Brew the ale and shine the stocks, The Sims are heading back in time in an all new side game, The Sims Medieval! Do these drafty castles hold adventure, or just the bubonic plague for these virtual sea monkeys?
- Mission based play and less prominence of family-based play may be appealing to a wider range of player.
- Lots of different quests keeps gameplay from getting too repetitive too quickly.
- Ability to kill sims directly.
- Mission based play and lack of options may alienate die-hard fans.
- Automatic fighting, trading and hunting takes away much needed gameplay variety.
- The Sims is the chick flick of gaming, even with the extra murder.
The Sims Medieval Review:
As Sims players eagerly await the release of a new expansion pack for the still infant Sims 3, EA is filling in the gap with an all new Sims adventure: The Sims Medieval, which is a departure from the main game with some interesting twists.
A Sim By Any Other Name
Far from the cookie cutter homes and maintained lawns of quiet suburbia, The Sims Medieval sends players back in time to a world of kingdoms, adventure and dysentery to build a land and guide their virtual peoples towards culture, security, and knowledge.
Players take on the role of The Watcher, a benevolent - or not - entity once content to hover high above the world and enjoy the festivities of the hedonistic dwellers of the world below, until finally coming to realize that people are inherently dumb and shouldn't be trusted to make their own decisions. No longer confident in the kingdom's ability to take care of itself, The Watcher awaited the arrival of "heroes" to guide gently toward the ends of triumphant prosper, or devastating ruin.
My Kingdom For A Sim
When starting out, players are asked to place their castle and create their monarch from two random options or from scratch, as the foundation of any great kingdom is its illustrious leader. Like previous installments, you're given the options to set the Sim's hair style, name, a few personal traits, skin tone, and muck around with facial and body sliders until the character is sufficient.
Clothing options are based on the Sim's occupation, with a few floater outfits for flavor. From there, it's time to start questing, and it's here that Sims Medieval starts to feel a bit more like a RTS than a simulation game. You start the game with Quest Points, and a random handful of quests you can choose to attempt. Each quest costs a certain number of quest points and once you run out, your game is over. Quests involve balancing social interaction, occupational duties, daily responsibilities to the kingdom, and quest related tasks in order to keep your Sims happy, productive, and most importantly; focused enough to work. The better you do at balancing these elements, the higher your quest trophy.
To break up the monotony of obligation, the game offers a few side elements for fun and profit. Merchants can enjoy the benefits of trading local items to allied kingdoms for rare and exotic goods, while monarchs, knights and spies can engage in a duel or take to the forest trails to hunt local game which can then be taken home and cooked into a tasty meal.
Taking a page from the books of XBox and PS3, The Sims Medieval contains its very own Achievement sets, which are necessary to increase your Watcher Level and open up new kingdom goals to further your gameplay.
For the misanthropes, The Sims Medieval offers what no Sims game has before: The ability to straight up, no cheating, no downloading kill the sims you don't like. With a flick of their wrists, monarch Sims can send innocent villagers to their deaths in the executioner's pit and bloodthirsty spies can stalk the less fortunate, leaving deadly poisons in their morning gruel. The satisfaction may leave on questioning their sanity, but it's undeniable how much fun it is to take the low road.
What Hath The Watcher Wrought
The Sims Medieval isn't all fun and games, of course. With less emphasis on family and controlling the mundane day to day lives of the characters (If one can call them that), the game feels far more shallow than its suburban counterparts, and it's much harder to feel any kind of connection to the Sims you create. Sims are connected to the building you place, and placed buildings get one Sim at a time until that sim dies. Personal relationships don't do much to the overall gameplay experience beyond small adjustments to a Sim's focus, and most players will be left wondering what the point of it all is. Players aren't given control over a Sim's spouse or children, making them just more NPCs scattered around the landscape.
Item selection is limited, although there's always the possibility that this will change as custom content becomes available across the net. For now, being left with the limiting selection of clothing, hair, fabrics, and items can make the game feel very claustrophobic next to its brethren. More items and clothing can be unlocked after each mission set, but it's based on the player's Watcher Level, which can make one feel as though they're unlocking the same rewards over and over.
The hunting, dueling, trading and whaling are also leave a lot to be desired. EA truly missed several opportunities here for some interesting minigames, but instead, all these actions are completely automatic. Even going after a Great Bear sees your monarch disappearing into the thick forest with no indication that he's even doing anything beyond a slow increase in EXP. Dueling is even more boring as your sims change into their armor and you're left to watch them hack away at their opponent as their stamina bars decrease. At higher levels, you can select your Sim's stance and suggest a move or two but neither action really makes much difference.
The kingdom layout is also set in its ways. When you start a new kingdom, you place buildings, but you can only place them in predetermined locations. The same predetermined locations every time. Though the building locations don't actually matter outside of the ability to make a new Sim, the lack of overall customization in all areas is a glaring defect of the game as a whole, especially for players who are used to the truly open gameplay of Sims 3.
To Sim, or not to Sim
Repetition and limitations aside, The Sims Medieval IS a fun game, especially for people who are turned off by the endless expanse offered by the main titles. It's all wrapped up in a tight little package without a whole lot of bells and whistles to distract from the main goal of raising your kingdom to glory.
Unfortunately, there isn't much here for the die-hard fan of the original franchise, and they will quickly bore of the utilitarian tedium their little shoebox.