Whether you love or loathe the Sims series, there’s absolutely no doubt it’s had EA laughing all the way to the bank.
The two PC titles have sold in their millions and still make the top ten even now. When you take into account the masses of add ons and the console based spin-offs, EA must be well on their way to affording their own city for real.
It’s not all rosy though. EA has faced a fair amount of criticism about the number and frequency of add ons, to the extent that The Sims is in danger of becoming the gaming version of partwork magazines. Get a bowtie free with part two. And so on.
Let’s hope The Sims Life Stories isn’t more of the same. EA says it’s trying to attract a new audience by cutting the gameplay down to the bare essentials. Sims games can take up a lot of time too, so there’s been some tinkering under the bonnet to address this. So, does it work?
Unlike the previous Sims titles when your single goal was to attain as perfect a life as possible, this first standalone title in 2 years offers up more short-term goals.
The story begins with Riley, a woman back in her home town after years away. She only intended to catch up with her aunt, but quickly becomes embroiled in a vicious love triangle. The plot’s straight out of Jeremy Kyle although there’s no audience to mutter “you slaaaaag” under their collective breath.
To keep the action trundling along you need to start achieving goals. There’s all sorts on offer from taking yourself out for a slap-up lunch to shopping till you drop in one of the many in-game malls.
Riley’s story doesn’t grab you? OK, well how about Vince? He’s a well paid technical wizard who’s been unlucky in love. The only problem here – aside from the romance worries – is that you have to get halfway through Riley’s tale to start on Vince. It’s odd and annoying quirk that cuts the game’s appeal somewhat.
If neither Vince or Riley tickle your fancy then you can create the odd story of your own. We’ve cooked up a Scarlett Johanssen look alike, but she’s not falling for us dammit. Hell, at least we tried.
Hardened Sims fans may be a little worried reading all this. After all, it’s pretty different from past titles. The one reassuring sign though is the nuts and bolts of gameplay. The controls are very similar to its predecessors with the mouse doing the bulk of the work and keyboard shortcuts doing the rest.
The graphics haven’t changed much either. One addition is the "laptop friendly" version of the game – EA’s pushing this feature hard – which cuts down on the visuals so you can play without some commuter gawping over your shoulder too much.
Life Stories’ structured gameplay style doesn’t always work to its advantage. The Sims has always been about freedom – go where you want, say what you want, do who you want – and that’s been stripped away here. There’s a small amount of leeway with some of the goals, but it’s nothing like the choices you get with old school Sims or cracking RPGs like Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
It’s plainly obvious who EA’s going for with this title – the potential Sims fan lacking time to plough into a full game – and they’ll no doubt buy into this. If you’re a die hard Sims fan though, think twice before picking this up. It goes without saying that Sims haters need not apply.