tinker with the clothes of your Sim to a greater degree, changing individual colours for each segment of a garment, making the scope to create a genuinely unique Sim much wider than ever before. Once you’ve finally settled upon the look for your Sim, you then set upon assigning five distinct character traits, choosing from a list of seemingly hundreds (although realistically, it’s more like dozens) ranging from simply good and evil to more specific ones like outdoorsy, workaholic, inappropriate, genius and many more besides. How you combine the traits of your character ultimately defines them and their life goals, so an evil, inappropriate genius will want to fight his way towards hatching an evil plot to become the greatest evil mastermind, and he’ll be damn rude on the way there. Your life goals are flexible too, so you don’t necessarily have to adhere to a set path. But, anyone hoping to bring to life a confused, contradictory character that is both good and evil may be disappointed to learn that you have to remain within the confines of logic when selecting character traits, so you can’t have two or more that clash with one another.
Mad scientist Sim wonders whether he chose the right hair colour.
Studying in the library helps develop your Sim’s logic and concentration. Bit like real life then.
The wealth of options that we’ve already touched upon, have lead to The Sims’ user interface being slightly pared down and simplified in order to make things clearer and easier to manage. It’s obvious when your Sim is miserable thanks to a single happiness meter aided by a series of easily comprehensible icons. Individual meters for each of your Sims needs also helps pinpoint where you’re going wrong, making life much easier and the game a more pleasurable experience to play. The UI also makes it easy to keep track of your Sim in the larger environment as well as making decisions based upon the wants and goals of your Sim. Not a huge aesthetic leap, the UI appears instantly familiar yet utterly refined and intuitive. Packing a picnic in your rucksack is a simple drag and drop job for instance, so you can prepare a meal and dump it in the UI’s inventory slot. Just keep and eye on it to make sure it doesn’t pass its sell-by date.
Another slice of life in the skewed, Simlish American suburbia, number 3 is the most comprehensive Sims experience yet. Packed to the gills with improvements, both small and large, the game proves every bit as compulsive as it always has been, boasting the same odd, somewhat voyeuristic charms that the series is so renowned for. There’s masses to do, see and achieve in the Sims 3, and that’s before you even discover the powerful and versatile video editor that allows you to capture your won magical Sims moments, so you can join the ranks of the machinima massive on YouTube with your own movies. EA have really thought of everything for this sequel, which is so enjoyable and engrossing to play, you’ll be spouting Sim-style gibberish for months.