More is better?
There are two types of Sims players in the world: those who make and those who do. Players know which type they are immediately; it is evident by where they spend their time. Fortunately, this latest entry in the Sims universe has something for both types. A few minor annoyances notwithstanding, Sims 3 will please fans of the franchise and has the potential to attract a new group altogether.
[image1]With Sims 3, you can practically place a mirror next to your monitor and make yourself. There are so many options to customize your Sims that the variety is almost overwhelming. Everything from face and eye shape to nose type and muscle tone can be modified. Many of the features can be adjusted with a sliding scale control, which makes the experience leap from digital to near-analog. That may seem like a backwards step, but trust me, it isn’t.
However, there is one glaring exception right out of the box, something that’s a little strange. You can make your Sims look like just about anything except someone with curly hair. It’s perplexing that EA, knowing its fan base so well, would make such an omission or just forget. It’s a minor disturbance. but anyone with curly hair or with a curly-haired ex (*cough*) that they want to simulate and destroy (*cough again*) will notice it fairly quickly. Sure, you can go out and download curly hair, but it shouldn’t take extra work to look natural.
The operative word when it comes to making things in Sims 3 is ‘more’ – everything is turned up a notch. In earlier releases, shoes were defaulted with outfits, but here, you get to choose the shoes. Nearly everything else gets the same treatment: furniture, fabrics, the range of the color wheel, and more. A player could happily spend hours just making enough merchandise to fill a Home Depot. The experience is enjoyable, and it is easy to lose yourself (and your time!) before your Sim even takes a family portrait.
[image2]Unfortunately, Sims 3 giveth and Sims 3 taketh away. It is not so easy to make a new town. Technically, this can’t even be done… yet. Currently, you can only edit the existing town, or go to www.thesims3.com and download the free one advertised in the game insert. EA has announced that a tool to make towns will be coming soon, but who likes to wait? For the Sims 2 player who had a dozen or more towns, or for the urban planner in all of us, this is quite a letdown – a big minus for those who like to ‘make’.
For those who like to ‘do’, an important step comes while creating Sims: personality traits. This is a new addition for Sims 3, and it makes a big difference. Each Sim can be assigned up to five traits, chosen from a very long list of possibles: athletic, artistic, a bookworm, charismatic, etc. The traits assigned to a Sim will determine about five lifetime goals to which they can choose to aspire. In Sims 2, every Sim got the same five lifetime goals to choose from, but now, making an artistic evil genius may result in lifetime goals of becoming ruler of the free world or a cult leader. And an ambitious artistic type can choose from being a rock star, master of the arts, or others.
These traits also seem to affect Sims as they go about their lives unattended. The free will they use, which is more apparent than in earlier versions, will be guided by the traits given to them early on. A neat Sim will spend unattended time cleaning up (even to their detriment – very neat sims will go around trying to clean up active fire pits, which never has a good outcome). The addition of personality traits is a brilliant improvement that will no doubt be made even better in upcoming versions and upgrades.
[image3]Enough random things can still happen to make play engaging. My first family got burglarized in the middle of the night, had a kitchen fire, and had their computer monitor smolder and break down, all in the first week of play. I wonder if it’s because I made one of my Sims handy, as he had a lot of opportunities to improve his repair skill – with hardship comes progress, I suppose.
Sims also have favorite colors, foods, and music types. This doesn’t seem to affect play much, except that their favorite music type plays whenever they turn on the stereo. The electronica is actually enjoyable, much better than the typical Sims background muzak, and the classical selections are actual classical songs by composers in the real world. The Sims collection has never been known for music or sound, and Sims 3 doesn’t look to gain any ground here. What was done right in the past, like sing-song Sim-lish and unassuming accompaniments, you’ll find here as well, but not much in the way of innovation.
The freedom to move about is probably the one improvement that will attract new players. It is a joy to get out and see the town. Loyal fans will appreciate the absence of loading screens, and those new to the game will think this is the way it’s always been and wonder why they hadn’t given the game a chance a long time ago.
[image4]Performance is pretty much seamless. You can move your sims around in map view by simply clicking where you want them to go. If Sims 2 and 3 could be related to the stages of life, Sims 3 is definitely the part where you get your driver’s license and you no longer have a curfew.
Online upgrades are always happening, and there is an online outlet for sharing items and for writing blogs about the Sims 3 experience. People are doing some very creative things in their virtual god armchairs, and it’s interesting to see what they have made. The online community seems well-supported and is a nice addition, but it is not necessary to go online to enjoy the game.
All in all, this is a very solid entry for the franchise, with enough new features and assets to please loyal fans and with enough improvements to attract initiates. Too bad on the curly hair thing, though. Not everyone embraces the flat iron.