It was a little bit strange to see such a huge delay between the actual release of The Sims 3 and the release of the same title on other consoles; it just didn’t sit right with me at all. Then, when EA announced that The Sims 3 would be hitting both consoles and become a launch title for the Nintendo 3DS, I was a little bit intrigued as to how they would pull it off. The 3DS has the obvious control scheme, the greater graphical power and of course some nice online functionality too – it should be an awesome game, right? Well, unfortunately, The Sims 3 doesn’t really check any of the boxes that I talked about, but I’ll let you read on to find out just what’s wrong with it.
What surprised me most when I first jumped into my first little neighbourhood in The Sims 3 was just how, well, disappointing everything looked. It was nowhere near on par with previous versions of the title, which I know the 3DS is at least a little bit more capable of. The Sims themselves look okay in some contexts, but everything just feels a little bit unfinished. There’s hardly anyone walking around the neighbourhood and I wondered if I had done something wrong to push my neighbours away, but it just turns out there are less people to possibly compensate for the game’s graphical deficiencies. Everything looks strangely sharp and rough, while the 3D functionality makes the game actually look worse and exacerbates all these problems. My first impressions from The Sims 3 were that the game just looked drab, and the graphical presentation of the game really is, well, depressing. Sometimes textures wouldn’t even load in time. It’s really confusing as to how something can look so depressing and so bleak, and still get released following quality testing.
The basic concept of The Sims 3 is to create your own sim, buy a house, furnish it, and then do daily tasks throughout the year including getting a job, going to work, earning money and buying more things to play around with. Each Sim has a certain personality that players choose at the beginning of the game, as well as the option to create a Sim based on their own likeness using the 3DS camera, which honestly didn’t really work that great for us. Upon creating the Sim, players will have to work around the clock in order to meet certain needs, wishes and desires in order to keep their Sim from becoming depressed or in some more extreme cases, dying. Completion of these tasks nets certain rewards, some of which include Karma points which we’ll touch on later, while others just make your Sim a little bit more content with life.
While it’s a pretty good sounding system on paper, the tasks that players will be performing not only become repetitive, but eventually become so mundane that players will start to consider putting down their virtual life to do more menial tasks in their real one. When that begins happening, is when the gameplay really does become a problem. I cannot count how many times my Sim wanted to have a shower, did so, and then the shower broke just randomly. With a complete lack of support characters like the maid or gardener from the original games, everything is left up to the player and that makes it really horrible experience after so many problems happen. Some of these tasks involve socialising with other Sims, which in itself brings a whole slew of other problems.
The social system is another good example of a mechanic that works exceptionally well on paper, but not so much in the real game. Other Sims stop by the house regularly, and players must evaluate their own personalities and tailor their communication approaches to suit the outsider Sims, with the intention to marry one of them should the player desire. The biggest problem with this system, however, is the multiple hoops that players have to jump through in order to get into a relationship and finally become married. Sometimes after multiple conversations with a potential bride to be, our relationship status had either not changed at all or increased ever so slightly.
This really creates a little bit of a “grind” feeling to it, and it’s a shame because once players get married, things get a little bit more interesting. This is largely because players will most likely have a little bit more fun co-ordinating the lives of two Sims instead of one, although this may prove to be even more frustrating for some other players too. Players can also visit other locations, such as stores to alleviate their Sim’s stress, though by this point I was exploring ways to alleviate my own stress.
When completing enough goals and wishes, players will amass Karma Points, which can be used to cause events to happen in the Sim’s world to either create or destroy happiness. These are a little bit like the old natural disasters we all inflicted on our cities in the old Sim City games all those years, and each one of them utilises the 3DS’s functionality quite well. The most talked about one that we were also impressed by was being able to cause an earthquake by shaking the 3DS, which was quite fun to watch the Sim’s reactions to the events. These are quite fun to do, although some of the more negative ones seem counterproductive.
When players amass enough money to purchase items, they will be able to do so in both the BUY and BUILD mode. Buy provides goods and appliances, while Build allows for renovations and the addition of new rooms, repainting and other more intense household tasks. The Buy screen is quite well organised with a faux version of a room representing a category. For example, selecting kitchen brings up a kind of blueprint of what a kitchen would look like, and clicking on the stove will bring up all kinds of stoves available to purchase. I really liked this aspect of the game and how everything was all laid out for me, although placing your items in the game seemed to create immense slowdown with all the gridlines and objects being on screen at the same time. The game just doesn’t seem to be optimised properly for any “intense” parts at all.
The biggest problem that anyone could have with The Sims 3 is the fact that it’s just such a scaled down experience. Autosave is non-existent, which seems almost essential for a title like this one, there were many times where I turned the console off and forgot to save my game, losing hours of progress. There are no maids or external support agencies like in the original games, while at the same time there is no way to pro-create. With this in place, this also means that children are not present in the game at all and the whole Genetic component is not even touched upon. These things really gave the game a sense of accomplishment when you saw your child Sim with the same characteristics as both their parents. The game itself is almost entirely controlled with the stylus, while cameras are controlled with a combination of buttons controlling the camera. For the most part it works, but with so many items crammed into the little screen, it can all become rather overbearing and many icons can be forgotten or accidently hit.
The soundtrack is virtually non-existent, though it’s nice to see that the game is still fully voiced in the game’s trademark language, Simlish. The Simlish language still sounds amazing and it really conveys the emotions that the characters are feeling. There’s one thing I would give to this game, and it’s that the audio design really helps you read the characters, even though you have no idea what they’re saying exactly. Music is also played through radios in Simlish, which is a funny and amusing touch.
While it’s fairly obvious I was not that impressed with The Sims 3, there are still heaps to do in the game, with the game lasting almost as long as you want it to. There’s no real sign of an “end point” for your game, though that’s never been what The Sims has been about. Still, a distinct lack of locations to visit makes me wonder if this was just rushed out to capitalise on the launch of the 3DS. With a bit more polish and time, more content could’ve been added to make it so much more better. The game also utilises StreetPass, where a passer-by’s Sim will join your neighbourhood if you were to pass them while it’s active.
The Sims 3 is largely a huge disappointment for me, as I was hoping for something a little bit more polished and finished than what we received instead. It’s not so much that I’m complaining about there being nothing to do, I’m more so complaining about the fact that the game just feels so incredibly unbalanced – in particular that the game itself feels like a chore at times. And with a game that is meant to simulate a possibly better life than yours, that’s really saying something. It’s very hard to recommend this to anyone at all, as it’s definitely one of the most disappointing launch titles for the 3DS thus far. Still, if you’ve never played The Sims before, I suppose this would be a good place to start – but remember there are much better things available elsewhere.
While theres a lot of things on screen at some times, the game itself looks incredibly bland and blocky. The 3D effect is not utilised properly either, and the game actually looks worse in 3D too, which is strange because theres no real added benefit to the 3D, its hard to tell its there.
Props to the team for moving most of the components from the original game over to the 3DS console, but unfortunately most of it has been scaled back so much that it just feels incomplete and unbalanced. Extra points have been given for the depth of the social relationships, but ultimately these are way too laborious to maintain.
Its actually really enjoyable hearing songs in Simlish as well as the Sims themselves having very eccentric conversations. These add an extra layer of personality to all the characters.
Theres quite a bit to do here and no real end, but the mundane nature of some of the tasks really lets The Sims 3 down in aspects. The complete lack of places to visit, coupled with the general scaled back feeling really makes this package less than substantial. Still, the game does have a never ending quality to it.
Despite all my love for the franchise and my interest in how things would work out on the 3DS, I just couldnt bring myself to enjoy this game as much as I wanted to. Which is a shame, it couldve been so much better with a little bit more time in the oven.