Are you ready to play The Sims 4? The 2014 installment of the long-running life simulator series is quite different from The Sims 3, its five-year-old predecessor.
Change is scary, and it isn’t always for the better. When you consider Simcity’s catastrophic 2013 launch, and the countless bugs and crashes that still plague The Sims 3, you’d be forgiven for being skeptical of a new game that’s making some big promises. Don’t go scouring the Internet to hunt down all of the differences. Read on to see the major changes detailed right here, and decide if you’re going to give The Sims 4 a try.
A new game calls for new features, and The Sims 4 has quite a handful.
The game’s Create-A-Sim tool is what let’s you make custom characters that look like your family, friends, celebrities, or even just characters from your imagination. In The Sims 4, the experience is going to be more tactile and intuitive than ever before. Rather than tweaking sliders to shape characters, you’ll manipulate their features by clicking right on their frames and faces, dragging their bellies to make them wider or thinner, or tugging them up or down to make them taller or shorter. Even fine features like eye angles, cheek bones, and lip shapes are all edited this way.
Personalities are different, too. The Sims 3’s five character traits have been reduced to four here (one of which is supplied by your sim’s aspiration), but the pool of traits paints in broader brushstrokes. Gone are highly specific traits that were rarely picked, in favor of traits that affect more aspects of life and gameplay. Once you’ve picked traits for your Sim, make sure you select an animation style, from a confident swagger to a primitive hunch, to match their identity.
Cross Neighborhood Travel
It isn’t that you couldn’t travel to other neighborhoods in The Sims 3, but it was a clumsy proposition that involved freezing time for everyone in the main neighborhood while one group left for a new adventure. In The Sims 4, you’ll have a much easier time of it. Not only are other neighborhoods and future special worlds (like the University and World Adventures areas from The Sims 3) just a short loading screen away, but you’ll be able to make regular trips without compromising a common sense timeline. Your sim can easily commute to a big city for work by day, but comes home to the suburbs at night.
Emotion Driven Gameplay
The game also promises to make your sims’ emotional states a bigger part of gameplay, and that you’ll be able to understand their moods just by looking at their faces. This looks like it will have major implications on social interactions, as a sim who’s down in the dumps will need some cheering up before they can hope to succeed at more cheerful or ambitious endeavors. Emotions will also couple up with characters’ ambitions to determine when sims get bonuses. Mean sims will enjoy perks when they tease or fight, while creative types can produce better art if you can make them feel inspired. If pulled off correctly, it could add some much needed depth to social interaction. Hopefully, wooing another sim won’t be as simple as spamming a progression of romance interactions until you make them love you.
Flexible Building Tools
Are you an armchair architect? You’ll love The Sims 4’s pre-fabricated rooms (A feature that came to The Sims 3 late in its life) and more forgiving building rules. If you placed a house in the wrong spot on your lot, you’ll be able to pick the entire structure up and scoot it over. New wall heights should make vaulted ceilings easier without workarounds. You’ll be able to snap full rooms free of the main structure to rearrange your house’s layout, too. No more dragging one object at a time when you decide you want the bathroom and bedroom to swap positions.
A Brand New Engine
There’s no getting around the fact that once you add a few expansions to The Sims 3, it becomes the patchwork Frankenstein’s monster of video games. Neighborhoods get glitchy when they interact with content they weren’t future proofed to handle, and crashes become frustratingly regular. Some mods for the game alleviate the worst of the problems, but those too can have unexpected results if you run too many of them at once.
That’s why a new game engine is a good thing. The game’s developers have had 5 years to think about what they might do differently, and once the game makes it through its first months of patching, players will likely see a more stable and smoothly expandable game as a result. At the very least, it’s a clean slate, and a fresh chance to make things the right way the first time.
Of course, certain things players are used to were bound to be cut.
This is perhaps the single most offensive cut. The Create-A-Style tool allowed players to drag choices from a library of patterns onto furniture and clothing, and then recolor those patterns to their liking. It allowed for huge flexibility right inside the game, as players built houses and dressed sims. Want a zebra striped couch? Pick the couch model of your choice and drag it on. Then make it offensively garish by subbing hot pink and sky blue in for the black and white. This simple, powerful tool let meticulous players craft exactly the looks they envisioned, and it’s sad to see it go. It’ll be interesting to see if EA sells reskins of existing furniture as microtransactions, but there’s no word on that yet.
Toddlers & Pools
The sole reason these are listed together is that their cuts were announced in the same blog post. In The Sims 4, babies will age directly into children, skipping the developmental stage that comes before schooling. You won’t see anyone swimming when the game launches either, which is strange for a game made famous to some for its ability to drown characters by just removing a ladder from the wall of a pool.
In a followup blog post, the developers state that these were calculated decisions to prioritize work on more interesting content, but the recently announced cuts have proven to be a sore spot with The Sims’ fan community. No word yet on whether we’ll get these features later as part of patches or DLC.
All Your DLC
Five years is a long time to sustain a game with expansion content. The Sims 3 saw 11 full expansions, 9 stuff packs of themed furniture and clothing, 10 standalone neighborhoods, and thousands of microtransaction objects for you to buy a dollar at a time. Not one piece of that content is forward compatible with the new game.
On one hand, it’s unreasonable to expect a new game to have content parity with one that’s had five years of updates. On the other, it’s hard to imagine playing The Sims 3 without rambunctious pets, the slow turn of the seasons, the coming-of-age adventure of college, and the rich diversity of content that makes The Sims 3 seem less like a game and more like a world. No doubt, most of those features will make it to The Sims 4 someday…
…one piece at a time, for $40 each.
The countdown to The Sims 4 and player-created The Sims 4 mods continues, and September will be here soon enough.
Those of you who are fully committed to the franchise have likely already pre-ordered the game, but to those on the fence, consider showing a little restraint before you buy. You might miss pre-order bonuses and the frenzied hype of seeing everything first, but you’ll get tons of reviews and videos to help you find out if EA is really as apologetic as they claim about releasing broken games like Battlefield 4.
Are you hyped for The Sims 4? Cautiously optimistic? Ragingly pessimistic? Help the undecided make up their minds with your take on the upcoming game in the comments!