Review: Sims 3

When it came to reviewing The Sims 3, I considered rushing through a few hours of the game before sitting down and writing more of a first-impressions take on this highly anticipated updated version of the popular computer game. In the end though, I knew that in order to give a fair assessment of the game, I’d have to do what most Sims players do, and that’s spend hours upon hours staring at the computer, hand on the mouse clicking away as I stare at the moving figures on the computer screen, finding myself ridiculously engaged in their animated lives. So this review comes after more than a few days of playing The Sims 3 and so far, I’m mostly pleased with what EA has done with the new version.

Before I get into the full version of my Sims-so-far experience, here are some general thoughts I have on the game for those of you who either don’t want to be spoiled (and the full review includes a lot of specifics on the game) or else, are just looking for the express version of this review.

Off the bat, I’ll tell you that like the previous two versions of The Sims, I am slowly coming to love this game. I say slowly because, like the previous two versions, a game like this takes a little time to get to know. In fact, I’m sure if I sat down and played The Sims 2 right now, I’d find at least one thing I hadn’t discovered about the game, despite owning it and playing it constantly over the last few years. That’s the beauty of a game like The Sims. There’s no set way to play it and the outcome varies based on a combination of the games’ set-up and your imagination. In that respect, The Sims 3 is a freshened up version of its predecessor.

Sims 3 offers a variety of improvements on the game, including an open map, which allows the Sims to visit community lots and other households without having to load the town. You also have full control of your Sim when they’re visiting another Sim’s house. This makes it much easier to get your Sim to meet new people and interact with them. The story progression option (which can be turned off) allows the rest of the town to move along with time as you’re playing your “active household.” Sims in other households will age, get jobs, have kids and die even when you’re not playing them. This can be considered a perk or an inconvenience, depending on what type of player you are.

There are a number of excellent advancements to customizing not only the physical appearance of your Sims but also their houses, clothes and furniture. EA has made it a lot more convenient for people to adjust these things to their liking if they don’t want to settle for the pre-designed options listed.

On the downside, I had almost all of the expansion packs for The Sims 2, so going to a bare-bones version of The Sims 3 is taking a little getting used to. While the new version appears to have a number of features from some of the expansion packs (cars, stores, gardening, etc), there are things that seem to be a step backward from Sims 2. Sims can’t own/run their own businesses, the weather doesn’t change, and there are no pets, vacations or hobbies. It’s understandable that EA would hold back on a lot of this stuff as I’m sure they’ve got plans for expansion packs that will include these things. Right now, the Sims can’t even see the inside of certain community lots. You also can’t create your own town and are limited to the default town (or the ones they offer for download on the Sims 3 website).

My biggest complaint is the broken speed issue. The option for triple-speed doesn’t work, nor does the “ultra speed” option, which is a new thing that’s supposed to let you jump passed an action (so you don’t have to sit and watch them sleep). Selecting speed-three or ultra-speed does nothing to speed up the game. It still goes along at the same speed as speed-2, which means spending five or more minutes staring at the computer while the Sims are at work or at home. To me, that’s about as inconvenient (if not more) as the load-time when changing lots in Sims 2. Hopefully EA will have a patch for this very soon as I’ve seen/heard a lot of complaints about this issue since the game’s release.

Over all though, I do think EA has made enough improvements to the game to breathe new life into the franchise. It’s going to take some getting used to adjusting to certain aspects of the game but that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? The first night I sat down with The Sims 3, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. It was frustrating not knowing how to control certain things or make the right choices for my Sims but like with Sims 2, time spent playing the game did away with most of the reservations I had with this new version and I’m already almost to the point where I don’t think I could go back to Sims 2.

Now for the full report.

The extremely wordy review posted below includes specific scenarios from the game so if you’re the type that likes to be surprised (and from what I’ve discovered, there are a lot of cool twists and surprises in Sims 3), you might want to stop reading now. Just know that as a fan of Sims 2, I think Sims 3 is fantastic and EA has done a great job in improving on what Maxis created in the first two versions.

Installation - Installation was easy enough as there’s only one disk (DVD). Once I had the game installed, I started it up and instead of being brought directly into the game, The Sims 3 game launcher opened up. The menu includes the “Play” option along with an option to log into your Sims 3 profile on the Sims website. There you can exchange objects, clothes, hairstyles, neighborhoods etc, upload screenshots and videos and discuss the game with other players .I haven’t explored much of that aspect of the game largely because for me, when it comes to the Sims, I’m more of a loner. I will say that the Game Launcher makes downloading objects and other items very easy. I downloaded the free car I got (I purchased the collector’s edition, which came with a free sports car) as well as the free neighborhood the website is offering and had no trouble installing.

I hit the play button and impatiently sat through the opening scene, resisting the urge to click passed it as I knew I would probably always do in future-startups. Once I got to the main menu, I had the option to start a “new game.” I had a choice between two towns. The default town and the one I downloaded for free from the Sims site. As far as I can tell, there is no way to custom-create a town right now so you’re pretty much stuck with what they give you. The town comes complete with families living in houses ranging from cozy bungalows to beach-front mansions. You’ll also find parks, stores and the various career places (hospitals, military base, sports arena, etc). The town is packed with everything your Sim needs. Now on to the game…

What’s the same? - Sims fans can expect to find the same type of drama in their game as with the previous two versions. A successful Sim will find a partner (same sex or opposite, the game doesn’t discriminate), excel at a career, keep their mood in full green and like Sims 2 attempt to fulfill a series of desires great and small. Also like Sims 2, players will have aspirations and adding on to that, one specific life goal that requires dedication and effort in order to achieve. And for you cheaters out there, I also found that the “motherlode” cheat code works (Type ctrl-alt-c and then type Motherlode for fifty-thousand simoleons. “Kaching” also works for a thousand simoleons.) Some prefer to play the game honestly and allow their Sim to benefit financially off hard work rather than a cheat code but if you’re not above it, you’ll be happy to know it’s just as easy to move them up the financial ladder as it was in Sims 2.

What’s Different? - Where to begin?! I started by creating a Sim, rather than playing one of the already made families.

Creating a Sim - Creating a Sim has been upgraded somewhat from Sims 2. In the previous version, you had to use the Sims body shop (a separate program) if you really wanted to get creative with your Sims appearance. Adding custom content (skin, hair and eye color) was a pain in the previous version but the Sims creator makes this much easier. Want a Sim with blue skin and green hair? No problem. Use the color palette and go nuts.

You have the option to adjust the body type from skinny to fat and from muscular to… not muscular. I made one Sim start off fat and found that while he was able to lose the weight through diet and exercise, he had to work out regularly to keep it off whereas my skinny Sims just stay skinny regardless of how often they work out. I’m sure I could get them to gain weight if I tried but so far, a general indifference to diet and exercise hasn’t seemed to affect their weight. It’s the big Sims who have to work at it, which I suppose is somewhat true to real life. There doesn’t appear to be a fitness meter though. While you can see the fitness skill level, you can’t really tell how fit your Sim is outside of looking at their appearance. Sims 2 had a meter that showed their fitness so you could keep an eye on that and have them work out accordingly. It’s disappointing that no such meter appears to exist in this version, especially given just how much a Sim’s appearance can change due to weight gain.

From playing with the various facial feature options, I feel like there were more options in the Sims 2 if using the body shop but the options included are more advanced in Sims 3 than they were in the actual Sims 2 game. You can select premade looks and then adjust them. Move the eyes closer together. Make them bigger or smaller. Give your Sim a huge chin or a pointy nose, etc. You also have the option to change their hairstyle depending on the outfit they’re wearing or have one universal hairstyle.

Choosing the outfits is more fun in this version as it allows you to use the Style tool to change the colors and textures of all of the clothing included in the game. Along with the usual set of outfits, “Everyday,” “Formal,” “Swimwear,” etc, you can select accessories for each. These include gloves, jewelry, sunglasses and socks. You also have the option to pick out their footwear as opposed to being stuck with whatever came with the outfit.

Once you’ve got your Sim made up and dressed, you have to select their personality. In Sims 2 this involved setting their levels as far as things like cleanliness, how friendly they are, outgoing, playful, active, etc. In Sims 3, you simply select traits. Adult Sims can have up to five. These include positive things like “Artistic” (good at painting), “Genius” (good at logic), “Athletic” (can work out for longer than normal Sims) and “Flirty” (have more options to flirt with other Sims). There are also negative traits including “Grumpy,” “Snob,” “Couch Potato” and “Insane,” which apparently makes the Sim fairly unpredictable. From what I can tell, the level of effect that a trait can have on a Sim varies by trait. For example, I have one Sim who has the daredevil trait and everything they do is “extreme.” Instead of having the option to sleep they have the option to “extreme sleep.” And instead of showering, they “take an extreme shower to get extremely clean.” From what I can tell, there’s nothing particularly extreme about how they perform these actions but it’s amusing to see the options if nothing else. There’s also a “never-nude” trait, which makes me think someone at EA loves Arrested Development. Much like the great Tobias Funke, never-nudes will never get completely naked. (Not that it matters as naked Sims are obscured by the usual mosaic to block players from seeing their Barbie-doll parts.

In terms of picking traits, it’s easy to want to make the perfect Sim. Have them be a genius, family oriented, a Natural Cook and a Bookworm but if you want to add a little spice to your Sim’s life, why not make them “Inappropriate” or a “Loner.” With more than fifty of the standard traits to choose from (more are added as you play the game), it’ll be easy to make each of your Sims personalities unique. You also have to give them a lifetime goal, which is what a lot of their Lifetime Happiness will relate to (more on that later.)

House Building - So you’ve built your Sim (or Sims) and you’re ready to move them in. Great. Now here’s the downside. From what I’ve been able to tell, there’s no way to add lots to this game. You have the option to move them into an already built home, or else move them onto an empty lot and build a home for them. There does appear to be plenty of space in the town to add lots but there’s no option for it so you basically have to choose from what they give you. If you manage to fill up an entire town, I’m assuming the only option is to start a new game, which means you can use the same town but none of the Sims (or their stories) from the previous game will be included.

House building is similar enough to the earlier versions that veterans to the game shouldn’t have a hard time figuring out how to get going on that. However, in Build Mode, rather than a straight-up menu of the different options, there’s a sort of map thing that you get of a house. You have to click on the different parts of the house to be brought to specific menus. Meaning, click on the floor of the house in the little map and you’ll be brought to all of the floor options. Click the wall and get the wall options, etc. I don’t really see the point in the little house diagram/map as it was fine the old way but this new way is just as convenient.

For the floors and wallpapers, you have the option to choose one of the many options they provide, or else, click the “Create a Style” palette and customize your own floors and wallpapers. They offer a wide variety of patterns, textures and themes and there’s also a full color palette available so the possibilities are virtually endless. I recall there being a way to add custom content to Sims 2 but I believe it required a separate program, the use of a photo editor and a lot of trial-and-error. I think that’s why I never really explored the option but Sims 3 makes it pretty easy to get creative with the look of your house in the same way that you can get creative with your Sim’s clothes.

My favorite addition to the house building option is the wall-drag tool. I have a tendency to get sloppy when building a house. I’m usually just impatient when it comes to getting the dwelling set up so I can move my Sims in. Oftentimes I fail to make the bedroom big enough to fit the bed, resulting in angry Sims throwing their hands in the air when there’s not enough room for them to climb into bed… their sleep meter running into the red. Work the next day. It’s not a good situation. The wall drag tool is a quick and easy way to extend a room without having to go through the hassle of rebuilding it. You don’t need to fix the wallpaper, move windows or anything else. As long as there’s room for the wall to move, all you have to do is click and drag. The auto-roof feature has also been upgraded to automatically add the roof to extensions put on the house. This is good for me since I almost always forgot to do that in Sims 2.

Be sure to finish up the house though because your Sims will notice if there’s an unfinished room (missing floor, no paint on the walls, etc) and it affects their mood.

Playing the game - Got the house. Got the Sims. Now let’s get started. I started out with two Sims. Betty was abscent-minded, easily impressed, clumsy and artistic. She aspired to become a rock star. Crabs was fat, grumpy, didn’t like art, didn’t like kids and loved to fish (“Angler.”) All he wanted to do was fish all day. Despite his negative attitude toward life, he didn’t have a hard time falling for Betty and the two were happy together for a while. While Crabs spent his days gardening, fishing, fixing things around the house and working out to lose the weight, Betty got started on her music career.

Jobs - Here’s what I love about the new jobs. Promotions don’t appear to be entire contingent on skill advancement and friends. In fact, Betty didn’t go out of her way to make many friends and she had no problems advancing in her career. Improving her musical ability to meet the recommended mark did help her with her job but I noticed that she did manage to get bumped up a notch or two in her job before getting her music skill up to where it needed to be. Job performance varies based on the Sims mood and some other factors that are added as they move up the ladder. For Betty, she had to get her guitar-playing up and eventually she had to be on good terms with her band and perform well. There are meters for all of these things in the job panel to let you know how your Sim is doing.

While you can’t see them at work (they go to a building for whatever field they’re working in and you can’t see/go inside), you have the option to select from a drop-down box what you want them to be doing that day. You can have them work normally, work hard, take it easy, meet coworkers, work on skills and a couple of other options that vary from job to job. You can change these and watch the meter to see how it’s affecting your Sim’s job performance and mood. If Betty’s relationship with her band members has a frown face, I might have her chill with them for the day rather than working on her skill.

Like in Sims 2, promotions offer a bonus, they get days off and they’re also offered career opportunities. You have the option to decline these, though they’re not that difficult to achieve. Unlike in Sims 2 when you got a pop-up with some random scenario and you basically had to guess which option would yield positive results (or risk your Sim getting fired, losing money and/or skill points), the job opportunities in Sims 3 are all basically doable if your Sim is willing to put in the effort. One Sim of mine had to attend a seminar. It took a couple hours out of her day but she had a week to do it and it improved her job performance so it was worth the time.

Jobs advance to a certain point and possibly even branch out if your Sim moves up high enough. Eventually, Betty came to a crossroads in her career. She was given two job opportunities. One had to do with classical music and the other had to do with “Electronica” or something like that. I opted for the latter as it would’ve led her closer to her aspiration to become a rock star.

Skills - While Betty was improving her skills for he career, Crabs was busy improving his skills to improve his leisurely life of unemployment. He advanced his fishing skills enough to use different kinds of bait. Different bait catches different fish and the variety of fish available varies based on the body of water. The pond in the park probably has more fish than what you’ll find in the pond in your backyard (though I was pleased to learn that developing the land with leveling and bodies of water is free for Sims so Crabs was able to create a dark and dreary swamp and only had to shell out money for the lily pads and dead tree). Sims can also fish on the beach and if they use the right bait, can catch things like swordfish or sharks. One of my Sims also scored an old guitar from the pond at the park. Fish can be put in the fridge to be eaten, left in the inventory to be used as bait or fertilizer for gardening or put in a fishbowl and kept as a pet.

Crabs hadn’t fancied himself a handy man but since Betty was clumsy, things in their meager abode tended to break a lot and his skill at fixing things up increased quite a bit after repeated attempts to unclog the toilet, fix the leaky shower and broken dishwasher. He also had the option to “tinker” with the plumbing even when it wasn’t broken. So he could play around with the toilet and improve his skill that way. Once his mechanical skill got high enough, he was given the option to upgrade certain appliances. He upgraded the shower to auto-clean after each use and made the toilet unbreakable. This is really useful for Sims who don’t have the simoleons to upgrade to a nicer set of appliances. There’s also an upgrade for the stove to make it fireproof. In Sims 2, fires that were extinguished right away didn’t destroy the oven but in the new version, the oven has to be replaced (and the food the Sim was cooking is gone).

Crabs’ handiwork got the attention of the neighbors and he was often presented with “Skill opportunities” to earn a little cash by fixing things up or upgrading them. These opportunities are presented similarly to the job opportunities and you can decide if your Sim will accept or reject it. Mr. Bunch hired Crabs to upgrade the speakers on his stereo. He received the stereo in the Sims family inventory (located in Buy mode), fixed it up and visited Mr. Bunch to return the stereo and receive his pay. Similar opportunities have come up for all of my other Sims, including kids and teenagers. Their opportunities usually relate to school.

As for cooking skills, Sims can learn from the TV or read books on cooking (they have to buy most of them). They can also learn specific recipes by purchasing the rather pricy recipe books from the book store. The recipe books disappear from their inventory once read while other skill books (including books on logic, gardening, fishing, etc) can be put in the bookshelf so other Sims can read them. Another cool thing is that they can store a book in their inventory so they can have it to read somewhere else like at the park or while at someone else’s house. The same applies to other objects like the guitar or even a car.

Wants/Desires - Like Sims 2, Sims 3 includes the aspiration concept. Sims want certain things above just getting fed and watered. In addition to their big life-goal, they have smaller goals that pop up in the control panel at the bottom of the screen. You have the option to left-click them as they come up. Doing that will drop it into one of four slots in the control panel, where they’ll stay until they’re achieved or until you delete it. Right-clicking the want makes it disappear.

Crabs’ wants were things like “Gain a fishing skill” or “Kiss Betty.” Betty’s were things like “Earn 250 Simoleons in tips playing the guitar.” (She could play her guitar for tips at the park or anywhere else she felt like going.) There were also the more generic wants like “Eat mac and cheese” and “Gain a skill point.” Achieving these goals earns them reward points, which can be redeemed for different perks, like raising the Sim’s metabolism so they don’t gain weight, helping them learn faster, boosting their fertility (increases the chance for twins and triplets) and changing their life goal. Crabs changed his life goal when I realized it was going to take forever for him to obtain 13 perfect fish.

Moodlets - In addition to keeping your Sims fed, slept and comfortable, there are moodlets that indicate how your Sim is feeling based on their surroundings and recent experiences. If the house is dirty, they’ll lose mood points and the bar to the left of the moodlet panel will go down. The same applies to other negative events, like if they’re cheated on, if someone dies, or if they’re strained from work. The bigger the situation, the more it affects the Sim. It tells you under each moodlet how long that mood will last. So while a Sim feeling “strained” might only last an hour, a Sim losing a spouse could affect them for days (which is a long time in Sim-time). You can help alleviate their negative moodlets or speed up the time it takes them to pass. A pregnant Sim with a backache might need time off her feet or a trip to the spa for a massage.

Positive scenarios boost their mood. After Betty left Crabs for the neighbor and Crabs married her boss Zelda, his mood increased quite a bit. It wasn’t just the marriage that did it but also the money, which offered them a beachfront villa and top-notch appliances. All of these perks boosted his mood to some degree for a while. In the end, it was the luxury that killed him though. Crabs died while attempting to repair the busted HD TV.

Death - The grim reaper comes for us all and the Sims are no exception. Crabs’ life was taken before he’d reached his elder years. He was fixing the TV when he was electrocuted and the grim reaper showed up to claim him. Zelda witnessed the whole thing but could do nothing to stop the Reaper from taking her husband. In Sims 2 you could beg for your loved ones life but there wasn’t an option for that in this version, so either Zelda didn’t love him enough or else they’re not giving Sims a chance at redemption in this game. You are given the option to engrave a sentence on their tombstone though and like in previous versions, it’s an urn (it looked more like a box actually) when indoors and becomes a gravestone if moved outside. Crabs’ gravestone had a bolt of lightning on it, so everyone who sees it will know that he died by electrocution.

Ghosts - Ghosts have been featured in the previous versions of The Sims but Sims 3 kicks it up a notch by allowing Sims to actually interact with the ghosts. Crabs was gone from the control panel and I had no say in when he appeared or what he did when he showed up, however, his family could see him an interact with him. Zelda talked to him about cooking and even learned a new recipe from her deceased husband. She was also able to make out with him, much to the dismay of her new boyfriend. Crabs then went into the kitchen, ate some pancakes and returned to his grave in the morning. An interesting point of amusement was that Crabs’ cost had bolts of electricity going through him. I’m eager to see how the ghosts look for people who died under different circumstances.

Friendship, flirting, Romance and Woohoo -

Sims 3 does away with the overall friendship meter. Like Sims 1 there’s only one meter to indicate their relationship level. The two-meter system allowed players to see not only the current state of their Sim’s relationship with another Sim but also the life-time relationship level. It gave the player a better indication of how close (or not close) the two Sim’s were. Two Sims meeting for the first time might hit it off but their overall meter would still be low since they haven’t spent enough time together. And if two close friends were having an off-day, their current relationship meter might drop but you could still tell that they were close friends based on the overall relationship meter.

I’m finding the lack of the second meter in Sims 3 a little frustrating as I’d grown used to knowing exactly how far over the overall relationship meter the Sims had to be before certain behaviors and actions would be acceptable. Now they’re either acquaintances’, friends, good friends, “romantic interest,” or engaged/married. Two Sims who are “romantic interests” aren’t automatically dating. You have to get one Sim to ask the other to “Go Steady” (even as adults) before they’re locked in as a couple. Otherwise even if they’re in love they’re still classified as single. I don’t know if it’s just the personalities of the Sims I’ve played but it seems to take a lot of flirting and spending time together to get that option. The same applies to having the option to invite someone to move in with them. Sims with the “Flirty” trait usually have more options in that area but even with that trait it felt like it took a week of the Sims spending time together and some seriously heavy flirting to get the two Sims committed to each other. After that, the option to get engaged and get married was there but even that doesn’t always pop up.

Woohoo (Sim-sex) is almost the same as it was in Sims 2. If they’re both into each other enough to get it on, they jump under the covers together and giggle a lot. This is followed by a shower of hearts and two content looking Sims who may or may not fall asleep afterward, depending on how tired they are. You have the option to Woohoo even if the Sims aren’t in bed together, however the option doesn’t seem to come up as much as it does when they are relaxing in bed. As far as I can tell, the bed is the only place Sims can get it on. The car isn’t an option and there’s no Jacuzzi, photo booth or changing rooms around for them to sneak off to.

If you can get your Sims in love with each other enough to get it on, pregnancy is just as easy as it always was in this game. Even easier, in fact. Betty got pregnant with the neighbor before she’d even moved out. The Sims 3 allows Sims to visit other lots, so she was able to go over to Freddie’s house and spend the night without Crabs being the wiser (he was already seeing her boss so she didn’t feel all that guilty about that). Sims still get jealous when they see their romantic interest flirting with someone else so if you like having two-timing Sims, the option to visit other households is a big help. While I believe in Betty’s case, getting pregnant was on her terms (I was playing her when it happened), Sim males now have the “Try for a baby” option. This means they can unwittingly knock up their female companions. In Sims 2 it was only the female Sims that could “Try for Baby.” The men had to settle for a simple non-conception-inducing “woo-hoo.”

When Betty tried for a baby the first time, the lullaby played following their woo-hooing, thus indicating that it was a successful conception. After having her first child, Betty received enough reward points that she was able to get herself a fertility treatment. This resulted in her next two pregnancies being twins and triplets. Interestingly enough, when she and Freddie made woohoo to make these babies, there was no lullabye music either time. I selected “Try for a baby” and there was no indication that Betty was pregnant until she started vomiting the next day. The moodlet indicated that the nausea was for “unknown reasons.” I’m not sure if this was due to the fertility treatment or if this is a Sims 3 thing.

Pregnant Sims get days off from work and they’re no longer stuck at home! They can go wherever they want up until the baby’s coming. While there is that exciting moment when the Sim’s belly “pops,” after that she will just get progressively bigger without another grand “popping” ceremony. After a couple days, she goes into labor.

Babies, toddlers, kids and teens - When a Sim has a baby, they do it at the hospital now. No more squatting in the middle of the living room while the family and any visiting guests hanging around watch on in horror as the new mom’s plumb-bob splits. Now she disappears into the hospital building and you get to wait to find out what it is (and how many). If your Sim had a good pregnancy you get to choose the traits. If she was unhappy during her pregnancy, the traits are chosen randomly. Babies get two traits. As they progress into toddlers and children, more traits are added.

You’re now able to see the baby’s condition. Their levels for hunger, cleanliness, social, bathroom and all of that are there in the control panel. Changing a diaper improves hygiene. There’s no option to bathe the baby or toddler and I’m grateful for that. With Sims 2 it seemed like someone was always randomly picking the baby up to give it a bath even if it didn’t need one. Just change the diaper when its dirty and the baby’s clean. For toddlers, teaching it to walk, talk and use the potty ensures that you’ll be able to select the next trait when he or she becomes a child.

As for aging, a couple days before a Sims birthday you get a notification. You can buy a cake and have them blow the candles out to age them up sooner or else wait until their birthday and it’ll happen on its own. The cake thing isn’t new but now when any Sim selects “blow out the candles” you get the option to select which Sim does it. I don’t know if this is a bug but at one point during the game, I accidentally selected the wrong Sim to blow out the candles and he aged into young-adulthood less than a day after he’d become a teenager. Not all of the Sims were included on the “Blow out the candles” menu, so it’s possible that because it was still close to his birthday (the one that would’ve made him a teenager if I hadn’t aged him up with the cake) he was still eligible for candle-blowing.

You have the option to turn the aging off without the use of a cheat-code now. I’m not sure how this affects the story progression or whether or not the entire neighborhood stops aging when you have the aging option turned off. If the other households are having kids and the aging turns off, wouldn’t that mean a surplus of babies? This is something I’ll have to test out, especially because it seems like despite the addition of the “young adult” age (which was included in the Sims 2 College expansion pack but none of the others, to my knowledge), it seems like the Sims grow up really fast now.

Kids and teenagers go to school during the week and have off on the weekends. I’ve had a couple of Sims miss school, not because they didn’t catch the bus but rather because school wasn’t in session. It was a weekday when this happened and when I clicked on the school to see if I could send my Sim there, it simply said school wasn’t in session. They were not penalized for this. I’m not sure if this was a bug or if there are random day’s off for no reason. No complaints here. It gave my Sim a chance to work on their skills at home.

Much like in reality, homework can be a real pain for Sim kids but there are a couple of improvements to the game here. For one thing, the Sim returns from school with their homework in their inventory. No more leaving the book outside by the mailbox, in the driveway or up in mom and dad’s room where it’s impossible to find! Just click on the homework in the inventory and the Sim has the option to do it, ask for help or, if there’s another kid around (a sibling or a visiting friend), they can do their homework with them. That’s a nice perk as it boosts their social and also gives them the chance to hang out while also getting their homework done. One great improvement to the life of a Sim-kid is that they often do their homework on their own. In Sims 2 if you didn’t make them do it, it didn’t get done and their grades dropped. In this version I’ve found my Sims hard at work doing their homework after school without my say-so.

Similar to working Sims, you have the option to select what the Sim kids do in school. They can work hard, slack off, work on late homework, meet friends or even sleep during class if they’re really tired. One Sim of mine got detention for that and had to stay after school. Sim kids can bring friends home from school (you’re asked if it’s ok) or visit friends after school (again, you have the option to say yes or no to that).

Leaving the lot - As I mentioned earlier, Sims can visit each others’ houses in addition to visiting community lots. There’s no load-time for this as the whole town is constantly running. So if your Sim wants to head off to a friends’ house, they can jog there, take a taxi or drive their own car. Getting there is as easy as a click of the mouse and there’s relatively no wait. You can control what they do at another Sim’s house but don’t be too quick to make your Sim at home. If they decide to cook something up in the kitchen, take a shower or take a nap on the couch (I’ve had Sims do all three of these things), expect some unhappy hosts. They’ll tell you you’re acting “inappropriate” and might even ask you to leave. I expect that you might be able to get away with more if you’re on close terms with the owner of the house.

While your Sim is at another house, you can still access the other Sim’s control panels to check on them, without actually having to click back to your house to look in on what they’re doing. This is really helpful when you have a baby at home or if you have Sims working on skills.

Sims can also wander randomly around the neighborhood. Keep an eye out for little objects on the ground. Sims can collect seeds that can be planted or find rare gems and metals. I had one Sim find a bunch of Iron on the beach and another who found emeralds that she was able to send away to be cut (for a price). They can also find bugs that can be named, released or donated to the science lab.

Another Sim I was playing was in the journalism field and she was able to rummage through people’s trash to dig up dirt on them. In doing this, her inventory filled up with trash, old newspapers and some found objects, including bubble bath, a candle and a stuffed animal. I’ve heard you can find more valuable things in people’s trash as well but the real goods for this Sim was the information she got on the person whose trash she was digging through. She used it to write a negative article on them. I have another Sim who acquired the “kleptomaniac” trait when he became an adult. This trait wasn’t available when creating Sims and seems to be one of the bonus traits. He’s also able to rummage through trash. I haven’t played him that much yet but from what I understand, Kleptos can steal things from other people.

Story Progression - Because the town is constantly running, the lives of the people in the town are progressing. This means while you’re playing with one specific active household, all of the other households are going about their lives, including the households you made. I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, I kind of like knowing that the families I’m neglecting are going on with their lives. When I do go back to them, their kids are older or their skills have progressed. On the other hand, it takes away the control you have over what they’re doing. They can have more kids or split up. They could get fired from their job… the job you worked so hard to help them succeed in. And they’re older. You’ve lost time with them and if they haven’t been improving on their skills, they might not have enough time left to achieve their life goals. Also, you have no control over the traits their kids have as they get older. When I revisited one family I’d been playing earlier, their kids had aged to teenagers and their traits were all completely random.

In one sense, it’s kind of a relief that the game plays itself while you’re busy with one family. You can leave a family to raise their babies and not have to worry about dealing with dirty diapers, bottles and teaching them to walk and talk. But this new aspect of the game is going to take a lot of getting used to. It will probably get progressively more difficult to keep track of certain families, the more households you create.

Complaints - I’m still adjusting to the story progression situation and though there is an option to turn it off, I’ve left it on because I know that like the other changes to this game from the previous version, it’s going to take some getting used to.

I don’t like that you can’t see the inside of any of the community buildings. If a Sim shops for groceries, you get a menu of options for what you want them to buy but you can’t actually go in and watch them shop. The same applies to the bookstore, the theater, the spa, their place of work, etc. I’d be ok with not having control over what they did once in the store but it would be a nice perk to be able to watch them if nothing more.

As I mentioned earlier, the relationship levels being limited to one bar with vague terms. There’s no way to really know how close the two Sims are. On the plus side, you do get to see what your Sim has learned about each Sim. The more time they spend talking to the Sim, the more traits they learn about them. Still, I feel a little blind in terms of my Sims’ friendships and romances.

Another thing missing are the memories. Sims 2 kept an automatic log of what happened to each Sim. All major events (meeting people, woohoo, fires, marriages, job promotion, skill learning, etc) were logged and accessible to players. Given the new story-progression feature it would be a huge help to be able to look back at what’s been going on with certain Sims while you’re not playing them or to revisit their memory if you haven’t played them in a while.

The speed. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve seen a lot of complaints about this. The third level of speed (and ultra-speed, which is supposed to jump through the current action) is broken. It’s a bug, I’m assuming. My computer handles the game fine. There’s no jerkiness to the way the game moves so I’m not under the impression that this is an issue on my end. When I click the third speed option to make the game speed up (mainly when the Sims are all at work or asleep), the game continues to move at the level-two speed. It’s insanely annoying having to sit and watch my Sims sleep for five minutes or more. Or watch the outside of a building while they’re at work or school. I’m hoping this is something EA is working on patching in the near future because there’s a lot of time lost in playing the game here. On the plus side, the sleep-wait has gotten me up out of the chair and walking around a bit (readjusting my eyes to normal light, interacting with my actual husband and remembering that there’s a story-progression in my life happening as I sit here and play this game for hours.) so that’s a perk, I guess.

Conclusion - The above review is based on just a few days of playing it (a few hours a day) and I know I've only begun to scratch the surface of what this game has to offer. There are career paths I have yet to explore and dozens of traits I'm eager to familiarize myself with. I was hooked on the first Sims game and again on the second one when that came out. From the looks of it, Sims 3 will be no exception to this trend. One of the things I love most about these games is that due to the number of personality, job, relationship options and overall general scenarios, the game constantly changes. Sims 3 appears to take Sims 2 and push it up a notch, adding new twists and turns to make the game almost new again, while also embracing all of the things that made the first two version so addicting in the first place.

Players:1 Player


Developer:Electronic Arts

Publisher:The Sims Studio

ESRB:T for Teen


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Kelly West
Assistant Managing Editor

Kelly joined CinemaBlend as a freelance TV news writer in 2006 and went on to serve as the site’s TV Editor before moving over to other roles on the site. At present, she’s an Assistant Managing Editor who spends much of her time brainstorming and editing feature content on the site.