reviews\ Jan 6, 2003 at 7:00 pm

The Sims Online - PC - Review

Sometimes first impressions can be deceiving.

The first encounter with The Sims Online, a PC release from Maxis and Electronic Arts, yielded a trip to the ‘romance district’ and exposure to frank conversation that one would hear in an adults-only chat room.

Yikes. That is certainly not fit for a child to see. You can, of course, lock in the parental control element, allowing children only to speak with approved friends, and obscuring the nastier chat room dialogues, but the problem with that is that the majority of the world cannot be experienced, and there are some fine folk living in these communities.

The Sims Online is somewhat akin to the regular single-person game. You create a character, build a house (or, in this instance, get roommates to share an abode with), and then micro-manage the details of your Sims life. There are needs that must be attended to, like social, energy, hunger, hygiene and such, and you will have to earn Simoleans (the currency) to maintain whatever lifestyle you have.

There are ways to earn Simoleans. You can go into a home and do a variety of tasks, selling the fruits of your labor for the money; or you can create a home that people will want to visit, and you will receive currency for all those who drop by to see what you have.

The online game looks much like the other regular version, though your Sims can emote much more and are generally more expressive. But don’t count on building a home or jumping from Sim-to-Sim with the rapidity of its non-online counterpart. You pick a Sim (and there are many more customizable choices) and that is who you are.  Each account is allowed three playing characters.

Other ways this game diverges from the single-player game is that you won’t burn down your home through cooking mishaps, and you can’t be a thief, nor will your home be robbed. There are no phones within the home to call up and order services. The free enterprise system is alive and flourishing in this world.

Casual dress days extend only so far as the phone booth outside your home. The phone booth acts as a portal to the other areas of your city.

(And that mailbox is a hint of bills to come.)

You can create a friends list, visit favorite haunts, and the whole aspect is one of socialization. You earn skill points by practicing and training. Those skill points earn higher Simolean rewards for your earning efforts. And, should a large group be making preserves, the entire group will receive a higher wage. This is a case of the more the merrier.

The graphics are much the same as other Sims games, with a fixed camera position above the action (it can be zoomed in and out, but you won’t get a ground-eye’s view of the world). The sound is also akin to the regular games. There are no NPCs (non-playing characters).

The player interface is simple and easy to navigate through. This is a point and click game, with keyboard hot keys adding the action.

The slogan for this game is “Be Somebody. Else.,” and that is precisely the opportunity this game affords players. During the stay in this world, there were those who stated they didn’t understand the concept of the game. What’s the point? they asked. One could ask the same thing about chat rooms.

Consider the notion of the chat room and you have one of the base pretexts of The Sims Online. This is a chat room taken to a whole new level. Instead of simply type chatting, you have a body, and can move around in a world. You can socialize, if you wish, or just try to have the biggest, most elaborate home in your online community.

Like chat rooms, this game also attracts some of those who are there only to rob from the enjoyment of others. They insult, act obnoxious, curse and preach. They also likely swear, but thanks to a good profanity filter, you don’t have to see that. It does seem that anytime you have a massive world, with diversity, you will encounter them, no matter the venue.

The Sims Online is an amazing cross-section of people. It allows them to throw away some inhibitions and act out in ways they likely would not do in real life. This is not a game for younger children to play – regardless of the parental lock. This is an adult game and some – not the majority – of social settings are geared for adults.

It can be routine, and you will likely run into the same people asking and talking about the same things, over and over. If the idea of chat rooms appeals to you, if the idea of stepping outside yourself and trying on a different life and face (even a polar bear’s head) is something you would enjoy, this could well be the game for you.

This game is rated Teen for comic mischief, mature sexual themes, and mild violence.

Gameplay: 7.8
The transitions from one neighborhood to another are smooth. The game’s camera allows players to zoom in and out and move around a mapboard. At this stage, the game does not seem to have much lag, though even if it did – aside from the annoyance – it would not be a factor. There are no life or death situations with monsters beating on you while you move so slowly that it is only a precursor to death.

Graphics: 7.8
The game does have a wealth of character creation choices but the animation is typical Sims all the way. The game is bright and colorful and the antics can be amusing.

Sound: 7
The sound kept cutting in and out on the game, which is either a latency issue or an install/system issue. However, while some of the sounds can be fun, overall, this game sports not that much that is new to the Sims world.

Difficulty: Easy
The game is straightforward. There are no difficulty levels, no puzzles to unravel, no treasures to battle to. The challenge is in upgrading your home through earning enough Simoleans to do precisely that, while working in a social setting.

Concept: 7.5
This is a chat room come to life. Instead of merely talking about dancing with someone, you can. The game does deviate from the regular game, and has features that are exclusive to this title, but it is mostly routine, and maintenance. The parental control can be useful, but it blocks most of the world and limits the experience.

Multiplayer: 8.5
This is a game that is about socialization, though it can be spoiled by a few malcontents.

Overall: 7.3
You can be somebody else, you can manage the facets of another’s life, you can build your dream home, and the developers seem to be leaning toward throwing in seasonal-pertinent material, like the recent New Year’s Eve party themes, to keep it alive and fresh. But boil it down and you have somewhat-stilted animation, some adult themes, plenty of good people having fun role-playing, new emotes, and chat, chat, chat. This is open-ended play, filled with diversity. It can be routine, and it can be like a daytime soap opera (looking through the Internet hourglass, so too are the Sims of our lives).


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