Having never played the first Sims or The Sims 2, I can’t really say how the Sims 3 differs. What I can say is that this game is ridiculously addicting. At its core, the Sims is simply a life simulator, a virtual game of ‘House’. What makes this game so great is that after creating it the developers give the player the tools to edit and recreate all parts of the game.
Once starting up the game, even before making a family of Sims for a world, players can enter into ‘Town Edit’ mode. This allows the player to build houses without budgets, evict tenants and move in custom ones, destroy lots and make new ones. Players can even make new ‘Community Lots,’ which are basically places like parks, venues, and stores that Sims can interact with in-game. There are also expansion furniture and clothing packs that add designs to the game. When the player finally decides to make a family of Sims in ‘Create a Sim’, they find that they have total control over the appearance, traits, and likes of the characters they make. Depending on age, a Sim has up to five traits that determine what the Sim is inclined to do in the game. An ‘Artistic’ Sim, for example, will want to learn the painting skill and learn how to play a musical instrument. Skills are what allow Sims to become successful in work and socializing. A ‘Brave’ Sim will fight any burglars that try to break into their houses and put out fires if they appear. In ‘Create a Sim,’ the player will also find a ‘Genetics’ tool that allows them to make a young Sim based on the appearances and traits of the created parents, but still be able to edit inherited attributes they don’t like.
In-game, how the game progresses is entirely up to the player. A player who does not want their Sim to bother getting jobs can simply input one of the many cheats for the game that gives them tons of money. Instead of working, the Sims can go out on the town and party (or raise Hell if you gave one of them the ‘Pyromaniac’ or ‘Evil’ traits). Players who don’t want to cheat can buy a house they can afford with their starting cash, get jobs and improve their skills to rise to the top of their chosen professions, possibly getting married and/or having children along the way. Young Sims must to go to school, or when they finally grow up the player will find that due to ‘bad parenting’ they will not be able to choose any new traits for the Sim. Instead the game will pick for them, and they may not be favorable.
In addition to traits and skills, there are also Lifetime Rewards that each Sim earns over the course of their lives from simply playing the game as well as completing ‘Challenges.’ Depending on the Sim, challenges can be things like fixing a broken sink, getting married, or going to a bar. Each Sim can have 4 challenges locked in at once, which allows them to take time to complete them if necessary. Challenges that appear but are not locked in eventually disappear, and the Sim loses the chance to complete them until they pop up again. Challenges like ‘Get Married’ appear rarely and have high reward point payouts, so it’s important to lock them in. Lifetime Rewards are important because they basically allow you to buy ‘buffs’ for a Sim, such as making them more Perceptive and able to learn the traits of other Sims more quickly or my personal favorite, ‘Steel Bladder.’ Each Sim has 6 ‘Needs’ bars that need to be kept filled. This basically means making sure they are clean, sleeping, eating right, socializing and going to the bathroom when they need to. If the needs aren’t filled, a player might find their Sim peeing their pants, passing out on the floor or worse, drowning in the swimming pool from exhaustion (this actually happened to my Sim once) depending on which needs aren’t being filled in time. Going to the bathroom is a particularly annoying ‘Need’ to fulfill as it depletes quickly (but hey, we’re simulating life here. When you gotta go, you gotta go). ‘Steel Bladder’ makes it so your Sim never has to ‘go’ again.
Sometimes it can be frustrating when developers release so much content separately from the game, such as with all the content expansion packs for The Sims 3. But they offer so many bundles now and different discounts through Steam, Origin, and other retailers that they are fairly affordable and well worth the money. The base game on its own also provides plenty of entertainment. The only real negatives I’ve found are in freeze glitches when fast forwarding time or when a Sim gets stuck inside an object or floor. If I haven’t saved in awhile and it happens it can be very frustrating as the only fix for either problem is to exit and reboot. Moving the family to a new home also works but your family has to have enough money to do so. The game isn’t flawless but the negatives aren’t enough to stop me from constantly coming back to this game.