I’m not a gamer by any definition of the term. I play some third-person action games at times, but really outside of Star Wars-related games, I lose interest incredibly fast. Last week, I’d started the demo of Mass Effect 2 and I adored it because I got to create Dorienne Sheppard and play “myself” in the game. I then bought the full game, Assassin’s Creed 2 and Bully. I sat down to play AC2, but within the first few minutes of the game, it was evident that I really should have played the first one and told myself that I would go buy the first one and proceed from there, but I still haven’t. The games are still sitting there waiting to be played because I just can’t bring myself to sit and play them when I could be playing Rock Band or, better, writing.
That said, I have this hoarders need to acquire and at least look at different games, so this Friday, after much research and pining and hand-wringing I finally got The Sims 3.
The Sims is the only game to really hold my attention for longer than a month or so and The Sims 2 is a game I’ve been playing since December 2004. I have been playing some of my sim families and characters longer than I’ve known some of my friends, which is an amazing thought. The Sims 3 came out two years ago and while I was interested in seeing what it was about, the thought of abandoning characters and stories I’d tweaked and developed over this last decade made the game utterly unappealing in every way. Nonetheless, when a lot of the Sims 2 community moved over to the other game, the custom content became more sporadic and I yearned to learn more about the “other” game.
Finally, I got The Sims 3 and tried to play it for a bit and, as I knew I would be, I was not impressed. First of all, the gameplay by itself is flawed. Instead of being able to play one family and then play another family in the neighborhood allowing, for example, Sim A to grow up and then fall in love with Sim B over some time, the game plays the Sim B household automatically for you. I like to control both the Sim A and B homes to ensure that said sims will be made for each other in every way, but in TS3, you control only Sim A’s household. Sim B goes about their business, unaware of your master plan for the neighborhood and by the time Sim A is ready to move out the house and get married, etc. Sim B could be already married or have 2 or 3 kids by different people. There is a fix for this through a hack called AwesomeMod which allows the overall aging and gameplay to be like TS2, but the fact that a mod is necessary to play the game the way I’d like to play it, makes the game fundamentally flawed.
I love game hacks; for The Sims 2, I have a hundred of them and most of them are to aid in making the overall story-playing aspect of the game wider and move smoother. For example, using the Inteenimator, I have some of the Maury-show type houses where there are fifteen kids of all different ages who have a hard time deciphering who is mother, grandmother or sister since the eldest females in the house have a baby every few days. It makes for some fascinating storytelling. The hack also makes the game allow Sims to have families while they are at the separate University lots and makes the entire expansion suddenly not a 30 dollar mistake. All in all, hacks make a great game greater. Hacks should not, however, be a necessity to the game; the game should be perfectly functional and playable without any hacks at all.
With this in mind, I look at TS3 and frown. In order to just play a game that allows me the control the previous two games have allowed, I need an very large hack for the game. Nevertheless, I was determined to play a little of the game to see what the entire experience was like, but still I did not like or see anything superior to what I had in TS2.
Aside from looking like over-polished, over-photoshopped dolls, the lighting in the game is awkward and unnecessarily dark. The sims have a pause at every interaction that was very similar to TS1 where the would walk somewhere, stop, turn, stop and then walk to another point before stopping to do what they were supposed to do which is very annoying to watch. The game is also unnecessarily complicated and an hour into playing the game, I sorely missed the simplicity of TS2. The moodlets and aspiration boxes are complicated to keep track of and I wasn’t entirely sure I understood how each of the different options worked. It was also painfully difficult to remember where to look for something as basic as the sims’ needs.
In TS1, it was all about keeping the sims alive and happy. In TS2, the game was about helping them achieve some of their aspirations (or not) and keeping them alive and happy. In TS3, I can’t quite figure out if the game includes aspirations or not and if so, how that ties into keeping them happy. I’m very disappointed by the game, even though I recreated my TS2 patriarch as a toddler and attempted to raise him and his parents just to give myself a special attachment to the game. I just can’t see myself trying to spend the countless hours it would take to try and recreate all my TS2 sims and stories in a new game that is so convoluted that it lacks the depth and the creativity of its predecessor. The only positive thing I can say about the game is that your sim can visit his neighbors and explore the neighborhood without having to load anything…which is not nearly enticing enough to continue playing.
I think my last straw with the game came from when I was watching my sims sleep. In TS2, a married couple or at least a couple in love, will shift in their sleep for about a minute in the game before they spooned quite cutely together. You could also angle the camera just so and even see this under their cover. In TS3, they sleep as if they’re sleeping in entirely different beds that are just next to each other, they shift and shift and shift for hours before they spoon and just when I was already annoyed instead of the effect being that the sims were under a cover, the game just put them in some sort of mesh pod that showed nothing but a blank curve as the blanket effect.
I know it’s small, but this tells me that there’s really no point in moving forward this game. This small effect cheapens the game for me and tells me, after playing just one “day” in the game, that there are bound to be dozens of other lame shortcuts made so that the sims have that the ever-useful advantage of being able to leave their homes at will.
After this adventure, I queued up my TS1 game for old time’s sake, took pictures of my old West Family house, remade a beloved family from the game into TS2, remade their house and have had a blast playing this family for the past few days.
I still yearn for more sims things and may even try an expansion pack for TS3 just to see if it helps the game at all, but I’ll gladly continue playing my antiquated game for long haul.