As I suppose you know if you follow my LiveJournal, I purchased The Sims 3 this weekend, along with the Pets and Late Night expansion packs. As someone who logged a lot of hours playing the first two Sims games, I figured some thoughts on the pros and cons of the newest installment (which really isn’t all that new at this point) would be appropriate. First, the graphics aren’t really that much an improvement over the second game. They’re better, but not exceedingly so. I was impressed by the graphics for the first Sims game, and even more so with the second, but here it’s not all that amazing. I also haven’t noticed that much difference as far as items you can purchase, although admittedly I haven’t thoroughly explored the Buy Mode yet, and there’s probably more new stuff on other expansions.
One major point in the game’s favor is in assigning personality traits. In the first two games, you allocate a number of points to various characteristics. This results in some Sims being grumpier, neater, and such; but really doesn’t differentiate them too well as far as actual personalities go. I usually had some idea as to how the Sims I created should act, and they often went totally against the character I wanted them to have. Not that I can blame the game for this, but what I’m trying to say is that it was limiting. In Sims 3, you can assign specific personality traits, and the Sim will act according to them. Also, you can find out the traits of other Sims by talking to them, and use them to socialize accordingly. It makes that aspect of the game more both more fun and more strategic, rather than being based largely on luck.
An aspect that has both good and bad elements is that the entire neighborhood proceeds at the same rate of time. In the original Sims, the characters never aged, with the exception of a baby growing into a child. In Sims 2, they do age, but only when you’re actively playing the household in which they live. The way Sims 3 does it is better in that it means that the kids’ friends from elementary school aren’t going to remain kids when your active child Sims grow old, but at the same time it gives the player less control. Sims 2 let you preserve a household until you were ready to work with it, while a household in Sims 3 that you’re not controlling will continue to age while not making any progress toward the family members’ goals. I’ve heard they can sometimes even leave town entirely, although I have yet to see that happen. That brings me to another negative point, which is how much of a hassle it is to switch households. Unless I’m missing a shortcut, it can only be done in Edit Town mode, and once you switch it erases all of the wishes and promises for their previous household. Not a huge deal, but certainly less convenient than in previous games. I don’t know that you can say there’s any right way to play an open-ended game like this one, but it really does seem to be designed with the intention of the player controlling a single household until he or she is finished with it, then starting a new one from scratch. As one reviewer on Amazon put it, Sims 2 essentially made the player a god. Not omnipotent, but very much in control of the entire neighborhood. That’s no longer the case in Sims 3, which adds an element of challenge, but means less power to manipulate everyone. The neighborhood operating as a single unit also means that your active Sims can visit anywhere in town without having to take a break from the action, which makes things more complicated but also more fun. You can actually visit other Sims’ houses, and not have to invite them over all the time!
Personally, I’ve been playing with a single-character household, and have apparently covered enough Sim-days for her to age from a young adult to an adult. The player has some level of control as to how long each stage of life lasts, and I chose the maximum for every stage except babies and toddlers. As far as I know, though, there’s no way to reverse aging. In Sims 2, I made liberal use of the Elixir of Life, but I haven’t seen anything of the sort in the third game. Actually, I know one of the expansion packs says something about a fountain of youth, but I don’t have that expansion and hence don’t know how it works. Fortunately, things usually progress pretty quickly, so you can get a lot done in a limited number of Sim-days. My character’s lifetime wish, however, is to adopt a certain number of stray animals (maybe six?) and I haven’t even figured out how to adopt one. Is there any better way to do this than befriending the strays who arrive on your lawn, and how friendly do you have to be to have the option to adopt? That’s something I never quite figured out in Sims 2, either. I did play another three-person family that I created for a little while, but I think I’m going to set them aside until later. While there’s no way to stop Sims from aging while they’re in the neighborhood, I think it is possible to keep a household in storage until you’re ready to use it, but I’ll have to look into that. I tend to get really immersed in the game, and while it can sometimes be cathartic to make the Sims get into fistfights, get caught having affairs, or drown in the pool, for the most part I really want them to succeed. That’s why I’m reluctant to let any of them die until I’ve done everything I can with them, and even then it’s not easy.