The Sims 4 has outstanding performance compared to its predecessor. Load times are considerably reduced.
However, it should be noted that The Sims 4 achieves this by making worlds (neighbourhoods) quite small. You can travel between them, in fact you probably have to if you want to see any nice venues. The world maps are quite simple which again, probably contributes to speeding up load time.
I can’t really argue with this particular design choice, because it achieves a much needed improvement over The Sims 3. Yes, you could toddle off anywhere you pleased in The Sims 3, but everything around you would be constantly loading in, much like The Matrix Online except not as cool.
The Sims 4 comes in a 64-bit variety (with a 32-bit version for those with older, 32-bit computers) which no doubt contributes to improved performance.
Another plus point here. In addition to having a lighter load on performance, The Sims 4 manages to look a bit better than The Sims 3. I’m not saying that Sims look particularly great, but they seem a little bit more human. There are also some new scaling options in the graphics settings, but I haven’t done much with those except to turn Sims up to max. Lighting and texturing seems improved.
As I said, the neighbourhood maps are quite simple, akin to The Sims 1, but they’ve been rendered well and I have no complaint with them.
I find the Whims and Aspiration systems to be refreshing updates to aspects of the gameplay that we’ve seen before. You can choose to pursue either or not at all, and obviously if you progress you can unlock things to make your Sims better at doing things or more inclined and so on. In The Sims 3 you were locked into one Aspiration at a time per Sim, now in The Sims 4 they can have as many as you would like.
Moods are now more nuanced in The Sims 4 and have effects, from screwing things up to making everything better. Keeping your Sims happy is good, it’s good, but it’s not always the right way to progress – being Focused for example, can make them better at work.
Obviously the core mechanic is still that you do fun things with virtual people, which may not be things which necessarily advance things, but are still fun.
At the time of writing, I have the Get To Work expansion. Again, I’m impressed with the thought and effort that has gone into making the at-work gameplay as fun as the at-home gameplay. Obviously it’s something we’ve seen before in The Sims 3 Ambitions, but it’s nicely done.
I have a little bit of difficulty suspending my disbelief as my Sim rises through the ranks at her local clinic, but each new promotion brings with it some new challenges, and I don’t just mean get to a certain skill level and you’re able to progress – I found that my poor Sim needed to take a vacation day now and then just to cope with the demands of the job and still maintain some semblance of sanity.
Lack of design choices
One of the nice things about The Sims 3 was that you could use colour patterns quite liberally throughout your creations – hair, clothing, decorations such as wallpaper, and objects themselves.
Perhaps this was also a problem, since it seems to have been cut in The Sims 4.
From the minor annoyances like Sims popping out of interactions, to things like Whims not completing unless you do a particular interaction a particular way, to out and out The Sims 4 has encountered a problem and needs to close, it’s clear that quality control is still a big problem with The Sims franchise.
Looking over the patch notes, it seems that there is an effort to fix issues like these, but I feel that we’re past the stage where we should be forgiving of bugs which could have been fixed before or soon after release.
Interactions between Sims look forced and awkward
By that, I don’t mean that the animations are bad, in fact they’re nuanced and believable. Rather, because of the interaction queuing system and the seemingly random choice of interactions, you have this awkward pause while the Sims arrange themselves in the appropriate locations for a standing up or sitting down interaction, then do the interaction.
Come on! This is 2016 now, if you can afford the budget to properly animate little people in a game, you can most certainly afford to sit down and decide how and when those animations should blend seamlessly into each other.
Sim autonomy is still questionable
Yes, they go and do their own thing, but interactions between Sims and with objects seem to be chosen without any coherent pattern. It’s ‘oh, there’s a Sim here, I will… roll d6… chat about work with them.’
Is it unfair to criticise what is essentially a simulator of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Yeah, maybe. But then again, given the amount of dollars poured into the franchise already, I would expect some sort of rudimentary thought process could be designed.
Sims should have a meta-situation in their head. This would prevent them from just wandering around their lot doing things at random, and instead require that each situation has a beginning, a middle and an end, with interactions to that effect.
That doesn’t mean to say that a given situation is on rails – if a Sim really has to pee or has other neglected needs, then they can excuse themselves. But each interaction, each situation, would seem to build upon a previous one.
I did start this review wishing to write about some of the bad things in The Sims 4. I still believe that there is much room for improvement but, as I said above, I do like some of the difficult choices that have been made and which have provided a much-needed improvement over The Sims 3, so I can’t say it is completely bad.
I like that mood, wishes/whims and aspirations have evolved into something a bit more sophisticated. Frequently in The Sims 3 it was trivial to keep Sims happy because you had so many stacking positive moodlets. Likewise, it was a pain trying to accomplish various wishes and aspirations. In The Sims 4, you actually can feel like you’re accomplishing something in your Sims’ lives.
I think that The Sims 4 needs to lose the annoying, seemingly insane autonomy that has plagued previous iterations, and then it will be a title which people don’t snort at with derision.
It’s no surprise that bugs, especially ones which erase hours and hours of gameplay, are very annoying, and will hurt a game’s credibility. The Sims 4 is certainly not as bad as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in this regard, but one has to wonder if lessons have been learned.
I think though that the biggest downer is, surprisingly, the interactions queue on rails. It hurts immersion a lot, it looks bad, it is bad. I’m not saying it hasn’t improved over the years, but it has not kept up and now it makes The Sims seem very dated. I cannot impress upon the developers enough the importance of updating this part of the game and making Sim-to-Sim interactions flow together and seem more natural.