The Sims 3 a deep social experiment in your hand

Posted: June 1, 2009 in Sim

If you can build solid social relationships in real life, then surely you can do the same in a video game right? That’s the premise behind The Sims 3 where the focus is less on building a home (unlike its predecessors), and more about creating relationships with others. Think virtual dollhouse except in a more adult way, and before you jump into The Sims 3, be clear on your expectations for the game.

One of neat things is the 3D environments where your sim can roam around freely. Visually, the graphics and animation are impressive and run very smoothly on my iPod Touch 2g with no dropped frames or visual hiccups. The soundtrack is perky if not a bit annoying after a while, but that’s just me. Also, there are 3 save slots so you can create multiple characters and control their destinies.

The first thing to do is create your sim in terms of sex, clothing, and persona through a step-by-step process. You can choose five personality traits, and keep in mind that these will affect your sim’s goals and wishes. I am a bit disappointed in the lack of customization allowed here, but it’s more than sufficient for what you’ll be doing. However, the process itself is very straightforward and compactly presented so it doesn’t become too complicated. A lot of times, sim-type games can be overwhelming just because of the number of choices, so I can understand the compromise to make the game more accessible to a broader audience.

Controlwise, you can move and adjust the view side to side, up and down by dragging a finger as well as zoom or change the camera placement using two fingers. The controls are easy to use, although some may need some time to adjust. A slider also appears down the right-hand side for zooming.

There are a few basic things that need to be done in this game: get a job, practice good hygiene, get plenty of sleep, go the bathroom, eat for pleasure and nutritional value, and learn to have a good time. Well, actually, these are things that each of us should be doing in real life, but they just happen to apply to your sim as well. The money that you earn from your job which appears at the bottom of the screen is really the foundation for everything else. If any of these basic things aren’t done, your sim will not be in a very good mood, let alone too healthy. But, The Sims 3 is also more than that. It’s about prioritizing and time management as well as the long-term needs that require you to guide your sim to improve his skills in order to gain work his way up the corporate ladder, learn new skills, grow and maintain a garden, and most importantly, build and maintain friendships. One of the neat things about The Sims 3 is the autonomy, and by turning on the Autonomy mode under Option, your sim has a little more free will so you don’t need to worry as much.

Unlike previous Sims games, this does not include building your house. While upgrading the house is doable, you won’t have the ability to change/remodel the layout or physically alter the structure. What The Sims 3 does provide is a Build mode allowing you to buy and move furniture. I’ve never been a fan of building a virtual home so this isn’t a big loss for me. If your expectation is to have the capability to build a virtual home, then The Sims 3 will not satisfy those urges.

In terms of how the game works, the key is pay attention to your status, accessible through the Menu icon in the lower right corner. The Menu icon provides access to active goals, status (hunger, energy, bladder, mood, etc.), persona, and inventory of collected items. A series of icons are located at the bottom of the screen that also covers these basics and they are either green or red in color. Green means those needs are being satisfied, while red means there are issues. During the game, mini-puzzles in the form of goals appear that you can either accept or decline, and you can have up to five of these puzzles in the queue. These goals include activities such as buying a watering pot, or catching fish. They’re not difficult challenges, but they will require an intermediate step such as buying certain items for example before they can be accomplished.

If you ever not sure of how to go about completing a goal, a set of tutorials is available through the Menu icon and under the Help section. These tutorials cover Cooking, Fishing, Repairing and Gardening. The Sims 3 also has also 73 goals and wishes that are unlocked based on interactions with others, earning life skills, and building up certain attributes within your sim.

As I mentioned, The Sims 3 is all about relationships which the game does a terrific job of facilitating. As your sim walks around, plenty of opportunities exist for interacting with others. When meeting someone, you tap and a series of choices appear where you can select the type of greeting, conversation, joke or even insult to use among others. For some of the flirting and one-liner scenes, I almost wished they included some voiceovers. I’d like to hear how studly these EA developers think they are. Anyway, it’s a rather intuitive setup that has no learning curve and gets you immersed pretty quickly. At any given time, you can access the Town Map through the Menu icon, and tap where you want your sim to travel to.

What do I think of The Sims 3? With impressive graphics and animation in some nicely rendered environments, the gameplay is extensive and offers a good level of depth. I will admit that I prefer the cartoony style of Gameloft’s New York Nights, but The Sims 3 offers considerably more in terms of content and replayability. Even after playing this for a few hours, I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. I think if you’re looking for a game with a strong social relationship component, The Sims 3 offers an entertaining experience.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (recommended for people who want to live vicariously through pixels and their iPhone/iPod Touch devices; definitely provides an immersive environment with replayability)

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