reviews\ Sep 3, 2014 at 1:13 pm

The Sims 4 Review in Progress: Experiencing Create a Sim, Build Mode, and quicker load times


Editor’s Note: Because we did not receive an advance copy of The Sims 4 we were unable to play the game to the point that we consider to be the “full" experience. As such, this is a review in progress. We will be discussing the various aspects of The Sims 4 without supply an actual score just yet.

The Sims 4 is in a weird spot. As the newest installment in The Sims franchise, you’d expect all of the features from the previous iterations to already be included. Alas, that’s simply not the case. The Sims 4 may be a new game, but the absence of many features we’ve grown to love over the past years with The Sims 3 make it feel like a step back. For every awesome new feature discovered, I find myself longing for one of the older ones, like Create-a-Style which allowed you to choose and change the patterns and colors of objects.

Let’s start with the new Create A Sim, since this is probably the first thing you’ll do upon booting up the game. In its current state, Create A Sim gives the appearance of an in-depth creator, but actually lacks much of the depth of its predecessors. The coolest feature is the ability of literally sculpting your Sim’s body by simply dragging various body parts. While you can create a pretty authentic shape, the lack of more specific customization options is disappointing. Hair color, eye color, and skin color are all very limited in selection; I’d have preferred some sort of color wheel. Also, without Create-a-Style, the limited number of outfits available at launch can be frustrating. Hopefully modders will help take care of this.

Upon completing your Sim, you’ll be taken to a map of the world where you can choose from two locations to live: Willow Creek and Oasis Springs. Each location is divided into neighborhoods consisting of residential and community lots. Seeing as how I just started playing yesterday, I’m not comfortable enough to discuss the intricacies of each setting just yet; however, I will point out the importance of the structure of each location.

One of the biggest changes in The Sims 4 is the inability to walk everywhere in an open-world environment, as you previously were able to do in The Sims 3. Instead, The Sims 4 has a similar approach to that of The Sims 2 in which you must travel to each neighborhood separately. The result is a much quicker load time when entering the world for the first time, but many smaller individual loading screens when traveling between neighborhoods. As someone who has a middle-of-the-road computer, I appreciate the change. The load times are noticeably shorter.

The Sims 4 Build Mode

Build Mode is another aspect of the game that has seen some big changes. For the most part, it’s similar to The Sims 3, but with some quality of life improvements. Similar to Create A Sim, Build Mode operates under similar drop and drag functionality. You can place entire rooms, even fully furnished rooms, on to your plot and push and pull them into the shape you desire. Adjustable wall and window height, easy-to-apply roofing, and the ability to add a foundation and change its height are welcomed additions as well.

Adding objects to your house is also much easier as you can now search for exactly what you’re looking for. This will especially come in handy as more objects are added to your library via expansions and user generated content. Again though, the lack of furniture variety to choose from is disappointing. The good news is adding user generated content to your game is easier than ever thanks to the Gallery. Through the Gallery, you are now able to sort through user created items, download them, and add them to your house directly from within the game with just the click of a button; no longer must you completely exit the game to use this content.

Truth be told, I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of The Sims 4 so it’s hard to say how it truly stacks up to The Sims 3. Yes, features are missing. There are no toddlers or pools, the latter of which means no swimwear. But this is a Sims game, so you know the expansions are coming. It’s important to remember that all of the features we grew to love in The Sims 3 weren’t there at launch; some arrived years later in an expansion. Some of your most beloved furniture was probably a result of user generated content. Right now, certain aspects of The Sims 4 seem gimped when compared to its predecessors, but the foundation of a solid, fun gameplay experience is certainly there.

Stay tuned for our continued Review in Progress for The Sims 4 where we will be discussing gameplay and the "weird" stories we were promised.
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