Burn Your Kitchen! A Sims 3 Review

Shame on me! I was on holiday, and what did I almost miss? I only realised that Sims 3 was already out when I walked past it in a shop. Shame. Needless to say, I instantly grabbed hold of the Collector’s Edition and ran home. (Sort of…)

I then read a few reviews and opinions on it during the installation. What I found was that most people seemed to think it was crap, mainly the graphics, that it was almost like Sims 2 and hadn’t been changed enough. Then someone even bitched about the online shop for Sims objects and that the people from EA were all nasty capitalists for selling everything extra. All one big load of rubbish, I say, so here’s my opinion:I’ll start with the box, which is an important part of any “new game” ritual, as we all know. Nice set, the Collector’s Edition: I find the manual (helpful), my 12€ worth of sim points for the Sims 3 Store, a sheet with shortcuts and commands, an extra serial number for a fancy sports car (none of my Sims are ever going to be able to afford that…) and a Tips & Tricks extra book (slim and not really important). Last but not least, my favourite: the green diamond USB stick. Yes, I am so easy, I know, but I like it. On it there are some wallpapers and screen-savers, which you can get online too, so… *delete*, plus the Sims theme song (quite all right actually).

I register online, which goes surprisingly smooth. Can’t get my sports car though, because of technical difficulties. Aw, man. I eagerly start the game and find short loading time and nicely designed menus. I love the “flat” style they use, it works great. Sims 2 had a touch too much photoshopped embossing on it. I kick up the resolution and graphics and check out my town. Yes, all you nasty critics, there’s only one town. But I think that’s enough for starters (Sims are high maintenance, after all) – and you get another one for free online if you’re not busy enough.

Creating A New Sim

The available families are sorted by difficulty: thanks for telling me but I kinda guessed that a family of 5 with one baby included is more hassle than one single guy. But I head on to create my own Sim now: Laura. I see that the “young adult” age still exists like in the University add-on in Sims2. There’s no campus in Sunset Valley, but the time to learn and study is available this way. There’s still no sizing option, but you can finally make your Sims really fat. Someone complained about the few hairstyle choices. Well, at least there are less weird ones and those that are there are sufficient – mostly because you can infinitely mess around with the colour. (Fun!) As for skin colour, now you cannot only choose between black and white, but also green, blue or red. (With matching pointy ears available.)

Before I comment on the variety of eyebrows – suffice it to say, there are so many options I don’t know where to begin. The amount of details is simply amazing. Clothes can be mapped with an insane amount of patterns, shoes are finally separate, as are watches and earrings. You can even choose the voice of your Sim. And her favourite food, music and colour! The traits are a great new addition, too: I can determine what kind of person Laura is in more detail than I could before, with just a star sign to go by! I know people have already criticised this as not sufficient, and even worse than before, but I think it gives the Sims a wider range of hooks to hang a plot on.

The Town – Sunset Valley

Now, let’s check out Sunset Valley. Wait – what? I can’t zoom! I can’t build! I’m confused. It asks me if I want to leave the tutorial. I’m in the tutorial? I guess I better do what it says: I buy Laura a nice little flat and a couch, which increases her lifetime happiness! That must be one hell of a comfortable couch. During the game, little messages pop up to inform me of new or important gameplay things. These “lessons” can be re-read in the menu later.

I buy some more furniture and have some fun with the “random” button: it randomly applies textures to your objects – instead you can of course design them all to match. But right now I want to see how life works, I’ll beautify the flat later.

I now see what the other critics meant about “backward” graphics. The trees and bushes look like bitmaps, and not every edge is as smooth as it could be. But I soon discover why: The amount of details stuns me! Like they did in the character editor, the creators obviously chose quantity over quality – and I have to agree with them! The clock on the wall actually shows the time! There are toilet rolls! And every little object has many more ways to interact with it now. The animations are much more complex as well – be it Laura in the bathtub or just sitting on the couch moving randomly to the beat of the stereo. So thumbs up! I love to watch for these little things – after all, why do people play Sims? To watch their little creatures run around and make a mess. And now there are so many more things to make a mess with!

Gameplay

The menus are more logical than before, I believe this is mostly due to the “patchwork” feel that Sims 2 got when you installed 5 add-ons. Again, I like the “flat” graphics in the buy and build modes. In live mode, things are ordered and easy to find. The inventory has been improved – I can now drag and drop items, which saves poor Laura a few walks to the rubbish bin.

I am glad to see that most of the things that annoyed me in Sims 2 have been changed for the better. The wish system for example: you can choose which wishes you want to fulfil and “lock” them, discard others. With my earned lifetime happiness points, I can buy extra traits. Laura can now clean things very efficently (who needs a maid?), has a steel bladder (the ideas!) and can observe others better.

I have much fun with Laura, walking through town right from my doorstep: no more boring loading screens when you want to take a walk! I made her artistic, so we go and visit the art gallery. Here, I get a first impression of the great improvements in social interaction. I meet Jared, and soon find out he’s a cook. And suddenly I can to talk to him about cooking. It sounds so simple, but I believe it’s these things that make the game more realistic and thus more enjoyable.

But now Laura is tired and we go home – just the click of a button and she takes a taxi! No more calling a taxi, then trying to stop your Sim from going back to the upstairs toilet in the nightclub! Some of the things they did in Sims 2 really drove me mad. I realise I’m much more relaxed now.

But this is still The Sims. So what happens the first three times I make waffles? Right, I set fire to my stove. And one night later my shower is stolen. Lucky I didn’t spend all my money on expensive furniture. Speaking of lucky: that’s actually one of Laura’s traits. So next morning she wakes up “feeling lucky” – good thing this is the day I start work. Laura wants to become an author, so I got her a job at the local newspaper.

Unfortunately you can’t (yet) see what your Sims do at work, but you can influence their behaviour – slack or industrious? The payment is hourly, so you can even leave work early some days and still get paid. Work advancement can be closely monitored like the student performance in the Sims 2 university add-on.

It’s hard to focus on the “main” things – there’s so much to do and see! Laura goes to take a shower. Wait, just that? No – she gets a mood bonus for being clean and a mood penalty because of the crappy (cold!) shower. These effects make it a lot easier to monitor your Sim’s mood and see how their surroundings effect them.

The skills are more complex now, and you can get a lot more information from the skill journal. For example you need to learn a recipe to cook certain things, and you actually have to buy the right ingredients. I can’t remember ever being so excited about someone just going to buy some lettuce. And there are many other things I could mention!

Conclusion

This game is fun! They kept the best bits of Sims 2 and improved on it – what more could you want? If the concept works, why complain that they didn’t change it?

As for the online store, it worked just fine. And as far as I remember, the idea to sell new objects came from the fans in the first place, so how can you blame EA for doing it? I’ll survive with the objects I have, but if people want to spend extra money on that special haircut, fine with me.

The graphics and animations are great and detailed enough to keep you looking for days. The general annoyance level has dropped considerably: The Sims are smarter, cars don’t block each other’s way any longer. Everything is neat and organised, you can play this game on intuition.

Definitely: Fangirl Approved!

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