I know I’ve already done an extensive, professional game journalist Sims 3 review here, but despite my high Eurogamer standards back then, I’ve got a few more things to say about the game and how it relates to the MMO genre.
For starters, the MMO-like launcher is a great tool for getting user-created content into your game. With a few simple clicks you download and install whatever you want, without having to fuss with multiple websites, finding the right folder to download to, or making sure everything unpacked correctly. Just find an item, click download, and within the launcher install it. Done. Along with the paid RMT shop items there is already a slew of user-created content. I’ve yet to poke around the paid stuff, but since I have $10 worth of credit on the account thanks to Direct2Drive, I’ll need to take a look at some point soon.
Technology advancing has really helped The Sims 3 to get closer to the vision of what the game should be all about. Beyond the graphics and sound simply being better, a huge change is the fact that your house is no longer an instance but part of the much larger ‘zone’ that is the town. The impact of this change goes far beyond removing the annoyance of a loading screen when leaving the home, and adds a ton of options and depth to the game that previously was simply impossible. From small impacts like being able to explore side areas for stones/metal/plants (that sounds familiar…) to the huge change of allowing you to control multiple sims in different locations. It’s now possible to have one sim playing music for tips at the local park, another competing in a cooking contest on the beach, and a third cleaning the house; and you can switch back and forth between all three without any hassle or loading. If you have played previous Sim games, you know how huge of a change this really has on gameplay and overall enjoyment, moving the game away from a house simulator and closer to the life simulator it aims for.
In terms of gameplay changes, The Sims 3 feels less like a chore manager and more ‘gamey’ than previous games, with your sims having a lot more time to do the fun/interesting stuff in life rather than always trying to keep up with eating/washing/sleeping. Along with more time, there is also a lot more to do, thanks in part to the achievement-like system that pops up goals big and small as you go. These goals are based of your sims traits and current skills/activities, and give points which can be spent on permanent upgrades. (déjà anyone?) They can be ignore or passed on, but are a nice tool to give you things to aim for and keep you out of the usual routine. The various side challenges like collecting bugs, becoming a chess champion, or fishing up all the rare fish add another good and fully optional layer of ‘stuff to do’. For me at least, this version of the game is far more about developing your characters rather than trying to buy all the best stuff, which goes a long way in terms of having stuff to do and not growing bored.
In many ways The Sims 3 is just an evolutionary step from previous games, but the combination of technology improving and the ‘fun stuff’ being refined makes it a very enjoyable game. Like sandbox MMOs, you can’t really ‘win’ the game, and in many ways you have to set your own goals and find the entertainment rather than have the game pull you around by the nose and show it to you. My preferred style, but one that might not work for everyone (oddly enough it DOES work in the single-player realm, with the Sims being the best selling franchise in history, yet in the MMO space the sandbox is called niche, funny how that works)
Just in full disclosure, I have run into a few rather noticeable bugs, the most major being two sims getting stuck sitting on the floor, with no way of moving them short of selling the house. Very annoying, and hopefully patched soon.