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The Rise and (More Importantly) the Fall of The Sims

When The Sims came out in 2000, it took the gaming world by storm. The game's popularity was significant enough to warrant multiple expansion packs to give players more content to enjoy (this would be a trend for the franchise going forward). Similarly, The Sims 2—originally released in 2004—was a massive success. This follow-up improved upon the original game enormously, allowing Sims to have unique personalities and dreams, and were able to form memories over the course of their lives. Multiple fans of The Sims franchise seem to believe this game to be the best one. Nevertheless, The Sims 3 (2009) was also beloved by players. One of the most notable aspects of the game was its open world setup, lessening the number of loading screens players had to sit through. A new optional feature was added as well, which allowed households in the town your Sim lived in to live their own lives, including experiencing major milestones, and could eventually die.

Considering this pattern of the games continuing to improve upon the previous game, one would think that The Sims 4 would leave a similar impression on fans when it was released in 2014. While there were some amazing features in the original base game, such as the updated Create-a-Sim (often referred to as CAS for short), which now allowed players to make much more diverse body types by simply clicking and dragging on a certain part of the body, the number of issues with the game was staggering.


Create-a-Sim Trailer Made to Promote The Sims 4

The open-world design of The Sims 3 which was so loved by fans was replaced with a drab grey map of the town you were in (although this was eventually replaced by a more colorful map after a lot of complaints from fans). Along with this change came an obscene amount of loading screens to sit through, even just to walk over to your next-door neighbor's house.

Original Map Design

Toddlers, a life stage many players loved since their introduction in The Sims 2, were nowhere to be found (until, once again, they were added after players continuously complained about their absence). Similarly, babies became objects that Sims could barely interact with besides actions like feeding them or changing their diapers. Even now, 10 years after the games initial release, babies are still just in-game objects, although an infant life stage was added recently, achieving some fans’ wishes of ways they could interact with their newborn Sims.

Revisiting CAS, which was regarded as one of the best aspects of The Sims 4, also had many faults. The number of traits a Sim that is a young adult or older decreased to three, which pales in comparison to the five traits a Sim could have in The Sims 3. To make this trait debacle even worse, the number of options of traits dwindled significantly when compared to The Sims 3. However, the team behind The Sims 4, deemed it necessary to include different walking styles a Sim could have, which is a feature that is obsolete in the minds of most players.

The biggest issue with the original version of CAS was its pathetic range of skin tones. The original release of The Sims 4 included a total of 18 skin tones (two of which were blue and green). This was eventually updated many years after the game's original release with a wide range of swatches and a slider to adjust default skin tones, although there were issues with glitching with darker skin tones.

Even with all the updates I mentioned, many fans find the base game almost unplayable.

Another interesting issue in The Sims 4 is the strange choice to abandon the lore previously established withing the franchise. Many of the characters in The Sims franchise, referred to as Townies, had well-thought-out stories, and would appear or be referenced in other games. If you're interested in the deep lore of the games, the Youtuber Plumbella has made many videos explaining the stories of various characters in The Sims franchise.

The Sims 4 introduced a variety of new characters, but none of them had much depth. Characters from previous games that reappear don’t match their previous iterations, with all their stories abandoned. This has been explained away as the game being set in an alternate universe, but even so, this has been a major disappointment to many dedicated players.

In 2022, the base game version became free to play. While this is great as it allows new people to play the game, it is unfortunate that the game is so lacking compared to the previous iterations. I have to admit, I feel slightly bitter that I begged my mom to buy the game at its original price of $60 when it was mediocre at best.

With how much I’m complaining, you would think I abandoned The Sims 4 long ago, but that’s not true at all. At the time of writing this, I have played for a total of 2,852 hours (about 4 months) and 47 minutes. I have bought almost every single DLC for the game. As a fan of the franchise, there’s nothing I want more than to enjoy The Sims 4. I do think that some of the DLC that exists for the game introduced fun content, and the updates over the years have as well. Nevertheless, the game always seems to pale in comparison to its predecessors.

Recently, The Sims 5 was announced as being in production. Many fans, including myself, are desperate for it to redeem the franchise. However, in an era of the gaming industry when it seems companies care more about making a profit than creating something fun and engaging, my hopes aren’t particularly high. Of course, I’ll still buy the game when it comes out. I’ve been playing these games since I was a kid, and it’s difficult to let that nostalgia go. Even now, I can’t help but want to play The Sims 4.

Maybe if I play for a few more hours, I’ll like it a little more.