Celeste Dobropolski On October 23, 2014 at 10:56 am

The Sims 4 Logo
The Sims 4 had very large shoes to create, design, and fill. The series has improved with each iteration, spanned countless expansions, and staved off changes that altered the core of the game. Until now. As a game outside of the Sims franchise, Sims 4 would be a pretty good game. It’s basic, and it holds true to many of the tenets that modern gaming stands and sells by. But as a next step in the beloved franchise, it deserves a fair amount of criticism.

To start on a positive note, the game contains much zippier loading times. A brand new engine, featuring characters with a decidedly cartoonish appearance, means loading and saving games with very little waiting. However, this improvement comes at a very high price – customization. Everything in Sims 4 is simplified. The Create a Sim screen is streamlined and fluid to the point of not only loading easily, it also allows players to intuitively feel out and fine tune characters in no time at all. Most impressive is the ability to not only set a body type and alter a few features with sliders, but to click, drag, and scroll to implement realistic and varied body types. Sims during gameplay are also much better at multi-tasking, which adds a touch of believabilty to their actions and the ability to have Sims do more in less time.

The Sims games were among the first to allow extensive customization with very little limits. This resulted in many fine advancements in their games, such as increased diversity and visibility for groups we do not often see represented in games and general media. It also meant a unique connection and investment in characters. Little additions, as trivial as they were, such as choosing a favorite color or type of music for a Sim, enhanced the verisimilitude of character personalities. The removal of these features in the Sims 4 furthers the disconnect felt through stunted customization. Characters feel more stock, less like individuals, which gives the impression that players will have to wait until expansions to have anything beyond the most primitive display of Sim identity.

The focus in the game seems to be on the different emotions Sims can feel and using the proper combination of actions to achieve certain emotional gains. While the concept of emotions is an interesting addition, it seems more like a side step and less like a step forward in developing what the game calls “smart” Sims. It also seems to overwhelm the other goals in the game at times, and can require more effort than the rewards are worth. When creating a Sim, characters still choose an ambition and traits which impact emotions and their general progress. Traits and ambitions provide solid boosts or hindrances, and they give a steady indication of what path a Sim will follow. However, trait types are limited to an extent and lack the range to overcome the cloned feeling of Sim temperaments.

The gameplay also has a different slant which will seem more familiar to players of mobile, social, and non-simulation games. Whereas previous Sims games functioned in a very open-ended environment, the Sims 4 develops small linear paths that receive more importance than they held in previous renditions. Want to utilize some of the items for decorating? Players need a specific character to attain a certain level in a career or life goal to purchase it. Games with no actual end utilize the addition of many achievements. This is accomplished by quests in MMORPGs, rankings in sports and fighting games, and unlocking items in social and mobile games. While social and mobile format games had a meteoric rise followed by a sudden crash, there is a relevance to the formula when utilized as a way to drive up membership and purchases when a game is free-to-play. Unfortunately, in a game like The Sims 4, players see a strange relative of this format, and they don’t even get the connectivity perks of an interactive social game. Sure, gamers can post pictures to Facebook in the game, or they can create Memories with captions and tagging family members. But the crux of a social game is interaction, not illustration. It almost feels like an idea that was somewhat developed, but ultimately shucked to the wayside, which is a shame, because it might have been something powerful and innovative.

Along with generic Sim personalities are actions which also seem dulled in comparison to previous game and expansion abilities. For example, Sims now carry smart phones by default, and will be seen taking selfies and playings games at will (if you decide to give them free will.) In previous iterations, phones led to more player input, such as developing blog posts and actually taking pictures of objects in the game. These fun little diversions were a basis of building up a Sim’s social media prowess. Now, however, the motions are frequent and consistent among all Sims. While this might be a more realistic portrayal of our current society, it also creates the illusion of having far less in a game where you could previously do more with an item. Another interesting aspect of personalities is the way socialization works. Sims are able to build relationships much faster than before, and friends will come to visit and call quite often. I feel the limitations of personalities can best be viewed in this way, however. Sims have more free will in this game according to EA, but if you let the Sims go, the AI might be a little too smart. For the most part, Sims go about their days with very little mishaps, even if you give them less desirable traits. The way this relates to the ability to navigate Sim lives in previous games is not unlike playing the game on easy mode. Truth be told, part of the fun of previous versions was avoiding catastrophic Sim blunders, which is less likely when Sims are executing a rotation of tame, repetitive emotional responses.

An extremely welcome reversion in Sims 4 is the ability to play more than one household in the same Neighborhood (now called a Sim World.) Sim Worlds are also scaled back, offering less lots. Secret areas which can be unlocked are a nice addition, but these are strictly for collecting and not for building. When players do build, however, it has been simplified in many positive ways. Pre-built rooms are standard, and many of the editing and creation aspects in creating rooms and editing them were made to be more natural and functional than previous games. However, customization again took a hit. Designing items now limits gamers to a set number of styles, all pre-arranged. Gone are the days of uploading custom textures and patterns to edit each individual texture of an item. Work clothes also cannot be modified. Gamers can still use mods, codes, and custom items at the cautioning of EA, which is going to be a necessity for those who play the game for the variety in decorating and clothing.

Some might say it’s not fair to compare Sims 4 strictly to previous games, since it is its own game and the previous games had many expansions to branch out and enliven their features. It stays true in many fundamental ways, but customization is one facet that I feel many Sims players would not want to compromise for faster loads. To see so much of the soul of the game cast aside, there should have been a lot more added to replace it. I wouldn’t say rule out the game entirely, but maybe watch to see where future releases take it. The best hope is future expansions can rectify some of what I feel are missteps and unfulfilled potential.


Although cartoony, the new Sims are clean, fast, and efficient. Lack of customization means reliance on custom content for a true splash of color.


The new music is the biggest departure sonically in all of the games. It will take some getting used to for veteran players, but it also won’t make them tired of hearing the same songs as before. Stations serve even less importance than before.


Intuitive, advanced creation is one of the shining features. Actually playing the game, however, can at times lack motivation, individuality, and excitement due to limited choices and an AI that doesn’t require much guidance.


Pulling back from nearly limitless personalization, the game runs more fluidly, but offers less in return. The best case scenario is that the game is a bare framework to plug with lots of expansions. The worst case is that it never reaches its full potential due to an unrealized, possibly confused ambition.

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