The Sims 4 ReviewPrice:
The Emperor Palpatine is grand lord of the Sith, leader of the galactic Empire, tutor and corruptor of Darth Vader, and all-round ultrabastard.
Kacy Palpatine is his ten year old granddaughter.
They’ve just moved into a small house together. The Emperor Palpatine, fallen from power, wishes to become a criminal mastermind and rebuild the Empire he lost at the hands of that rebel scum. Kacy just wants to be friends with everyone.
I’ll say this for the Sims 4, it lets you set up some incredible personality clashes. This latest reset of EA’s seemingly unstoppable series focuses in on the Sims themselves, giving them a range of different mood-states that relate to their personality traits and which affect how they react emotionally to different situations in their lives. It was during the create-a-sim stage of the game, when I came across a Grim Reaper-esque black robe and hood, that I thought of creating a close approximation of Palpatine (The Sims 4 doesn’t do yellow eyes and force-lightning very well, sadly).
Then I thought “Who would be the worst possible flatmate for a Sith Lord?” I suppose Jedi Knight is the obvious choice. But Jedi Knights are also the most boring people in fiction, and it's difficult to do the lightsabers. In any case, there was something about the idea of a sweet-as-pie preteen social butterfly that seemed like the perfect pin in Palpatine’s egomania. I doubt the Emperor’s attempted corruption of Skywalker would have been half as emotionally arresting if there had been a little girl skipping around his chair singing about kittens.
Unfortunately, the result wasn’t quite the powder keg that I’d hoped. There were sparks of brilliance, sure. Like when, after having his idea for a dastardly plan interrupted by Kacy talking about school, the frustrated Palpatine crossed the road and kicked over the neighbour’s bin in a perfectly petulant gesture of the all-powerful rendered powerless. Then there was the time Kacy accidentally walked in on Palpatine using the toilet (there's almost certainly a joke in this about using the force), which thinking about it is quite possibly a fate worse than death. “Cannot Unsee!” her moodlet read. I’m not surprised. That’s a horror Lovecraft would be proud of.
Generally though, it all fell a bit flat, and there are lots of different issues that feed into the reason why. We’ll discuss each of these in turn. But the overarching problem is that, although the Sims 4 is a very well made game, it isn’t a particularly interesting one.
Part of this depends on how you approach the game, whether you’re the creative type or a simulationist type. A big chunk of the Sims has always been the creating of Sims and the building of houses, and in the Sims 4 the creative aspects are realised better than ever. The sheer number of options you can tinker with when creating sims is staggering. You can choose from a range of body types, skin tones, hair colours eye colours, clothes, accessories, personality traits and a million other things. But you can also customise your Sim simply by grabbing different parts of them and dragging the mouse around, right down to individual parts of the face.