There are a bundle of new features in The Sims 3
, but one of the biggest is the fact that it’s a completely open world that you can explore at your leisure. In the Sims 2
you might have been able to explore the neighbourhood, but trips to other locations were by taxi (and load screen) only. Even if you choose to just stay with the default starting neighbourhood then there’s still plenty to see and do and you can keep your sims occupied with everything from trips to the spa to grocery shopping.
Shopping is probably the thing you’ll spend most of your time doing and, just like in real life, your paycheque will probably slip through your fingers faster than you’d like. You’ll need to make regular trips to the supermarket in order to stay fed and healthy, as well as taking trips to the book shops and so forth where you can buy new recipes, skills and upgrades for your sims.
All that shopping takes a lot of time and money though, which is why it’s always best to group sims together in families rather than having a sim live alone. The stress can quickly mount up and, as we quickly found out with a different family, creating a single parent with three infant children is a recipe for financial and emotional disaster – those babysitter and maid bills pile up faster than you’d believe.
An anatomy of an argument
At the same time as managing the stress of your sims, you’ll also have to monitor their general health in The Sims 3
and, just like in real life, the little things can make a big difference. Driving to a nearby restaurant may be quicker and offer a better stress-reduction than cycling home and making a salad, but now that sims can actually get fatter you’ll want to have them out and about whenever you can.
Balancing out the fact that your sims are now likely to be more stressed than ever is the ability to customise their behaviour at work, which is usually the most stressful place for them (especially if you, like Clara, accept a job as an organ donor). Maxis has included a drop-down menu to manage sim behaviour in the workplace, and though it’s an efficient solution it’s a little disappointing that you can’t exert more direct control over them at work or even see them in the office.
Scrolling through the various options you can choose options to further whatever goal you have in mind. You can slack-off to reduce stress, hang out at the watercooler to meet new friends or suck up to your boss if you want to go for that promotion. The choices are all pretty pedestrian and it’s a shame to see that, while you can easily make prank-calls and cause trouble at your own house, you can’t even engage in a bit of misbehaviour at work.
In The Sims 3 you can go anywhere in the city
It’s important to point out a few substantial disconnects we found in the logic of The Sims 3
, just to illustrate that, even though this is the largest and most comprehensive life simulator we’ve seen, it still has fundamental flaws. The first one we found came when we decided that Gerald was too much of a burden on Clara to live with and we did the old trick of putting him in a swimming pool with no ladders. He got in OK, exercised for a bit and then managed to get out by just climbing over the side like a normal person. We were dismayed, but figured he’d earned a reprieve and let him live. However, he later drowned in the exact same situation. Still, it was funny watching the Grim Reaper come for an old man, crying in his swimming trunks.
Before his eventual departure, Gerald proved himself a tough nut to kill. Even when we sealed him in a house with no doors and filled it with rotting food he’d generally find a way out every day, and we’d have to reseal him back in.
That said, there are plenty of other areas where The Sims 3
is incredibly consistent with players, which we found out when we went through our phase of prank-calls and got Gerald in trouble with the police. For each and every prank-call we inflicted, we were fined pretty heftily, but we persisted in punishing our peons regardless. We soon ran out of money and were fully prepared to tut at the game for being unable to fine us when the police decided to confiscate our shower instead.
Luckily, we didn’t care overmuch. The other reason we ran out of money so fast is that we spent it all buying a wall of expensive bathtubs.