The Sims 3, developed by EA Black Box, is the latest in the line of ‘dollhouse’ games, and the first not developed by Maxis.
Once you’ve created your single Sim or Family, you can choose from a number of empty houses to spend your money on. Or, if you want to skip all of this, you can create any of the pre-created households, which come complete with their own stories and difficulty levels. Then, it’s off to your life as a Sim!
For Those Who Have Been Here
If you’ve played one of the previous games, and more likely, The Sims 2, you’ll feel right at home. You pick a career by reading the paper, furnish your home, build your skills, and do everything much as you did in the previous game. A number of features from previous games and expansions have shown up in The Sims 3, notably cell phones, the ability to run businesses, the ‘Young Adult’ life stage, and others. Also, the Fears of the previous game have gone away, and Aspirations and Motives are now simply just ‘Needs’. Instead of eight meters, now you only have six, and your Sims do seem to be more adept at handling life on their own, figuring out how to use the bathroom and take a shower without much help, although there are times when your Sim may stand there, screaming for attention because they’ve broken the toilet, and aren’t quite sure how to proceed, giving you the choice whether to pitch in, or just sit and watch the hilarity. Admittedly, there’s an option in the game where you can set this, choosing to set it to no free will, just a little, or a lot, all depending on how much you want to control the game.
Fulfilling your Wants can lead to a lifetime happiness score, which allows you to purchase things which are mainly aimed at making your life easier: items to increase the speed at which you clean, increase your opportunities to socialize, lower your stress, all the way up to items which can almost make the game effortless, duplicating food at the blink of an eye, or completely mellowing you out. Also, doing things which make your Sim happy tend to keep them happy. Give them a good night’s sleep, and their mood skyrockets. Have them stressed out, and the day will probably go downhill fast.
One of the major changes between the previous game and The Sims 3 is the removal of the ‘Time Bubble’. In The Sims 2, only what happened to you in your current location mattered. If you struck up a friendship as a youth with the little girl next door, and aged to adulthood, your childhood friend was stuck in eternal childhood. You could spend all day at home, then go to the bar and exhaust yourself, only to return home at the exact moment that you left. EA Black Box has done a great deal to remove these immersion-breaking items, and now the entire world moves as one: Everyone ages, marries, has children, and grows as a unit. The game world, or at least your town, is essentially a living unit. This is a much-needed change, and goes a great way toward keeping the game from growing stale.
Not Everything Is Greener
While most of the changes are positive, there are a few issues that have cropped up here and there. While you can see yourself go to work, and go into many buildings in the game, not everywhere is like this. For the most part, at work and while eating out, you’ll just watch the building while time speeds by, until your Sim leaves to go home. There’s no opportunity to actually decide to do anything during those times. Presumablythis will change in an expansion, but it’s a but off-putting.
Another change is the move to micro-transactions. I’m ambivalent about this, as the Stuff packs for Sims 2 felt like a forced money grab, charging players $20 each for a box of objects that they may or may not ever choose to use. Now, at least, they can go to the Sims Exchange online and purchase only those items that they wish to, without buying crap that they neither want nor need.
One caveat has to do with your choice of mouse. Make sure before you play the game that your left, right and middle mouse button is set to the proper settings, especially in Windows Vista. Some mice in Windows Vista default the scroll wheel-click to the Flip 3D mode, which means that you cannot rotate your screen in-game. Changing this will go a long way towards making the game easier to use.
Change Everything or Change Nothing, the Choice is Yours
One of the hallmarks of The Sims 3 is the ability to modify essentially everything in the game. Don’t like how the town looks? Change it. Want to make your couch look unique? Change the fabric and the arms to match your tastes. Decide you want to bulk up in the game? Buy some weights and go to town. The choice is completely yours if you want it, including the ability to turn on or off aging and determining how long it takes for a natural lifespan. The game offers nearly unlimited opportunities for change and growth, which is a huge selling point in my mind.
Graphically, this game shines on even a moderate system, and loads fairly quickly. There’s a large amount of detail from the Sims themselves, the gaming landscape, all of the furniture and housing options, as well as all of the little things in the game. While you can tell pretty easily that it’s a ‘fake’ world, it still looks very realistic for its setting. The sound likewise fits, as all of the Simlish sounds just as fitting as it ever did, and the music is a nice combination of both actual classical tunes as well as Simlish-inspired tunes of different varities.
While there were some mild glitches at launch, EA has done very good at patching the game, and it remains stable even after a few hours of play and doesn’t cause any problems when shutting down. Copy protection isn’t a hassle, especially if you buy the digital version as opposed to the physical copy.