It’s incredibly difficult to make a great game even better. What’s even more difficult, developers mustn’t screw up an already great game by changing what made the original so loved. These factors filled me with apprehension as I played The Sims 3. I was curious but worried that the formulaic approach of the older versions would return without the charm. There are only so many times you can be amused at the jumbled sounds they use for speech. I was worried that they tweaked the formula to the point of being unrecognizable, but I really should have known better.
In Sims 3, everything is just as you left it from Sims 2. The controls and graphics are incredibly similar to its predecessors and legions of expansions. So, what makes Sims 3 a new, fantastic experience? In short: the ability to customize just about anything you’d like.
If you want to create a new style for that couch you just purchased, do it! An accessible palette allows you to mix and match fabrics, styles, and colors to a new level of customization. Not only can the player create completely new styles, items can be placed at a 45 degree angles for the first time which allows for more complex decoration. No longer shall Sims be forced to sit at 90 degree angles. Feng shui never felt so good.
Options aren’t limited to items either. The Sims themselves are now far more customizable. The number of accessory options from the vanilla install made my head hurt. Part of the ache derived from my lack of fashion sense, but I digress.
In addition to Sim creation tweaks, you can now assign up to five traits and a lifetime wish to Sims. Traits are split between mental, physical, social, and lifestyle, and combine to form a true persona and individual attitude. For example, a combination of "good" and "kleptomaniac" traits will clash in an interesting and wonderfully fulfilling way during the game. I chose "genius," "bookworm," and "artistic" for my Sim. I may have been thinking of a certain freelance journalist at the time (not Features Director Sinan Kubba). My Sim likes to complain about the quality of books at the local library to the annoyance or indifference of everyone else.
Lifetime wishes also change the Sims game play. Once you’ve chosen a lifetime wish, your Sim is stuck with it, so choose well. The available wishes are based on the Sim’s traits, leading to a well-rounded Sim with an goal that matches his/her persona. They range from becoming an astronaut to leader of the free world. A number of the wishes are simply the highest level in a career path, but others (like "heartbreaker") are more specialized and amusing.
The only major change in game play is the sandbox-style neighborhood. Your Sim is no longer confined to a block in the city. Want to go to the gym at 3 AM? Feel free to lazily stroll over there, stealing a potted plant from the neighbors along the way. In the older versions of The Sims, expansions revolved around visiting places not accessible from your little corner of the simulated world. Sims 3 expands this idea, making your corner bigger to begin with. Your Sim can now roam freely across an entire town, allowing him to read at the library or knock on the door of his rich fellows up in the hills. This also leads to an increase in interaction with other Sims who have traits and lifetime wishes of their own. I can’t explain how fun it is to set the game on a faster setting, and just let it run and run.