I bought Sims 3 a few weeks ago, and though I continue to find new things in it every time I play, I felt that I know the game well enough to be bale to review it honestly. Sims 3 is actually kind of a difficult review. I mean, like the other Sims games, it is solid, there isn’t a lot that they ever really needed to improve on and as such Sims 3 seems very much like Sims 2. So much so you wonder for awhile why it is that we end up with a sequal to a game that already is pretty solid in its own right. Of course the main reason to do this is to provide new expansions and thus get more money without having to actually think up new ideas.
The other reason you create a sequel is to upgrade graphics. So I believe this is really the main thing to look at. The graphics honestly don’t look that different than Sims 2 and given graphics alone I’m a little surprised by the sequel as it shows an obvious lack of time given between 2 and 3. Two I felt was pretty advanced for graphics for its time and while 3 has advanced from that point a little, I don’t feel it is current in graphics technology. I think the sims themselves look almost exactly the same, some have actually said worse, but I think about the same. The houses and the environments do look better. Environments in particular seem to be the biggest improvement in the game. I really enjoy the swaying of the trees and grass that can be found, though this improvement makes me feel sad that the weather is now out of the game again.
The Objects of Sims 3
The continued graphics improvement and yet another change to the engine has another big meaning. Less objects. I think it is unfair to really compare the object total of Sims 2 after several stuff packs and expansion packs to sims 3. However, I don’t believe that Sims 3 has as many objects as Sims 2 had at launch, which had less objects than Sims 1. For me, this is more than a little disappointing. I don’t feel like houses have a great deal of variety in them simply because they all seem to have the same bed, same shower, same everything just different colors.
This is even more disappointing when you go to their new store and see dozens and dozens of objects available at a cost. In fact they have five complete sets at launch that range from $6 to $20. Yes for the low low cost of $20 you can get a set of 47 items. To put that into perspective, the IKEA stuff pack for Sims 2 had 76 items for $19.99. So basically for the same price you get half the stuff. I honestly don’t think that most gamers mind the milking of a game by the developers. But what the big worry is with gamers is that they are purposely leaving stuff out of the product for the sole purpose of selling it separately. I really get the feeling that EA has done that with Sims 3. They’ve shorted the items so that they can sell you them separately, therefor forcing you to pay $60 for a product that is only giving you 3/4s the stuff and allowying you to purchase the rest separately. It sucks, and this is why so many gamers hate micro-purchases for games. If this is the business model you guys want, fine. Give out Sims 3 for free, with extremely basic options (but 1 of each) and then force people to pay for the rest. Don’t do it old business and new business, it is shady at best.
The one saving grace with objects in Sims 3 is that it is MUCH easier to actually customize the items. Now you can change the color and texture for everything very very easily. Their new custimzation tool is just excellent. For instance, there is a towel rack object for your bathroom that has hand towels and wash clothes on a bar. You can change the color of the hand towels, then change the wash cloth color to a different color, and finally change the color of the metal bar that they hang on. You have a full choice of the color wheel, and can even change their textures, and it is easy enough to go include your own textures into the game too. You kind of saw this was the general direction that they wanted to go in Sims 2, but they just never got there. I am glad to see this idea finally realized in Sims 3 because it is great.
You need to have a Character
Character creation sees the same pluses and minuses as objects. There are much fewer choices, and it isn’t too shocking that some of the better options you need to pay for. This is even more evident in hair styles, most of which are just total crap, but then you go to their stores and you see lots you like. I have a hard time imagining this was an accident. But I digress. The tools themselves seem much easier to work with. They’ve included earrings and wristbands from the expansions of Sims 2 in the base game which is nice. The custom color tools also mean it is much easier to get exactly the color of eyes and hair you want, and are also just as awesome for clothes as they are for objects in the game.
They also have streamlined the Nightlife traits in the game. They actually mean something to the game. I made my character insane, and it has offered up hours of entertainment. When he was first meeting the woman he would eventually marry, he had a bout with his hand where his hand started choking him against his will, he constantly wants to talk to himself, and he often goes and knocks over the trash can for no reason. I also think its funny that he randomly picks an outfit, so he often goes to a formal gathering in pajamas and sleeps in his tux. Likewise, his daredevil personality meant that he liked to take extreme showers until extremely clean, which did little but was funny.
Refinements are where it is at.
In fact, one of the nicer reasons I can think of upgrading from sims 2 to sims 3 is it takes a lot of the cooler features offered throughout the expansions and streamlines them into a single interface. One of the problems with Sims 2 recently was that every expansion seemed to bring about a new interface that just made the whole GUI a complete and utter mess that was difficult to manage. This did away with that entirely. It took the cars and the traits (I know they are like the other initial traits in sims 2 but I actually think they look and feel more like nightlife) of nightlife, young adult and cell phones from University, gardening, fishing and cooking from Seasons, lifetime achievements from open for business (even the new lifetime awards are closer to open for business than the original), skills from Free time, and the seamless locations from Apartment life. They took the best features from each and wrapped them up into a single interface that is not different at all from the original, it is like it was what each expansion should have done instead of what they did.
That being said, I do miss the seasons, I miss the trips, I miss businesses (as useless as they were, it was like free money and relationships to open your house as a business, no more work!), I definitely miss the pets, I miss the old lifetime reward objects and career reward objects (though I only stuck to a few and some of them are still in the game just gotten in a different way. There are many things from the old game and its expansions that I really do miss that I don’t know why they got rid of. For example, town creation. I thought the old tool was bad and therefor not many people made their own towns. Yet, there is only one available town in the game and it isn’t that great, there aren’t a lot of houses in it, and there aren’t even that many people in it to meet (i ended up marrying my boss whom was lower on the career path than me and much older but without the lifetime rewards she died really quickly, the whole thing was confusing and I didn’t like it one bit).
There were also other little enhancements to the game. They got rid of a ton of annoyances both for good and bad. For instance, you really don’t have to go shopping anymore, even though there is a grocery store. I do think it is cheaper to go to the grocery store and get your own food, but if you don’t and you want to make a recipe, you can just spend the money in your fridge and it will appear. Gone also is grocery delivery, I mean why have it when you can just make it appear in your fridge? Baby raising has become MUCH easier, baby bottles and diapers just disappear, no more trash that the maid refuses to take off the floor. No more weeding the front yard because you haven’t done that lately (think they took that out in Seasons in 2 but still). Overall, a lot of similar little things taken out to make your life easier.
Lastly, skills. The skills seem to have been re-arranged a lot. I haven’t been able to figure exactly how as I haven’t unlocked all the skills yet. You no longer are able to view skills unless your character has learned it. This actually makes it a cleaner interface for all as you only see what you need, and it probably is easier to add new ones down the line. The ones I know about for sure are Art, Cooking, Repairing, Guitar (instead of the more general music), Gardening, Fishing, and Charisma. Those are the ones I can think of off hand. I think there are a few more such as Writing that I haven’t quite unlocked yet but I can’t be certain. To me the surprising ones that seem to be missing are Body (which actually seemed to be used a lot in Sims 1 and 2) and Cleaning (which I don’t mind being gone.
In the end, like I said it is hard not to give a good grade to The Sims 3. The first two were grade A products. This one is the same game, just with slightly better graphics and a far more refined experience. Yet I can’t help but feel that sometimes they miss the point. They miss it in the store where you pay far too much for objects (I want there to be an object that you pay more for in Sims than you do in real life, I’m sure it is out there), they miss the point in some of the simplification (I liked the old grocery method better), they just seem off which is too bad. It isn’t a bad game necessarily, it is just an un-needed one. And for that I have to give Sims 3 a C+ Actually at this point I would tell people not to waste their money, you know Sims 3 will have package deals with the first expansion, or at the very least it will have dropped in price. And maybe with the first expansion (whatever it is) there may be enough objects to warrant the full price.