Farming in The Sims series has been a top-requested pack from fans. Finally, their request has been granted in the latest expansion pack for The Sims 4, titled Cottage Living. The question now is: did it meet expectations? The answer: yes! This delightful edition to The Sims 4 is one that is welcomed with open arms, as it allows you to truly embrace life in the country working on your own farm, as well as other country-related activities.
You can raise chickens, cows, and llamas. That’s not all though! You can also befriend wild animals such as rabbits, birds, and even foxes, which will bring you great rewards. You can also grow a new type of crop: oversized crops, which you can show off at the local country fair and win prizes for.
To fully immerse you into life in the country, The Sims 4 presents to you a brand-new world, Henford-on-Bagley, an incredible place based on the British countryside. Meet a host of new characters, as well as returning ones, where you can do favors for the locals for great rewards. Cottage Living gives you everything you need for that perfect rural experience.
STORY – WELCOME TO HENFORD-ON-BAGLEY
Being a life simulation game that encourages you to create your own stories, The Sims 4: Cottage Living doesn’t strictly have a story, but it does include a new world with some new characters for you to meet and get to know.
Henford-on-Bagley is the new world introduced in Cottage Living, a beautiful vast place based on the British countryside. Henford-on-Bagley is broken up into 3 areas: the Bramblewood, a large wooded area; Finchwick, the local village; and Old New Henford, a large area with rolling hills. Each area has its own houses and land. 4 of these are occupied by pre-made Sims with their own backstories: the Scott’s, a couple who own the local pub The Gnome’s Arms in Finchwick; Ian Moody and Derek McMillon, an older male couple living together; the Watson’s, a big family who own a big estate; and Cecilia Kang, the only resident living alone.
There are other residents you can meet in Henford-on-Bagley, such as the village mayor, who you’ll often see at the country fair in the village. There’s also the mysterious Creature Keeper, who lives in a cottage nestled in the woods. Also, the legendary Mrs. Crumplebottom returns to The Sims 4, joined by her sister Agatha. Mrs. Crumplebottom is still crabby, but if you stay on her good side and help her out, she’ll reward you.
All these colorful characters really brings the world of Henford-on-Bagley to life. You can’t really experience this new place without running into the characters that come with it, and they’re well-worth meeting.
On an added note, for players who are concerned about the number of lots available in the new world, you needn’t worry. Henford-on-Bagley provides plenty of pre-built lots of various sizes. There is only one empty land for you to build on, but it has a lot of space for you to play with. There’s also one rental lot in the Bramblewood area, in case you want a vacation there. There’s only two public lots in Henford-on-Bagley, The Gnome’s Arms pub and Isle of Volpe Park, but rest assured that there’s plenty to see and do.
GAMEPLAY – THE FULL COUNTRY-LIVING EXPERIENCE
There’s so much to do, try out, and explore in The Sims 4: Cottage Living, you won’t know what to do first! Possibly the most exciting and most desirable part of The Sims 4: Cottage Living is the ability to raise your own livestock. This feature had high expectations, and it really didn’t disappoint.
You can choose to raise 3 different farm animals: chickens, cows, and llamas. Chickens live in the new chicken coop object, while cows and llamas live in the new animal shed object. While up to 8 chickens can live in the coop, only one animal can live in the shed at a time, which means you can only have either a cow or a llama, which can be problematic with smaller properties. The animal shed is also rather large and takes up a lot of space, which isn’t much good if you haven’t got a lot of land. You only really need one llama or cow though to get everything you need, like milk and wool, but don’t expect to be able to have a whole field of grazing cows or paddock of llamas.
The animals must be cared for by feeding them, keeping them and their habitats clean, and socializing with them. It’s very easy to track your animals’ needs by hovering the cursor over them. You must watch that their needs don’t get low though. Unhappy animals won’t be so cooperative, making it harder to interact with them. Fortunately, keeping the animals happy isn’t too taxing a job, which means you can go off and do other activities for a while.
You can get produce from all the livestock. Chickens provide eggs, cows give milk, and you can shear the llama’s wool. You can get this produce quite frequently, without having to wait for days to pass before you can, for example, milk a cow again. You can sell the produce for profit or use it for cooking or crafting activities. You can give farm animals special treats, all of which have different effects on them, such as increasing their lifespan. Some treats have a rather special effect on your animals. For example, if you give a cow a Flirty Treat, it’ll produce strawberry milk, and if you give it a Rainbow Treat, it’ll produce Rainbow Milk (and its patches will turn rainbow-colored too!).
Livestock aren’t the only animals you’ll get to meet in Cottage Living. If you go out into the countryside of Henford-on-Bagley (particularly the Bramblewood), you might find some other animals. You can coax rabbits out of holes and befriend birds twittering and fluttering in special trees. If you put the time and effort into befriending these special animals, they’ll reward you with gifts. The birds can even help you with your gardening, if you ask them. Once you befriend a rabbit or flock of wild birds, you’ll unlock their habitat, which you can place on your home lot, so your home becomes their home.
The other animal you can look out for are wild foxes. If you have chickens or rabbits, beware! Foxes can pay a visit, threatening any chickens or rabbits. The chickens can fight back to defend themselves, so the fox isn’t always victorious. Also, you can befriend the fox, and if you have a high enough friendship with it, you can ask it nicely to leave your poor chickens alone. You expect the wild foxes to be a real pest, but they’re not really, and they don’t show up on your lot all the time.
If you want to give your animal friends that personalized touch, you can go and speak to the Creature Keeper, where you can buy some animal clothing from him, or ask him to craft some for you (if you’ve got enough of the right type of llama wool). Every type of animal can be adorned in clothing, even the wild ones. It’s a pity you can’t create them yourself though.
Added Gameplay Aspects
Animals are such a big part of Cottage Living that there’s a new aspiration for your Sims: Country Caretaker, from the Nature category. All these focus around completing activities and tasks with animals. There are also two new traits: Animal Enthusiast and Lactose Intolerant. Animal Enthusiast’s love spending time with animals and have an easier time interacting with and befriending them. Lactose Intolerant Sims avoid drinking or eating anything with milk in, as it can make them sick, but fortunately, there is milk available for Sims with this trait.
It’s not just livestock and wild animals that are new in The Sims 4: Cottage Living. Although gardening is already a feature present in The Sims 4, it has been expanded to include a new type of crop: giant ones! You can now grow oversized crops, including aubergines, watermelons, and pumpkins. You can grow these special crops in new garden patches, which work similar to garden planters. You can help your big crops to grow using special fertilizer, that’ll help them grow faster and keep them healthy. Once you’ve harvested your giant crops, what can you do with them? Henford-on-Bagley provides one solution for you: take them to be judged at the local giant veg fair!
The Finchwick Fair takes place every Saturday (in-game) in the picturesque village of Finchwick. There are 4 different fairs that take place each week. Each fair features a competition where animals and produce are judged to see which is best. The mayor is the sole judge, and you can give her a “gentle nudge” into picking yours as the winner. Apart from the competitions though, there isn’t much else to do at the fairs. It would be great to have some stalls and other activities going on.
Lot challenges were recently patched into The Sims 4 in preparation for this expansion pack, and with Cottage Living, two more are added to the list. These are Simple Living and Wild Foxes. With Simple Living, in order to cook meals, you must provide your own produce, whether it’s from growing your own food in the garden or foraging in the neighborhood. Wild Foxes has foxes occasionally visiting your Sims’ property, and will attack any bunnies or chickens you have, as well as stealing any chicken eggs. These challenges will push you, but it’s a chance to experience real rustic country living.
Befriending animals can be greatly rewarding, but so can helping out the locals in Henford-on-Bagley. You can offer to run errands for certain villagers in Henford-on-Bagley. If you ask them, they’ll offer you 2 or 3 tasks that you can complete. These jobs are broken down into a series of tasks. For example, you may have to gather a certain number of plants or interact with someone. These errands come with plenty of rewards, and not just cash. You can get freshly-cooked meals, upgrades for your animal sheds and chicken coops, and more. It’s a great addition, but it’s a shame it’s only restricted to certain residents in Henford-on-Bagley. It would be great to see it expanded into the other worlds in the game.
With a British-based world comes a whole menu of new meals to go with it. Your Sims can now enjoy the delights of typical British grub such as bangers and mash, cottage pie, Yorkshire pudding, and more. These new dishes are great, and they’re not limited to Henford-on-Bagley, so your Sims can enjoy them anywhere. Your Sims can now also make canned goods, such as various jams, custard, and mayonnaise. It’s a rather neat and appropriate touch to a rural-themed pack, but you will need produce such as fruit and milk for canning.
One brand-new skill is included with Cottage Living: cross-stitching. This skill is really rewarding for players who like to be creative or have creative Sims. The cross-stitch designs are broken into different categories, which you unlock as you climb up the 5 levels. To unlock more designs, you need to complete certain errands for villagers or get them as gifts from animals. Your Sims learning to cross-stitch is worth the time and effort, as they can decorate their homes with them, or sell them for decent money.
No in-depth look at any Sims game would be complete without a look at the new content in Create-a-Sim and Build mode. Your budding countryside Sims will really look the part thanks to rustic-looking outfits such as aprons, dungarees, hand-knitted cardigans and jumpers, comfy jackets and tops, and sturdy boots. Male Sims can also accessorize with woolly hats and caps, and female Sims can tie their hair back with ribbons or bandanas. There is something for everyone.
As well as new outfits, you also get some new objects. You’ll find new windows and doors, wisteria to decorate the outer walls, and special roof objects to create authentic thatched cottage roofs. You also get objects to decorate the inside of your Sims’ homes, such as dining tables with table cloths, padded dining chairs, and old-fashioned kitchen furnishings. Also look out for the new wedding arch design and the new picnic basket object, so your Sims can take food out for picnics. There are even new flowery wallpapers to adorn your walls.
While Create-a-Sim brought lots to the table, the same level wasn’t quite as matched with the new objects. While there are plenty of new objects for building cottages, the objects for furnishing cottages felt a little lacking. While what we’ve been given is great, there could have been more. For example, you only get one new bed and one new sofa. Why not 3 new beds or 3 new sofas?
Perhaps the plan was to focus more on the gameplay than having old objects with new designs, but it just feels that previous expansion packs have provided more new content in regards to objects. However, that being said, the base game of The Sims 4 does already have its own country-and-rustic-themed objects, so perhaps it was felt that adding more of the same was a little unnecessary. At least the new objects that provide new gameplay gives us a distraction, making up for this slight feeling of disappointment.
GRAPHICS – REALISTIC ANIMALS AND BRITISH COUNTRYSIDE
Animals aren’t new to the game, with the Cats & Dogs expansion pack giving us, well… cats and dogs! The Sims 4 has been around since 2014, with the graphics being presented as slightly more cartoonish than previous games in the series, yet still somewhat realistic and satisfyingly organic. Cats and dogs from their titular expansion pack followed this trend with good results, and so have the animals in The Sims 4: Cottage Living.
Both the farm animals and the wild animals are superbly represented, without looking overly goofy or cartoonish. The animals move and interact realistically, but they still have their charming little quirks. Agitated chickens will flap at Sims attempting to interact with them, and llamas unwilling to cooperate with having their wool shorn will snatch the shears from your startled Sim and toss it away. Plus, the animals can be really cute, especially when your Sims give them a pet or a hug.
The world of Henford-on-Bagley is incredibly charming, so inviting and cozy, and accurately represents rural Britain. The village of Finchwick really captures that classic chocolate-box village look, down to the last detail. They even have red phoneboxes! The Bramblewood is also worth a visit, which is a huge woodland area with some old ruins, a gazebo, a lush waterfall, and home to the Creature Keeper and his cottage. Old New Henford perfectly represents the true British countryside look, complete with rolling hills, the odd house, and surrounding farmland. It’s the perfect place for your Sims to have a farm.
AUDIO – CONVINCING ANIMAL SOUNDS AND GREAT NEW TUNES
The animals in the game are new, which means new sound effects. Each animal has its own unique sound, which they usually make when your Sims interact with them. Cows moo and chickens cluck (or squawk, when they’re angry) convincingly. Llamas, rabbits, and foxes make their own (rather cute) sounds, and birds, of course, twitter as they fly around. When they’re making these noises to your Sims, it really feels like the animals are talking back (helped by any speech bubbles). The noises the animals make don’t make you cringe listening to them. It makes the animals all the more charming and realistic.
With The Sims 4: Cottage Living comes a new radio station: Cottagecore. What is cottagecore, you might ask? Simply, cottagecore is a movement that centers around idyllic western rural life. It values traditional skills such as foraging, baking, and gardening, and is a way of escaping the stresses of life. The cottagecore movement became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. Homemade fashion, vintage furniture, and taking life more slowly and taking care of one’s self to avoid stress is all a part of cottagecore.
Cottagecore also extends to music. Cottagecore music allows one self to harmonize with nature, perfect for The Sims 4: Cottage Living. The new cottagecore radio station features 11 new songs, all of which are great to listen to, being easy on the ears and helping you to get into the full country living. There’s also some new music for Build mode, Create-a-Sim, Map view, and the Cottage Living version of The Sims 4 main theme.
The Sims 4: Cottage Living was reviewed on PC.