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    The Sims 4 One small step backwards for Simkind, Review

    The Sims is one of those series that’s had the misfortune to fall into a predictable pattern: release a core game, fluff it up with expansion packs, build a massive community, and then tear it all down at start again. This is the fourth time we’ve seen this cycle begin and, just like every time it happens, there’s widespread comparisons between where the previous title ended up and where the new one kicks off. But it’s important to compare the core titles to keep things fair, only, when you do this, it only accentuates this new title's shortcomings.

    To give you some perspective I’ll quote a line from my 2009 review of The Sims 3: “… spend a few days with The Sims 3 and you’ll discover just how shallow those titles before it were.” The same simply can’t be said for The Sims 4. In fact, I'd argue that after a few days with this one, you’ll be yearning for one or two of those fantastic features like neighbourhood customisation, Create-A-Style, and seamless lot transitions.

    To make up for its missing features (the above mentioned, as well as toddlers, swimming pools, terrain deformation, and a few others), the focus of gameplay in The Sims 4 is slanted towards the individual Sims themselves and slightly away from the idea that you’re designing and playing in a living, dynamic and connected world. Maxis clearly wants the builders in the  SimCity  corner, and the gabbers here with  The Sims .

    Let’s look at some of the design tools on off er. For starters, there’s some great stuff  like rounded corner fences, foundations and counters, but not full size walls. Building, adjusting and moving entire rooms is very easy, and neat features like optional off grid placement and what is now well matured support for eight directional placement of structures and objects. Your Sims also won’t get too
    horribly stuck should you use lots of diagonals.

    The tools for placing decorations and furniture don’t seem to have changed much, but they’re fine as they are, although there’s no way to change the appearance of an object once it’s been placed down. Here the lack of Create-A-Style is sorely obvious, and the textures/colours on off er don’t exactly scream originality. In general, the selection of items is just on the stingy side of acceptable.

    Neighbourhood customisation, and really the whole neighbourhood concept as a whole, is one of the weakest parts of  The Sims 4. You can change public and residential lots to your heart’s content, as well as import new ones from the online gallery of user-made lots, but there’s no way to change the structure, layout, or appearance of the neighbourhoods. You're stuck with just two of them, each with 21 lots of fixed sizes. And if you want your Sims to visit another lot, you need to sit through a loading screen every time even if you’re just popping next door. Considering that you can get nearly everything you need for your Sims in your home lot, there’s little reason to ever leave the house.

    While the building and customisation tools are a bit of a let down, the attention that’s been given to the Sims themselves is very impressive. Sim behaviour is dominated by moods and emotions a concept born in Sims 3 and taken to the next level here. Angry, flirty, embarrassed, confident, energised, bored, tense, and more they turn your Sims from little computer people into believable entities that need someone to take care of them, or use those emotions for interesting purposes. When your Sim is in a particular mood, new interactions open up with objects and other Sims which are hilarious at first, and cunningly deep once you get the hang of the system. Taking an angry poop or
    confidentially bragging to your neighbours could earn your Sims Aspiration Points; get enough of these and you can buy one shot boosts or permanent bonuses for your Sims. It’s very possible to groom a Sim into an angry thug or perfectly centred hippie, and actually use that to their advantage, which is great for players who like to go off the beaten path of the socially acceptable.

    Skills and careers have also hada bit of an overhaul. While some career paths have been given the sack, their replacements are generally more interesting and well suit the quirky nature of The Sims . The skills that you gain in the quest to improve your Sims’ job standing or simple usefulness around the house often unlock access to new and interesting activities, and they almost always find their way into conversations (like discussing recipes, video game strategies or home DIY tips with like-minded Sims). These conversations are also dynamic in that they can take place with ever-changing groups of Sims in many settings: at the bar, in front of the TV or while two Sims are engaging in different activities near one another. Multitasking, when it works, is a treat.

    The Sims 4 isn't afraid to make it known that it’s the Sims who are the stars of this show. Not the buildings, not the furniture or the design elements, not the neighbourhoods or even the neighbours. This is about your Sims, their stories and their interactions with the world (immediately) around them. In that sense I commend The Sims 4 for what it is, and I’m sure there will be many people out
    there who love it for just that, but I can’t help shake the feeling that there should be more at the heart of this game. Especially considering the excellent starting points its predecessors have had.

     The Sim creation process features impressive face and body adjustment tools, allowing you to get in there and push/pull individual features of your Sims until they
    look perfectly hideous.

    Rooms can be automatically built and populated by selecting from either premade options or those imported from the online gallery. These rooms can be adjusted afterwards and all of its furniture will fall into place (most of the time).

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