Review: Setting sail in The Sims 3 Island Paradise
I say this every time EA announces a new expansion for The Sims 3 – there's just nothing left for them to expand upon. Now on its tenth expansion, The Sims 3 continues to improve upon its experience, this time with an all-new Island Paradise expansion.
Like its nine predecessors, Island Paradise has all the bells and whistles you'd expect. New objects, new venues, new traits and skills, and new careers – all of them themed around this island and boating lifestyle. But the real attraction here is the addition of houseboats and the opportunity to build and manage your very own resort.
No longer is your Sim restricted to the ground beneath his/her feet. Houseboats are exactly what they sound like, your Sims' house on a boat, giving you the ability to go anywhere in the ocean. Aesthetically and functionally, it's just like any other house you'd build. Aside from the nautical themed decorations and All-in-one bathroom, there's not much different. You still have all your basic rooms and can perform all the same actions you'd do in a regular house (even going to work by way of water taxi). Being in the ocean is in no way limiting, but it's also not as rewarding as I'd like.
Gameplay when owning a houseboat does open up a bit. You can travel from dock to dock and travel the local islands, or you can take your houseboat (or ski boat or Jet Ski) for a whirl and unlock uncharted territories and open up new areas for you to drop anchor and discover. Underwater explorations through the scuba diving and snorkeling activities can lead to the discovery of exotic fish, caves, and shipwrecks. Like everything else you do, these activities serve as a nice break from the monotony of every day Sim life. It's worth noting, that to take part in some of these activities you need to increase your Sim's scuba diving skill.
But for as neat as owning a houseboat and swimming underwater can be, that alone isn't the attraction of Island Paradise. For me, the notion of building and running my own resort was the highlight, mostly because it adds a new element to The Sims 3 gameplay. Resorts in Island Paradise don't follow the typical build-and-play routine. You can actually manage the resort, making all the decisions from what amenities you offer to the uniforms of your employees.
Admittedly, owning your own resort can be a bit overwhelming, but it gives you something to strive for. Whether your building a resort from scratch or purchasing an existing one, it's up to you to get it the best rating possible – decided by guest reactions to the amenities, food, environment, and a ton of other factors.
It's almost as if owning a resort in the game serves as a sort of meta-game. It's nice to have your resort offer all sorts of amenities, but it does come at a price. Do you opt for higher quality drinks to be served at the pool bar and suffer a higher expense? Or do you skimp out on a breakfast buffet to save some cash? Each will affect your resort's star rating. It's this type of careful balancing and decision making that I found particularly appealing in Island Paradise.
In addition to choosing which amenities to offer, you can choose whether to hire staff or run the resort all on your own. Again, hiring staff will make life easier, but will also make the bills go up. There are two types of work NPCs can do for you – operate your amenities or maintain the resort grounds and keep things clean. You can choose to do these things on your own, but Island Paradise does offer enough flexibility to find a balance of your liking.
Looking to keep things easy, the game offers quicker ways to create the resort or house of your liking. New blueprints have been added that let you easily build entire rooms and amenities. For resorts there are three main themes to choose from – beach, Spanish, and a sort-of modern – but all can be customized further to your liking. Pools, waterslides, and buffet tables all have options as well. For your houseboat, there are three sizes to choose from : small, medium, and large. Again, all of them can be changed to better fit your style.
Unfortunately, Island Paradise runs into the same hiccups as previous expansions. I'm not sure exactly what the cause, ether it's a RAM issue or something, but on multiple occasions the game froze or quit out entirely on me. I have a fairly decent PC setup that runs a plethora of PC games, and it's always The Sims 3 that I have problems with. My one wish for The Sims 4 is that they implement an auto-save feature so that I don't lose hours worth of creative work when something like this happens.
I don't know for certain if Island Paradise will be the last expansion for The Sims 3, but if it is then it's a hell of a way for the game to go out. It's a fitting end, to be laying on the shores of a beach resort, watching the sun set on what has been a fantastic voyage.