reviews\ Jan 6, 2003 at 7:00 pm

The Sims Online Charter Edition - PC - Review

If anything the success of The Sims has taught us that our lives are much more interesting when you’re looking at life through entirely different eyes.  It allowed us to be somebody else, or a different version of your real self, and create your own community of living people.  With next-generation consoles going online and the release of some really stellar massive multiplayer online games for the PC, it made sense to release The Sims Online: Charter Edition.  Prepare yourself for a living breathing Sims world filled to the brim with people from all over and each with his or her own hidden agendas.


From the very start gamers will notice that the game resembles the original single player version in mostly every way except for the fact that you can now chat via text chat bubbles and the areas are broken off into different sections or cities.  You can create your Sim using a number of different skins that allow you to change heads, bodies, skin tones and outfits.  You can choose the city you’d like to live in but you can have contact with people from other cities thanks to the many forms of communication available to you (such as the telephone or an email type deal).


You’ll find that a living universe unfolds before your eyes and this particular universe is filled with different players with their own personalities--there’s no NPC in this game.  To chat with somebody, all you have to do is walk up to that person, type and hit enter (your conversation is seen in a comic book-styled chat bubble).  You can engage any willing person in various activities such as friendly embraces to passionate kisses.  I have yet to get into a fight or steal somebody‘s girlfriend away from him, but that is also possible in this world.


There is no real plot to this game and there is certainly no main objective, leaving it up to the gamer to invent his or her own situations.  You can own your own property and live life as a hermit (leaving people to wonder about you) or you can share the house with a roommate you invite to live with you.  Other players can also invite you to live with them and share responsibilities as well as Simoleans (money) you might earn from a job (be it making and selling food to starting up your own dance club).


Your Sim character also demands your constant attention since you must watch for various needs such as hygiene, bladder, hunger and even energy.  You must keep your Sim character well fed so you must own a fridge and clean so you must take a shower every now and then (or when your creation brings it to your attention).  Although you can’t really die from starvation or by other means seen in the original, your Sims becomes unresponsive until you get them what they need.


The designing tools make it easy to design your own home, furnish it the way you want and adding things like huge swimming pools or hot tubs.  Still, the game’s objective is not to be wealthy or own a mansion (it could be if you want to, though), rather it’s about the way you interact with this living community.  Your actions define your character’s personality and the way you are seen by others.  A Sim can be as rude as he or she wants and can form alliances with others as well as make enemies.  The language used in the game can range from normal to riddled with profanity (although you can tune off bad language using the profanity filter if you‘re easily offended).


The game runs on both broadband and 56K and it does run rather smoothly at times, although gamers will encounter the usual server problems and program glitches.  EA has made it clear that they are eager in rectifying any and all problems you might encounter by sending you patch through your email account--it’s the least they can do since you pay a monthly subscription fee of $9.99.


The game’s graphics borrow its detailed characters and environments from the original single player game.  While the graphics aren’t spectacular, the details of your surroundings are really amazing.  Hot tubs bubble with froth while stereo speakers thump to life.  You can design your house with various types of wallpaper and add objects characters can interact with.  The characters themselves can be as unique looking depending how a player designed them but the impressive part is that they move realistically.  Whether they’re dancing, kissing or laughing wildly, their movements are fluid.


Sound-wise the game is filled with repetitive music but this really isn’t all that bad since the music is never annoying, in fact, the music is nicely done.  You’ll find that there are various tunes scattered throughout the game and for every occasion and they are quite diverse (to see what I mean, the Charter Edition includes an extra CD soundtrack).  Verbally, your Sims will express hunger, annoyance and the need to use the restroom by their strange babbling language.  Each household item also makes its own sound effects be it the noisy blender or the running shower.


Despite the occasional server problems, The Sims Online is a lesson in human behavior that gamers and Sims fans will be fascinated and completely entertained by.   Besides the fact that you have the complete freedom to create your own unique alter ego, the fun is interacting with the massive universe and its occupants that have their own unpredictable agendas. 


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 8.0
Played like the original game, The Sims Online basically borrows its design interface and character movement from its roots.  Gamers familiar with the world of The Sims will not find any radical change except for the chat bubble over a Sims’ head.  Everything else, such as building your dream house down to the very last detail to the list of actions available is still the same.


The game runs well in both broadband and using a 56K modem, but expect to run into certain glitches (which can be corrected through patches EA through the official website) and server crashes (the biggest one lasting an entire day).


Graphics: 7.6
Visually nothing really changed from the original single player version (and its expansion packs) and much of what we see is still a bird’s eye view of the environments and the characters.   Depending on a player’s taste, the decor can be extravagant or rather plain, but there are plenty of details to really impress.   You can furnish your home with everything from swirling lava lamps to computers that flash images on its monitor.


The Sims themselves can be designed with different heads, skin tones, outfits and even personalized descriptions.  There are even costume trunks that allow you to change your outfit to fit the occasion so you can dress up in swimwear if you’re invited to a pool party or wear tuxedos or fancy gowns to a more proper social event.   It’s fun watching the Sims dance, shake hands, kiss or even fight it out with each another.


Sound: 7.5
There’s music to be found in The Sims and most of it has already been heard since the release of the original and its expansion packs.  This is not to say that the music is boring, in fact, it’s pretty decent.  There are times, though, when the soundtrack breaks due to server problems but that is to be expected.  And while conversation is done through text bubbles, your character still calls out in its nonsensical speak to inform you of certain things like hunger or the need to use the bathroom.


Difficulty: Easy
Designing your own Sim is a simple process and involving him and her in the community isn’t at all hard to do.  You’ll find yourself joining in on conversations fairly easily and find a roommate willing to share a home with you.  The only challenge is in making enough Simoleans to purchase household items and order pizzas but there are a number of things to do to earn money such as installing snack machines or starting up your own nightclub complete with an entrance fee.


Concept: 8.0
Interaction is the heart of this game and interacting is exactly what you do in The Sims Online.  Like any chat room on the Internet, you can talk to anyone at any time and engage in any number of activities such as joining somebody in the hot tub.  You are given the complete freedom to act anyway you want, but just like in real life your actions determine the way people react to you the next time you encounter them again.  EA Games also makes it pretty clear that the game will keep expanding, meaning the world will actually grow with time and present new ideas along the way.


The difference between the regular version of The Sims Online and the Charter Edition is that you get some neat goodies.  The package includes a nifty Sims key chain, a soundtrack CD filled with music heard in the game, a Sims magnet, a Charter Member Certificate, an autographed instruction manual and a 90-Day Free Subscription.


Multiplayer: 8.7
The entire game is based on interaction and you will hardly ever get very far without stumbling into somebody who wants to start a conversation with you.  Many of the gamers you’ll find are interested in a more meaningful (and not so meaningful) mature conversation--although profanity is really let loose (although, of course, it can be blocked with the Profanity Filter).  It’s easy to find players interested in becoming your roommate and it’s even easier finding yourself accepting an invitation to live with a new found friend or being invited to the next house party thrown by somebody across town.  It’s who you know that gets you far in this game.


Overall: 7.8
Aside from some minor glitches--all of which can be easily rectified with patches--and certain players that can become annoyances, The Sims Online: Charter Edition is an enormously enjoyable online game that will have gamers logging on live their own fantasy life. 


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