The Sims 4 is as it has always been, a legendary third person life simulator where you can create characters, babies, children, teens, adults and the elderly to watch them live out their lives, both mundane and insane. These Sims are people with needs. Everything from going to the bathroom and hygiene to their hunger and entertainment. The needs have been streamlined from what used to be charts, to the game’s new mood system that tells you at a glance, what’s going right and what’s wrong. Without the charts, the user interface feels a lot smaller so you have more of the screen’s real estate to show the action. You can take control of any household that you want, but you can only control one household and all of its Sims at a time.
Each Sim can carry out their day to day lives without you needing to do anything. If you’re a real control freak, you can turn off that option. So what do you do as the player? The Sims have wants and not just needs. They want to do things, but they only attend to their own needs. So if a Sim wants to play guitar, they won’t play a guitar until they need to be entertained. What else do you do for the Sims? Every so often when they’re at work, a little work story will pop up followed by two choices. The success rate of these two choices seems random, at least from my 20 hours in the game.
You can do as much for the Sims or as little as you want. Your commands overtake their own actions. If someone chose to bake a cake, but you tell them to go take a shower, you better expect they’ll leave the cake to burn in the oven. Is that wrong to have so much or so little interaction with something?
Even if moods have been in the game, they’ve never been as emphasized. Feeling flirty? The Sim will want to kiss someone. Feeling energized? That Sim might want to do push ups or jog around the block. Feeling Sad? Play a guitar or write a blog. The moods open up new actions that are punctuated by colors indicating that its there because the Sim is happy, focused or any other mood, How do you get to certain moods like being inspired? The easiest way is to take certain types of showers, such as a thoughtful shower will inspire a Sim or perform activities like watching a comedy to get in a playful mood. There are negative moods like being tense from a bad day at work, getting embarrassed in the bathroom when a roommate bursts in or being dazed from getting electrocuted while repairing something. These are easy to remedy by bathing, venting with a self deprecating joke or sleeping off. All of these moods are showed in their walk animations. Angry Sims will stomp around. Grungy Sims will visibly look dirty and Sims that need the bathroom have their legs tight together as they walk.
Like all Sims games, you can create your own characters with some pretty robust tools. Hair, body proportions and clothes. There are several outfits for various occasions. Casual wear, sleepwear, swim wear, formal wear and so on. Its all yours to customize, even different hair styles for different occasions. Then there’s an array of personality quirks for you to assign three to each of your created Sims. Do you make an evil genius that hates children? Perhaps an artful, cheerful snob would fit your cast. Then cap it off by giving each Sim one of many different aspirations. Things like love, popularity, knowledge, fortune and even food are all here. They will guide your Sim’s wants and offer aspiration goals for each sub category. Each aspiration has two or three sub categories. Will your food aspiring Sim want to be a master chef or a mixologiest? Will your love aspiring Sim want to be a serial romantic or to find their soul mate? With all of these personalities, aspirations, looks and traits, every Sim is truly different. For me, I enjoy a completely random Sim. They’re all interesting to play as and all have different goals to strive for. Will you as a player make them achieve their goals, make them cause chaos by breaking up their marriage or just watch their craziness unfold? You play how you want to.
Once your Sims are created or selected, the second step is to pick a lot or a house. You’ll have the option to buy it furnished or not. Once you’re in your lot or house, you can use the game’s robust build and buy features. You can add doors, construct walls, remove porches and do anything to your heart’s content. There are plenty of floor tiles and wall coverings like paint, siding and wall paper. It lets you make a house truly your own unique creation. If your Sim wants a bath, but there’s not enough room for a tub, why not knock down a wall and extend the bathroom? You can adjust the furniture to make things more efficient. Like having a garbage can next to the sink, so when a Sim cleans up food they drop the food in the can and wash the dish without having to find a sink in a bathroom.
All of these things break down though. Electronics, plumbing and appliances all have a reliability factor. As your Sim fixes things their skill will level up, unlocking new ways to upgrade each thing so they don’t break down as often. There are expensive unbreakable things. Each Sim can upgrade their skills usually from reading, but also practice. Leveling up in cooking means you can make higher quality meals without starting a fire. Getting good at painting means you can sell your art for more money. Certain career levels require different skills and friends before the Sim can get a promotion. There is a meter of how well a Sim is performing at work. Thankfully, a Sim can now just instantly disappear to work without missing a ride.
Sims go through a complete life cycle, eventually dying from old age and the grim reaper even comes for them. In between they can make friends, enemies, cook, eat, laugh, cry, get married, have kids, lose loved ones, outlive enemies, woo hoo in bed or the tub, dance and sing… all in Simlish. Even after death, a Sim can haunt the living.
For each age, Sims have a birthday that bleeds in with the game’s party / social function system. You can throw a specific type of event such as a house party or birthday party for someone, invite some people, hire caterer, a bar tender and so on. Then during the party you have specific goals, both major and minor. Everything from blowing out those candles to talking to all of the guests. There are minor objectives like having 3 Sims dance at once or making a group meal. This breaks up the game from mundane tasks like go to work, come home, do work’s daily requirement, shower, sleep, eat and toilet. Its all up to you how you make your Sims live their life. I am more goal oriented, that’s the object of the game for me. Other players might just seal a Sim in a wall to let them die, or have their Sim waltz around setting fires in the neighborhood.
Your Sims aren’t just confined to their lot. Rolling the mouse wheel can zoom in or zoom out to reveal your entire neighborhood. Your Sims can visit anyone’s house on the map or pick up a phone to travel to a different neighborhood or a business. Having access to other houses in your neighborhood without needing to load a new screen adds a lot of ease to the game. Traveling over to another Sim’s home, using their shower, then going elsewhere to use their pool adds a lot of quirky fun.
Even after 20 hours of playing the game, I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface that I know the game has from playing its predecessors. I can’t say that I still enjoy this type of game after putting in hundreds of hours into Sims 2, but I do know that Sims 4 is the best at what it does. Its only competition is the Sims 3 with all of its expansion packs and extensive customization options. I already have Sims 3 and plenty of expansions. Did I really need the Sims 4 to grace my computer? The only real reason I needed the Sims 3 was to forgo the constant loading screens of Sims 2 encroaching on the fun.