The Sims 3 Preview
The Sims 3 box art
System: PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: EA Redwood Shores 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Electronic Arts 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: June 2, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

August 5, 2008 - The Sims franchise has never had a problem with broad appeal (The Sims 2 sold over 100 million copies), but it could be argued that the original intention of the series – creating and watching over a compelling A.I. – got lost along the way. A good guess is the original design philosophy disappeared under an avalanche of expansion packs.

The Sims 3 screenshot

This game extending shuffle (which numbered seven expansions for The Sims and 17 for The Sims 2), certainly gave gamers a lot of new content, but did it really alter the core game? If you count The Sims 2 Stuff packs, the answer would have to be no. These expansions merely added more, well, stuff to your world. The latest one – IKEA Home Stuff – just threw in brand-specific furniture sets. Do players really care that their Sim's desk is from a Swedish manufacturer?

So, for The Sims 3, it's back to the drawing board. While there was a visual upgrade between The Sims and The Sims 2, the same game was still there – your character was bogged down with menial tasks (such as cleaning up the dishes), went to a job, and you had to keep your Sim's eight attribute bars in check (such as that of the bladder, which resulted in constant trips to the bathroom). The design white board hasn't been wiped clean, but things have been tidied up. Now, instead of eight attributes to constantly monitor, there's only three. Sure, your Sim still needs to make the occasional trip to the bathroom, but there's no dedicated meter this time. That layer of code is hidden from users so it doesn't become a nagging gameplay element.

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Aside from hiding old meters (like the bladder one), this time out the developers are making mundane tasks like cleaning not such a bother. In past Sims games, if you had a house full of people, you probably dedicated one person to staying at home all day to keep the house in order; in effect, one of your Sims became a full-time maid. Now, if you see a pile of dishes lying on the counter, a stray book, or trash piled up in the kitchen, you can use your cursor to clean up the mess. This means that instead of your Sim wasting time on that task (but you can still have your Sim clean if you want), you can say, “Hey, I know you've got more important things to do, so I'm going to take care of the trash right now so you can go on a date.”

The Sims 3 screenshot

Attributes have been pushed into the background and the foreground is made up of character development elements. The most front-and-center are moodlets. These existed in some capacity in past games, but now they are much more visible. For example, if your character had something traumatic recently happen – such as a close friend Sim dying – then they may break down into tears at dinner. These kinds of psychological shifts can't be instantly cured. However, simple, but uncomfortable moments, like getting your Sim soaked in a rain shower, have an easy fix – just dry your Sim off and then the upsetting mood is erased.

Pushing forward on the character development front, the developers had ditched The Sims 2 Wants and Fears system in favor of a new approach called Dreams and Promises. It works in a similar fashion to the previous system, without feeling completely random. Promises work in a straightforward fashion. If your Sim wants to get to know someone better, you make that promise and fulfilling it gives your Sim a mood boost. Dreams work in a similar manner. They're represented by a thought balloon and may be as simple as your Sim learning a new skill – like cooking or painting – or might be more long-term, like cultivating a particular profession. Just like promises, fulfilling dreams results in a mood boost. The nice thing about Dreams is you don't have to fulfill them; you can Promise to make a particular Dream come true and still get a mood boost. Breaking a promise isn't as well tolerated. If you miss that mark your Sim will be down in the dumps.

The Sims 3 screenshot

But the most important aspect of any Sim – aspirations and attributes aside – is their overall personality. In The Sims 2 this was determined by the user at the start of the game by tweaking sliders to adjust five key personality areas. Each area was then given a numerical value. That idea has been ditched and The Sims 3 is using the Traits system. Instead of numbers and sliders, there are around 80 traits you can choose from. None of them have number values, which makes sense; you never say a friend has an extroverted level of six – they're simply outgoing and easy to be around. This realist approach is reflected in the choices you make. You may want your Sim to be a natural cook, that way they can advance a relationship just by whipping up a great meal. Or, maybe you want your Sim to be inappropriate, this will result in many socially awkward situations.

Making players care about their Sim is one thing, but they still need to be go out on the town and interact with others. To this aim, the developers are taking a more scaled back approach. Instead of aiming for big cities, the game ships with one map: Pleasant Valley. Taking a smaller approach means more interactivity – every building you see you can go in and exists as its own independent simulation. So, you can go to town and chat it up with friends, while your next door neighbors throw a party. The point is keeping the world persistent and not making it seem like your Sims live in a bubble independent of everyone else. The best part of the small town approach? The developer is toting that there will be no load screens when moving from one location to another.

Having your own home for your Sim is great and players of past games have always liked the customization options. In The Sims 3 customization goes up yet another notch. Yes, you can still fill your house full of furniture, electronics, and other materialistic trappings, but you can go one step further. If you see an object that has a particular pattern you like – maybe a chair has a texture that you love – then you can drag that texture over to another object.

The Sims 3 appears to be headed more in the direction of the internal than the external – making you feel attached to your Sim seems to be the main goal. But it doesn't seem like those that just liked the materialistic aspects – such as house building and object accumulation – are going to be left out in the cold. The developers are striking a nice balance between satisfying longtime Sims fans and revamping key mechanics to rope in new players.

By Jason Lauritzen
CCC Freelance Writer

Game Features:

  • New Seamless, Open Neighborhood: Explore the neighborhood freely. Your Sims can roam throughout their neighborhood, visit neighbors’ homes, and explore the surroundings. They can stroll downtown to hang out with friends, meet someone new at the park, or run into colleagues on the street. If your Sims are in the right place at the right time, who knows what might happen?!
  • New Create A Sim: Create any Sim you can imagine. New easy-to-use design tools allow for unlimited customization to make truly individual Sims. Determine your Sims’ shape and size, from thin to full-figured to muscular – and everything in between! Choose your Sims’ facial features, their exact skin tone, hair, eye shape and color, and select their clothing, and accessories.
  • New Realistic Personalities: Every Sim is a unique person, with a distinct personality. Create realistic Sims with distinctive personalities. Select from dozens of personality traits and combine them in fun ways. The combination of traits you choose – brave, artistic, loner, perfectionist, klepto, romantic, clumsy, paranoid, and much, much more – help shape the behavior of your Sims and how they interact with other Sims. Your Sims can now rise above their basic set of every day needs. They are complex individuals with unique personalities.
  • New Unlimited Customization: Everyone can customize everything! Build your dream house or design the ultimate home. Customize everything from floors to flowers, shirts to sofas, wallpaper to window shades. It’s fun and easy to change colors and patterns giving you endless personalization options. Or you can populate your Sims’ neighborhood with pre-designed buildings and furnishings. Which of your Sims will live in high-end mansions, cool bachelor pads, ultimate dream homes or low-cost cottages?

  • Screenshots / Images
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