reviews\ Apr 2, 2007 at 8:00 pm

The Sims Life Stories - PC - Review

One has to wonder what role The Sims Life Stories is playing in terms of the franchise that is known as The Sims. The game is not quite Sims 2 in caliber, but it is definitely a step up from the original Sims title (and its myriad expansions).

Perhaps EA Games is looking to use this title as a catalyst to draw more players into the phenomenally successful franchise by offering a taste of what the Sims 2 holds, while catering to those who want a bit more directed experience. Then there is the crowd that might not have a machine capable of running the Sims 2 title with all the expansions, and assorted other downloads without the game slowing and even occasionally crashing. After all, The Sims 2 is a bit of a system hog.

Life Stories, on the other hand, could be viewed as the friendlier title. It is laptop compatible. It may not have all the bells and whistles of its bigger kin, but this is still The Sims, and that means you are in charge of micro-managing someone else’s life. As a further testament that this title was built for lower-end machines, it actually launches in windowed mode as the default setting. Go into options and blow it up and you will see a game that mimics the graphical look of The Sims 2, but seems to run easily as though it was the original title built for older machines.

Those S2 (Sims 2) fans looking for an experience that adds to the franchise will likely be a bit disappointed in this title.

The Sims Life Stories Screenshot

There is only one neighborhood in Life Stories – Four Corners. There is no option to add to that, so if you hop into the sandbox version of the game, Free Play, you will have to build on the one neighborhood. But if you opt to not play in this particular sandbox, you can play one of two story-driven games. The first involves Riley, a down-on-her-luck woman who has returned to her hometown for a fresh start. The second is Vince, a high-tech wizard who is looking for love. Each of these modes has objectives that you must try to accomplish, all while directing every breath taken by your characters.

While both offer a decent experience, these seem to be little more than guided tours of Sims 2’s play style. The stories may sound a bit open, but actually they are not. You have to accomplish the objectives as stated. Sure, get a job is a bit open-ended, but regardless of how you play (unless you play sandbox and have the cheat codes – and nope, not giving them out in this review), these are fundamental mechanics of the entire franchise. The story mode is a little more insistent that you take steps in that direction quicker.

The Sims Life Stories Screenshot

As stated, Life Stories seems like a watered-down version of Sims 2. The build mode has fewer options, as does the buy mode. You can’t lay down foundation, overlay it with floor tiles, then undercut the foundation and put in a pond, or stream, for example.

Other differences from playing Life Stories over Sims 2 are that the lot sizes are smaller and, consequently, so are the allowable family sizes. Instead of eight family members on the same lot, Life Stories only will allow four.

The game was built on the Sims 2 engine, so the look is fairly similar. The same can be said for the sound elements. If you have played The Sims 2, you have heard all this before. Aside from a few missing features, the game’s interface is the same as S2.

While all of this may sound like it is detracting from the game, actually Life Stories is entertaining and a great intro for those who may not have The Sims 2, but have wondered what it is about. Obviously the big draw here is the lower-system requirements that will allow gamers to play the game in a windowed mode but not overwhelm their machines so they can do other things as well. The graphics are familiar, as is the sound and the game is rated Teen for crude humor, sexual themes and violence.

Think of Life Stories as the game that paves the way for Sims 2 and its expansions. Think of LS as the game that caters to those who just can’t get enough of a Sims fix and so have to take the game with the laptops on the road. Give credit to EA Games for putting together a S2-type experience but for those who are looking to avoid the system hog that is Sims 2.

Life Stories, as mentioned, bridges the gap between The Sims and The Sims 2. While it may not have the fevered following of S2, it still adds something to the franchise itself.

Review Scoring Details for The Sims Life Stories

Gameplay: 7.5
The options package is considerably less than Sims 2, and you will find yourself challenged to get creative with what you are given. The control scheme, though, is lifted straight from S2, so those that are experienced with that title will have no problems leaping into the soap opera that comprises Riley and Vince’s lives.

Graphics: 7.8
Fewer build capabilities equal a sameness graphically. Otherwise this game serves up what we have seen before.

Sound: 7.0
Been there, heard that before.

Difficulty: Medium

Concept: 7.0
Few options but lower system specs. Not that original, but it works for this game.

Overall: 7.5
A nice tutorial for people who have yet to play a Sims game, Life Stories’ draw is the directed experience of Riley and Vince. But those who have played before may find the limits of this game rather restrictive. For those that like the creation process of Sims 2, Life Stories limits are revealed rather quickly. Still, EA has done a nice job in creating a game for lower-end systems.


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