The Sims 3: Into the Future review: A utopian expansion
It's hard to believe that in its four year history, The Sims 3 has seen 11 expansion packs. We've traveled across the world, experienced various seasons, gone back to college, and lived the island life, among other things.
The Sims 3: Into the Future, the 11th and final expansion, takes us -- as the name suggests -- into the future. Upon reloading an older game or starting a new household, a time portal will appear (at approximately 10:00am). Out will step a time traveler who encourages you to travel with him to the future. Doing so will send you to Oasis Landing, a futuristic city with three distinct areas: downtown, wasteland, and district 12. Yes, the name of that last one does suggest the expansion has a sort-of Hunger Games feel to it. These areas contain the various activities you can take part of while exploring the future.
First entering the time portal will send you into a relatively "normal" futuristic world. It's after you spend your first few hours here and increase your Advanced Technology skill that the expansion really opens upon. Upon reaching level 1 in Advanced Technology, you can alter the future either through the Time Traveler or the Almanac of Time (a panel that keeps track of the future including your descendants and progress).
The two alternative futures are a Dystopian future and a Utopian future. As the names suggest, these are two vastly different takes on what the future could look like.
Dystopian will result in a darker world where trash litters the street and meteors crash to the ground. Although trash and falling meteors can cause problems for Sims, they also present opportunities to find rare collectibles.
A Utopian future, meanwhile, is the complete opposite. Things are much brighter and more inviting in this world. You have a giant rainbow and drooping flowers that can be harvested for curious dews (that when used can change the color of your Sim). Mounds scattered throughout the world can be explored to find rare items and even pots of gold.
While all three options offer a unique take on the future, they are unfortunately nothing more than alternate skins. They are aesthetically pleasing, but gameplay remains largely unchanged. Most buildings remain as they were and Sims live the same futuristic lives regardless of what's happening outside. I can't help but feel the developers missed a golden opportunity to explore different gameplay mechanics depending on which future you are in. Instead, it seems like they just slapped a different skin on the city and threw in one or two changes.
What is neat about the future isn't that you just get to explore it, but you can actually shape it. Your actions and decisions in present-day can determine what happens in the future and the types of descendants you will meet. Having a small family in present day, for example, will result in fewer descendants in the future.
You even have a chance to firmly establish your Sim in the history books. In the middle of Oasis Landing is a park filled with statues of Sims remembered for their great feats. Accomplishing the required feats will result in your Sim having a statue erected in the park as well as a special perk upon completion.
As an expansion, Into the Future is filled with all sorts of new futuristic technology. Most of the objects are merely reskinned or new models of already existing objects. They perform the same functionality that we've seen in the past; however, there are a few new scripted objects that open up gameplay a bit.
In the future you'll have access to food synthesizers that immediately prepare meals, nano showers that can clean your Sim without having to take their clothes off, and sleeping pods that allow you to control your Sims' dreams and essentially train certain skills while sleeping. For those of you allergic to pets, the future introduces mechanical pets that eat, sleep, and perform all the regular actions of pets, except for the poop.
The big ticket item in Into the Future is the Plumbot, a robotic servant that can be created by raising your new Bot Building skill and heading over to the Bot Building Station. Once you customize your Plumbot with various parts and colors, you can personalize their skills by adding Trait Chips that can turn them into things like a master chef.
Lastly, Into the Future brings all new clothing choices that eerily resemble a wardrobe one might find in the Capital City in The Hunger Games. There's a nice mix of over-the-top futuristic garb as well as some clean-cut clothing that subtly reminds you that you're in the future.
For as neat as all of these futuristic items can be, I can't help but feel a little disappointed with the futuristic offerings. I mean, this is the future! Anything is possible, yet I feel the items at our disposal are not nearly as creative as they ought to be.
Into the Future doesn't introduce any groundbreaking gameplay mechanics to The Sims 3. After 10 expansions, I wouldn't expect it to. Yet despite the lack of innovative features, there's enough content in here to keep a veteran Sims 3 player entertained -- at least until the arrival of The Sims 4. It's kind of funny that Into the Future wraps up the last of The Sims 3 expansions because will now turn our attention to just that, the future. Will it be a Utopian Sims 4?