Amongst The Sims community, there’s a big debate about which main entry in the series is the best. It’s easy to compare the games, but it’s difficult for everyone to agree on which title is the best. With The Sims 4, however, many people feel it’s a step back from the previous games, particularly when it first came out in 2014. Their main problem was the initial absence of features such as swimming pools and toddlers, which were included in the base games of The Sims 2 and The Sims 3. Many of these features have since returned thanks to free updates, but was it enough to win back fans? Perhaps, but even now, after several years of being out and many free updates and DLC packs, people still prefer the first three games.
Is it fair to be so dismissive of The Sims 4 though? Millions of people around the world play it. Also, DLC packs are still being released, giving us seasons, pets, universities, and much more, as well as free updates that bring new content to the game. Some people might think The Sims 4 isn’t as good as previous games, but are there things that it does better than its predecessors? That’s what we’re going to explore.
A FLEXIBLE AND DIVERSE CREATE-A-SIM
Creating your Sims has never been easier in The Sims 4. Sliders are no more. You simply grab a body part and push and pull. It’s a bit like playing with clay that you can stretch and morph.
There are other CAS (Create A Sim) features that was introduced in The Sims 4. These include being able to change the appearance of your Sim’s teeth, so they can have braces or crooked teeth. Your Sims can also have glamorous nails in different colors, shapes, and lengths.
One of the biggest things that The Sims 4 strives for is diversity and inclusivity, allowing players to recreate themselves accurately in the game. The game has several different hairstyles available, catering to all ethnicities. Customization in the series has come a long way since the first game. The Sims 4 has several hair colors, but more importantly, a huge variety in skin colors, so everyone is represented.
You’ll be spoilt for choice with all the clothes you can dress your Sims up in. One handy trick in The Sims 4‘s CAS is that clothing is broken up into sub-categories. If you’re looking for a specific type of clothing, such as tank tops or skirts, you can select the sub-category to bring them up.
In The Sims 3, you can set up to three outfits for your Sims. This feature is carried over into the fourth game, but it’s much better. You can set up to 5 outfits (per outfit category), and you can do this right from when you first create your Sim, rather than having to wait until after you’ve created them via a wardrobe or mirror.
BUILDING HAS NEVER BEEN EASIER
One thing where The Sims 4 really triumphs over previous titles is how much easier it is to construct buildings. Remember how annoying it was when you’d plonked down some walls, only to want to adjust them later and have to delete and rebuild them? The Sims 4 saves that headache, thanks to the ability to move walls after you’ve placed them simply by selecting them. It’s not just walls that you can move either, but also entire rooms. This saves a lot of time and frustration. You can also adjust the height of walls, rather than having to place two walls on top of each other to create the same effect, saving you money.
Styled Rooms makes a return from The Sims 3, but The Sims 4‘s take on it is vastly better. Styled Rooms are pre-built rooms that you can place down. You can place any type of room, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and even outdoor spaces. You can even unlock special rooms in careers. Styled Rooms are amazing time-savers if you want to put together a home in a matter of minutes, or you’re not great at house building. These Styled Rooms come with different objects in different styles, so you can choose to have a modern or old-fashioned room. Each Styled Room comes in different color swatches, giving you that little extra variety. Once you’ve placed a room, you can tweak it to your liking, such as adjusting the walls or changing the furniture or adding in doors and windows, whatever you want. The Sims 4 certainly makes building homes and other lots much easier and more flexible.
GRAPHICS: MORE CARTOONY, OR MORE NATURAL?
It’s understandable that when The Sims 4 was first showcased, people were disappointed by the seemingly lackluster graphics. It seemed a lot more cartoonish in style than The Sims 2 and 3. Is it really that bad though?
When The Sims 4 was created, the developers could have gone with a super-realistic look. For example, Sims could have had perfectly rendered animated hair – but they didn’t do that. Instead, they opted for a more cartoonish look. Would it have been nice to go down the more realistic look? Yes, but this may have had some drawbacks. Computers would have to work extra hard to manage the high-quality graphics, and you’d probably need a good quality computer to run a game like that. Not everyone can afford an expensive computer. That’s what the developers considered when making The Sims 4. They wanted as many people as possible to experience the game, including those who played on older or less powerful computers.
People probably prefer a more realistic look over cartoonish, but it doesn’t mean the graphics are bad. Some of the hairstyles look a little blocky, but the Sims in general seem to have a more natural look about them. They also seem more fluid in the way they move about. Looking back to The Sims 3, while the Sims did look good, there was something a little off about them. The way they moved about was a little stiff, almost like they were dolls.
Objects seem to be quite nicely modelled. There’s not really anything that looks too blocky, at least not up close. While The Sims 4 does go for a more cartoony style, everything still looks realistic. The worlds are beautifully created, with buildings, plants, roads, water, and pavements. There’s even nice animated touches, such as a steam boat trundling along the river and trolley cars rumbling along street tracks in Willow Creek. If you explore areas such as parks and other vistas, you’ll be blown away by how beautiful they look. There are also stunning backdrops such as mountains and skyscrapers, as well as slick sky boxes. It helps that the lighting is so wonderfully natural and balanced. In perspective, The Sims 4 is actually a good-looking game.
THE WORLD IS STILL OPEN
One of the biggest selling points of The Sims 3 was the introduction of open world. This meant no more loading screens, except when you first load the game or enter/exit Create A Sim. After having to sit through endless loading screens in The Sims 2, this was a blessing. It made travelling between locations so much easier. It also opened up other possibilities, such as driving around the neighborhood in cars and watching your Sims going to an actual work place. Never have your Sims and you, the player, felt so free in a Sims game.
However, it did have its drawbacks. Opening up the world meant that the game’s engine had to work hard to manage everything going on, including all the Sims you weren’t controlling. This became particularly problematic if a Sim got stuck somewhere due to routing issues, causing the game to lag or even freeze up. This is a huge frustration for any player in any game.
There were other setbacks too. Having your Sims travel everywhere could become an issue at times, if they were racing to get somewhere against the clock, such as work. This problem was worse if they got stuck and couldn’t get to work, resulting in them getting penalized.
The Sims 4 does carry over the open world gameplay… to an extent. The Sims 4 is more open world than The Sims and The Sims 2, where you could only play on one lot at a time, with loading screens between travelling to other lots. However, The Sims 4 is not as open as The Sims 3. In the fourth game, worlds are broken up into 3 or 4 playable open areas. This is an improvement over the first two games, but a slight step back from The Sims 3… or is it?
Focusing on a portion of the world means you feel less overwhelmed when exploring. It’s easy to get lost in such a vast space. Each area in the world is unique, with its own lots and things to do. Take Willow Creek, one of the two base game worlds in The Sims 4. You’ve got four neighborhoods with homes and residents. Each of these are distinctive, with different layouts, buildings, and lot sizes. Willow Creek also has a commercial district, with a library, museum, gym, lounge, and a play park for kids. There’s even a large park you can visit, where you can meet lots of Sims and go fishing or play chess.
Your Sims aren’t restricted to the world they reside in either. They can travel to any of the worlds in the game, whether one of the three base games worlds, or worlds introduced in DLC. This is a big step-up from previous games. In The Sims 3, you couldn’t travel to another world unless your Sims moved to it; they couldn’t just visit. In The Sims 4, you’re free to go wherever you like, with practically no limits.
The main upside to a more broken-up open world is performance. With more concentrated areas to focus on, your computer doesn’t have to work as hard to manage everything, plus with improved AI routing in The Sims 4, lagging and freezing is practically non-existent.
All in all, the worlds in The Sims 4 may not be as open as they were in The Sims 3, but the fourth game’s approach does have its benefits.
ACTIVE CAREERS, WORKING FREELANCE, AND ODD JOBS
When it comes to careers, it seems like The Sims 4 were determined to step it up from previous games.
Let’s start with basic careers. Each career has 10 levels. Your Sims start at the bottom and can work their way up by improving certain skills and completing daily tasks. Possibly the greatest thing about careers in The Sims 4 was excluding the need to make friends with other Sims in order to get promoted. You now no longer have to make friends with 20 Sims or befriend all your co-workers to reach the top. You can be a total loner and still reach the top of the career ladder. Another great thing are career objects. You unlock new objects at almost every level, usually decorative objects, but sometimes they’re practical too. As well as objects, you can unlock Styled Rooms, as well as cool outfits and unique interactions.
When you reach the mid-point of the career ladder, you’ll have the option to choose from two career branches. For example, a Sim in the Writer career can choose between Journalism or being a Novelist. Each of these offer different job titles, skill requirements, daily tasks, and rewards. This gives you, the player, more choice.
Active careers were introduced in the very first expansion pack, Get to Work. You can work as a doctor in a hospital, a scientist at a laboratory, and a detective at a police station. These differ enormously from ordinary careers because you control every action in your Sim’s work day. You’ll be given tasks to complete, which raises your performance. The great thing is that if you don’t wish to follow your Sim to work, you don’t have to. When your Sim heads off to work, you can choose to go with them, or not. There’s no penalty, except if you want your Sim to get promoted, you should probably go with them to work.
There are some active careers where you can choose to go off lot to work, or your Sim can work from home. With the latter, they’ll be given two tasks to complete before the start of their next shift. This is quite useful and flexible, particularly if your Sim has a baby or toddler to take care of and doesn’t want to take time off work. So long as your Sim does the tasks before their next work day, they’ll get paid.
The Sims 4 introduced a new career type: freelance. This is a wonderful career choice for Sims who wish to be more flexible with their work and time. This way of working operates just like real-life freelancing. Your Sims join an agency that specializes in a particular skill, such as programming or writing, and then they can find work on their phone or the computer. New jobs appear each day, each of them varying in tasks and pay, and there’s deadlines. If your Sim’s work doesn’t meet the client’s standard, they might have to edit or redo it. The beauty of freelance is that you can do as many jobs as you like. You can only work on one at a time, but one job alone keeps your Sim busy.
The Sims 4 also introduced another type of work: odd jobs. It’s not a full-time career, but a nice way to earn a few extra Simoleons. These are small jobs that include helping someone move boxes or judging a sandcastle contest. Most of these jobs occur off screen, but some jobs require you to travel to a lot and do a task there.
COOKING UP A STORM – AND A TON OF DIFFERENT DISHES
The Sims 4 probably has the best cooking mechanics out of all the games, as well as the best dishes. There’s so much your Sims can cook: salads, fish dishes, meat dishes, breakfast fry-ups, cakes, and more. There’s even a Gourmet Cooking skill, which opens up even more recipes, which are more luxurious and satisfying for your Sims.
Your Sims can also grab quick meals from the fridge, such as cereal and sandwiches, if your Sim wants a quick easy bite to eat. With Get to Work, you can whip up delectable delights with the new Baking skill. If you have certain packs installed, you can find food stalls around the various neighborhoods. There’s also Dine Out, which introduces restaurants and even more wonderful dishes to eat. With all this food on offer, it’s very hard for your Sims to starve.
When you compare food and cooking in The Sims 4 to previous games, you’ll realize that it’s probably the best. In past games, there were less meals and food options on offer. In The Sims 3, you could get more meals to cook by buying recipe books from the bookstore. While a neat idea, it did grow tedious after a while. You had to read the whole book to unlock the meal, and if other Sims in your household wanted to learn the same recipe, you’d have to buy the book again, as it vanished after a Sim learned the recipe. Higher-skill recipes are also much more expensive to buy. The Sims 4 completely did away with recipe books.
TODDLERS CAME LATE, BUT ARE GREAT
Toddlers in The Sims: you either find them adorable or frustrating. Toddlers are managed in different ways in each game. The Sims 4 is probably the one that does toddlers the best. Ironically, they were one of the core features absent from the game’s launch, which was puzzling. However, when they were eventually reintroduced, they came back with a bang.
Toddlers in The Sims 4 are a lot less frustrating than in previous games. In The Sims 2 and 3, they were practically dependent on your Sims, barely able to do anything for themselves. The Sims 4 makes toddlers a lot more independent, so much that they can pretty much take care of themselves. You can grab any food for them from the fridge, and they can interact with more objects beyond toddler-exclusive objects. They can also use the potty themselves once they reach level 2 Potty skill, can climb stairs after they reach level 2 Movement skill, and can get in and out of bed without assistance by sleeping in toddler beds rather than cribs.
It’s no longer mandatory to teach toddlers to walk, talk, and use the potty. They now have 5 unique skills they can learn. Levelling these up makes life much easier. They unlock more interactions, and reaching a certain level unlocks benefits when they age up into a child. Other benefits include being able to move about faster with high Movement skill, and having less tantrums and nightmares with high Thinking skill. Toddlers are much less of a handful in The Sims 4.
Developing skills is almost unavoidable in The Sims. Your Sims will gain the Cooking skill when Cooking, and develop their Charisma when interacting with other Sims. It’s definitely worth the time and effort working on your Sim’s skills.
Some skills you can use to make money, such as Painting and Writing. The new Programming skill in The Sims 4 is one for your techie Sims. They can hack, mod games, and even create their own mobile apps and video games, getting paid for their efforts. Your Sims can make a full-time career out of their skills, or use it as a sideline to their day job.
While some skills don’t make your Sims money, learning them can be extremely useful, even saving your Sims money in some cases. One example is the Handiness skill. In The Sims 3, while you could upgrade objects, each object could only have one upgrade at a time, so if you wanted to make an object unbreakable, you’d have to sacrifice the other upgrade. In The Sims 4, you can have as many upgrades as you like, so you can make a toilet both unbreakable and self-cleaning.
That covers the basics of The Sims 4. No one can unanimously agree which Sims game is best, but you cannot say that any of them are bad. Every game brings something different. So long as you enjoy playing, that’s all that counts.