Welcome to Sunset Valley, or: 2009 called, wants its Sims 3 review back

Normally, I would call this kind of post my “early thoughts” on something. Kindles, phones, games, they all get the same kind of treatment. The Sims 3, however, was first released in 2009 and I have just managed to get my hands on it now… the year 2013.

Part of it was reluctance. I loved The Sims 2 and had no particular desire to replace it. Part of it was time. I barely have time to play games as it is, if I was going to play anything, it would be the aforementioned second edition of the game. And, I suppose, part of it was that thing where, when everyone else loves something, you sort of don’t want to.

the-sims-3So, I’ve been happily living in ignorance for the past few years. At some point, I signed up to EA’s digital downloads Origin thing, and bought myself a copy of some Sims 2 things, to play in my spare time. I perhaps played it five times over four years. Fun! Cut to last month, when suddenly The Sims 3 was available for the Mac, as a digital download, and it was just £10. A tenner! I couldn’t really say no to that, although I downloaded it with very little plan to play.

Cut to me installing it, just to make sure it works. Cut to 1am in the morning, and bleary eyes.

Anyway, here are just some ponderings from me about the game that everyone else has been playing for years.

  • It’s quite system intensive. My poor little Mac heats up super quick when trying to play the game, and I had to turn down almost all the options to low quality just to get a seamless experience. Although the Sim City fiasco of recent weeks hasn’t enamoured people to the cloud experience, I’m certainly seeing the benefit of games hosted on other people’s servers!
  • I love, love, love two of the specific settings you can tweak. Firstly, the ability to change the duration of each age period. For example, when Sims are babies, they are boring, so I turned that right down to its lowest (two days, I think). Adult time is when you want the most opportunity to achieve the goals, so I turned that right up. I have yet to play a Sim all the way through to old age, but customising the life cycle to your own whim is genius.
  • The second setting I am loving so far is having independent will switched off on the Sim you are playing, but the rest of the household continue with their automatic decisions and lives. In The Sims 2, it’s all or nothing. I’ve always loved the micro-managing side of the game, but if you want a big family, then it’s a lot of work. This option means you can concentrate on just one person in a household, without the others standing around dumbly waiting for your next instruction.
  • I quite like the bigger world view that The Sims 3 allows. Rather than being confined to a single house, you’re entering the community and can move about all over the place. It’s fun finding stuff, like on the beach, or stumbling across the secret space shuttle place (far too close to civilisation!) and nice little parks and lakes. I particularly enjoy the new jogging aspect, although navigating around can be a bit cumbersome at times (particularly on my slow machine).
  • The game is huge. Collecting bugs, getting to the top of career tracks, wants, dreams, ambitions, books to write, gadgets to tinker with, opportunities to grab, achievements within achievements. There’s so much to do, and as ever, so little time to do it in!

So far, the only real downside I have come across is the one that stopped me picking the game up in the first place. I have a family that I’m playing and I know that if I move one of the people out and play them for a bit, the rest will continue on without me. I don’t want that. You can turn the option off, I think, but it seems to fit the ethos of the game, the larger community ideal of it. So far I haven’t played enough to decide how this really affects me though.

Mostly, The Sims 3 has won me over. Just like the previous games, it sucks me in and I can start playing at 9pm and then suddenly it’s time to go to work (not literally, but it could happen). It’s different, and I think that means there’s still scope for going back and playing The Sims 2.

Unfortunately, the Origin management shows me my previously bought Sims 2 games, but has them all greyed out nicely because they are Windows copies and I have a Mac. You would think, in a time of digital downloads, I could download whichever copy would work. I’ve paid the money, I want the game, in this day and age, it shouldn’t still be blocked by system compatibility.

Still, until this gets figured out, I have my £10 version of Sims 3 to keep me amused.