The Sims 4’s Problem: It’s a Game Built for a Different Generation
Every iteration in The Sims series up until the latest entry has seen me
waste lose countless hours of my life to building homes, cultivating relationships and making families in a virtual world. There are very few video game series that have managed to consistently hold me hostage at my desktop in the way that The Sims has over the years, but I’ve had a notably different reaction to The Sims 4, because after putting in just under 20 hours into the game since its release, I’m already bored of it.
By now you’ve likely heard the backlash: a lot of content that was previously featured in the series has been cut, though some noticeable improvements have also been made. If you’ve read our review, then you’ll know that some of these improvements drastically improve the foundations of the series including Create-a-Sim and Build Mode, but that the new features fail to make up for what feels like a rather unsubstantial game. However, the truth is that this was also a glaring issue in The Sims 3‘s base game. Yes, it was open-world and therefore larger in scale (though this presented its own issues thanks to numerous performance problems), but it still seemed somewhat empty until the inevitable expansions rolled around. This is what I believe is the key issue with The Sims 4: it’s a game built for a generation of PC owners who simply accepted the existence of pricey games being improved by similarly pricey expansions, but that generation has now moved on.
After the initial cost of buying/building a rig, PC gaming is notoriously inexpensive when compared with consoles. Digital distribution services such as Steam, Origin and GOG.com all frequently host sales where even recently released games can have their price reduced by 50%. When console games only seem to be getting more expensive and digital downloads on the PS4/Xbox One are still ludicrously overpriced, you can pack your Steam library full of games for only a fraction of the price it would cost you if you were to do the same on consoles. Those who prefer playing their games on PC have naturally come to expect more for less, but developer Maxis and publisher EA (who is taking the majority of the flack for this) have not changed The Sims‘ format to accommodate for this new, frugal PC gamer. It is unashamedly a bare-bones appetizer and will only reach its full potential when a few expansions have rolled around. In 2014, this simply isn’t okay.
The Sims 3 has been around for 5 years and in that time Sims fans have become accustomed to playing with most of, if not all of the expansions installed. To strip the series back down to its foundations, even if those foundations have now been improved upon, was never going to go down well. Though the series’ penchant for seemingly infinite expansions prepared us for the same to be the case here, we wasn’t really prepared for EA and Maxis to go down the route of nickle and diming its fan base so aggressively given how much the market has changed since the previous game.
We were used to our households having pets, a wider selection of furniture and more things to see and do in the surrounding neighborhood, and we’re not going to willfully accept that those things have disappeared from The Sims 4 just because EA needs more features to stuff into their expansions in order to justify their price points. At this rate the game won’t reach its full potential until a couple of hundred dollars has been piled into it by the consumer, and considering the plethora of great games that can currently be purchased on Steam and the like are being sold for a fraction of the price that will eventually transform The Sims 4 into a great game (EA hopes), we’d wager that many of those who have invested in the base game won’t be so willing to make as big an investment as they did with previous games in the series.
In 2014 there’s simply too much variety on PC for Maxis to have watered down The Sims so much. The key to the series’ success was to provide a hugely addictive (if notably feature-lacking) vanilla game that would keep players’ attention until the first expansion, with this trend continuing until EA had successfully taken all of your money and you were left seriously considering purchasing shamelessly branded clothing and decor packs such as Diesel Stuff and Katy Perry’s Sweet Treats. The Sims 4‘s improvements are notable but also minimal, with the lack of content on offer being far more noticeable than the positive adjustments Maxis has made. The Sims 3’s base game had its problems, but in the two years between its release and The Sims 2‘s, it still felt like a bold, strong progression for the series. In many ways The Sims 4 feels like a back-step in terms of the variety of content on offer, and how on Earth will a game that’s less robust than its predecessor manage to hold peoples’ attention until the expansion packs arrive?
It feels as though Maxis hasn’t actually looked at the landscape of PC gaming since The Sims 3 released. That, or EA locked them in an underground bunker after SimCity launched in order to shield them from the barrage of negativity. Regardless of the reasoning behind The Sims 4‘s far more “minimalist” approach, it’s a definite, inescapable blip in an otherwise untarnished (excluding the spin-off games, of course) series, and if I was to be extra cynical, I’d suggest that it was manufactured as such in order to convince people to invest more money in order to improve it.
It remains to be seen whether people will flock to Amazon/Origin in order to buy The Sims 4: Pets, Toddlers and Pools when it launches, but at the moment it’s looking more and more likely that this is another PR disaster for a company that is becoming increasingly adept at generating bad will. For me, The Sims 4 is the most disappointing game of 2014 thus far, and I won’t be throwing more money at EA and Maxis in order to change that.
Header Image: Reddit.com/u/bleef