Simile: Like or As

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I can’t remember if I’ve talked about the Sims yet in here, but consider me an avid fan. A decade (!) ago, I installed some random desktop app on my computer, which the Sims had randomly decided to advertise on. I was soon fixated on obtaining the game, and was among the first in my city to snatch a copy when it was released with little preceding buzz up here in Canada.

From there, the rest is history. The game went on to be the best-selling PC franchise of all time, with a million spin-offs, expansion packs, and download packs. Although the game has lost some of its quirky lustre it had in the early days, and although EA has seriously poleaxed a lot of their loyal fans by releasing increasingly faulty, rushed products, I’m still enjoying the game.

The general consensus right now is that the second incarnation of the game was the best. I don’t entirely disagree with that statement. It was, by a landslide, better than the original game, but as I analyze The Sims 3 and understand what it’s all about, I can see that a lot of things in TS2 didn’t really make sense.

The main strength of this game has always been storytelling however, and it’s something that’s really been stripped bare from TS3. Where is the in-game photo albums that allowed you to create a world, if only in your head/game? Where are the memories, however pointless, that track your sim’s progression from tumbling toddler to awkward teen to successful adult? I miss seeing those milestones recorded, and truthfully the memories element would have played well with the personality trait system of TS3 (i.e. your sim would ‘remember’ things more closely linked to their personalities).

Moving onwards, the main strength of the third game, the one that people seem to be overlooking, is that EA has really tried (whether fans wanted it or not) to make the game have a purpose. It’s still as open-ended as always, in some ways moreso, but every single thing they put into the game generally has a purpose.

Having nice furniture now results in your sim being in a noticeably better mood, while before it just barely impacted the irritating ‘room score’. The method of earning a promotion at work isn’t just about slugging away at skills, it’s about relationship building, career-oriented tasks, and skills. Plus working on those skills earns you fun bonuses and goals to strive for, as well as applicable missions related to what your Sim appears to be interested in. All of the little things that just sort of seemed to be ‘there’ now have a meaningful impact on your sim’s lives, and that’s just cool.

So when I heard that they were releasing another incarnation of the ‘travel’ expansion pack, I was a bit surprised and turned off at the same time. I was never a big fan of either travel expansion in the first two games, in fact I can hardly recall a thing about TS2’s travel game. In addition, with TS2 we were at least given a totally new concept (kicking off with University) followed by a rehashed, redeveloped, expanded version of an original game expansion pack. In total there were 3 rehashes (Nightlife, Bon Voyage, and Pets) and 4 newbies (University, Open for Business, Seasons, Hobbies). So needless to say, starting off on an unoriginal note was a bit of a surprise.

To my surprise however, World Adventures is not just another travel pack. Each world is beautifully designed and wholly different from the neighbourhoods your sims reside in. There are tons of places to explore, new items to purchase, new cultures to learn about, new skills to learn, and a new element of gameplay similar to the missions of the base game, but often based on tomb exploration and puzzle solving. It’s so far provided me with (way too many) hours of fun. Suddenly, taking a trip isn’t just a delay in getting to the next generation of your sims. It’s a chance to take a break from the breakneck pace of the base game and do that much more with your sim. In fact it’s an easy way to bone up on skills that you’re not finding the time to work on back in the real world.

This expansion more than lives up to the purpose of TS3: everything has a purpose. Beyond that, the expansion itself has a purpose. The base game was getting tired, because there are only so many skills to learn that were introduced at that point. This game introduces new things in all the places people wanted them, but got to theme things in an interesting way and seriously expand the level of gameplay beyond what I think anyone would have expected.

That being said, the tomb exploring thing could get old fast. I’ve pushed one sim through many a tomb and I don’t know that it’ll be exciting generation after generation, unless they have a massive number of activities to participate in that I haven’t completely explored.

Looking at the first two games, the main problem was also the main problem with the game – it just seemed like a diversion from the base game with no real purpose other than a brief change of scenery. The original Vacation was sort of a precursor for the fabulous TS2 expansion Seasons, and brought a huge wealth of fun (if slightly one-note) objects to the table. Remember the sledding hill? Instant fun points!
Bon Voyage, like I said, I barely remember. I know it was the first expansion to venture to Asia, but ‘Shang Simla’ in World Adventures is much better done. I remember Seasons having an impact on the game as well. There was also some sort of pirate destination and a camping village. But the experiences in each place weren’t all that different, from one another, or from home.

World Adventures isn’t perfect. There is next to nothing for kids and toddlers to do, and the gameplay will only take you so far. But given the huge wealth of opportunities for your sim to pursue already, I imagine that with the third expansion pack it’ll be hard to choose which direction to go down. Having specialty ‘adventure’ sims sounds like a pretty cool option in the mix though.

- Britt’s On

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