My addiction to the Sims series gives me a lot of tolerance for endless expansions and stuff packs that add new dimensions and new furniture to gameplay.
However, I do have high standards. The Sims: Superstar was a revelation in college that nearly cost me my grade point average. Ever since, I've been consuming Sims expansions at a steady rate – always looking for that same sense of wonder and entertainment that makes me forget to eat.
Here's how World Adventures measures up.
What Is It?
The Sims 3: World Adventures is an expansion that gives your Sim the ability to visit three exotic locations on a travel visa: China, France and Egypt. Rather than just being a new place to shop and seduce the locals, each country features "tombs" – that is, dungeon-like locations your sim can explore, plunder and suffer odd and painful misfortunes within. The better you do at this, the higher your can raise your visa level – which lets you stay in the foreign locations longer, and also nets you the right to buy vacation homes.
What We Saw
I got to play through a dungeon in Egypt and was treated to a look at one of China's Zen gardens/karate dojos.
How Far Along Is It?
The expansion is out November 17.
What Needs Improvement?
Point-And-Click Adventure Much? I supposed when you break it down, the Sims games all play out like point and click adventures – except, it never feels that way normally because there's no "right" thing to click. World Adventures changes gameplay fundamentally by requiring gamers to jump through the typical point-and-click adventure hoops to disarm traps or find hidden doors. Some hardcore Sims fans may not like it.
But I Want To Move To France! I'm a little bummed you can't relocate to the exotic locations. You can, of course, bring pieces of it home with you. Artifacts you find in tombs can either be traded for special items or hung up in your boring old sim house. Also, there are special artifacts that you find in pieces and assemble over time back at your permanent pad. And, you could always marry a native and bring him or her home so you'll always have a bit of the country with you. Still not as good as actually moving to France, though.
Advocating Child Labor: Children (but not toddlers or infants) can go into tombs and do adventuring of their own. But, for obvious reasons (*cough* ESRB rating *cough*), they can't suffer the same dangers as the adults. This seems to me like the perfect set-up for some child exploitation. Yes, send the small child into the tomb for the expensive treasure – the mummy won't attack him.
What Should Stay The Same?
Now You Can Go Inside Stores: Finally! I hated sending my Sims off to shop and having to stare at the outsides of buildings for forever like I was playing a real-time strategy game and waiting for the battle to end. Naturally, the game also lets you build your own stores and fill it with whatever kind of junk you want to sell.
Now You Can Be a Real Hobo! The game introduces tents that you can pitch in tombs – or in public parks – and actually gain Energy from sleeping in. Oh, the possibilities.
Your Own Private
IslandDungeon: Via a code entered in buy mode, World Adventures opens up the editing tools to include pretty much everything the developer can build in a tomb or a ruin site. You can build an entire deathtrap from the ground up just the same as you would a house (only, you know, filled with mummies and fire traps and stuff) and then upload it to the Sims 3 community site to inflict on others.
Yay, Karate! The game adds several new skills and traits to mix up your sims' personality. My favorite is probably the Discipline skill which helps with karate (called Martial Arts). The higher you level this skill, the more badass your sparring animation looks – at the highest level, you even get little speed lines along your arms and legs while punching and kicking. There's also the Adventurous trait which helps with tomb exploration, and the Photographer's Eye which builds out the new picture-taking activity. Oh, and if you do marry a foreigner and bring him or her home to have kids with, your children will have cultural traits from their foreign parent's country (like eating with chopsticks).
Tons Of New Things: World Adventures adds a ton of new furniture, ingredients, collectables, recipes and other things to the usual inventory of stuff you can get in buy mode or find in the world. It gives the diehard Sims fans something more to do now that they've discovered the Ambrosia recipe. In particular, photography will eat up the collection freaks because the game can recognize what you're taking pictures of and classify the photos in sets. For example, there's a nature set that gives you a special bonus for taking a picture of a Death Fish and a Life Fish in the same tank.
A Step Toward Multiculturalism: I think some people might claim the portrayals of France, China and Egypt are shallow and therefore insulting. However, based on what I've seen of the Sims from its earliest origins, World Adventures is a huge step toward a multiculturalism-aware game. That sounded horribly Californian of me, I know. But I've got two little cousins who are half Chinese – they are going to love that their Sims get to eat with chopsticks.
I've got to get a new graphics card. How can I properly appreciate my sim turning into a mummy if I can't make out his face in the mirror when he looks at himself?