After weeks of fan speculation about a possible expansion for The Sims 4, players got an answer from its creator today. Yes, the game is getting its first batch of paid DLC soon. But it's not a full "expansion" like the ones previous Sims games received. Rather, it's a "Game Pack," and it sounds sort of fishy.
I'm not completely clear on what a "Game Pack" is, but more on that in a moment. First, the top line details for all you Simmers out there: the DLC is called Outdoor Retreat, it costs $19.99, and it will be released as a digital download in January—i.e., next month. EA didn't give a full breakdown of everything being added in the pack, but its announcement mentions a few new things that sound neat:
So, what can you expect from the first Game Pack in early 2015? Well, you're going to take your Sims to Granite Falls to visit and explore an all-new destination. The woods are packed with gameplay possibilities. Campfire songs, weenie roasts and bear costumes, oh my!
Ok, so a new area on The Sims 4's map, some new activities, and bear costumes. This sounded more like additional content than genuinely new gameplay "features" for The Sims 4, so I asked EA for some more detail about what Outdoor Retreat is adding. Some of it does sound pretty promising. Here's a relevant passage from my email exchange, emphasis added:
Kotaku: You mention that that the game pack will add "new gameplay features" into the mix, but it sounds like most of the additions specified are specific assets/bits of content—outdoor cooking and costumes. Are you adding new activities that Sims can participate in as well?
EA: Yes, we have some really great new things for Sims to do. Sims can partake in new group activities like the campfire and horseshoes, try their hand at mastering potions with the new herbalism skill, wander through the wilderness, collect all new plants, insects and use them to create herbal remedies and new cooking recipes.
Kotaku: What sort of destination/area is granite falls, exactly? is it a new public lot? will sims be able to set up houses there, or anything like that? can you build buildings there, regardless of what sims (if any) live there, or is it more wilderness focused? will you be able to mess around with any of the geographic features in build mode at all?
EA: Granite Falls is a brand new destination in The Sims 4. When you arrive you'll be in a Campground neighborhood where your Sims can set-up camp among the trees or rent a fully furnished cabin. Your Sims will only have what they bring with them – any additional supplies they'll need they'll have to purchase at the Ranger Station – but players may edit the Campground lots through Manage Worlds and build whatever they like on them.
The second neighborhood in Granite Falls is Granite Falls National Park, which is a lush forest full of plants, insects, and scenic vistas to discover and explore. There are rumors of a mysterious hermit who lives high up in the mountains, but no one knows quite where…
Ok, so the extra activities sound like fun. I bet those "herbal remedies" will add some opportunities to mess with your Sims. Who knows, maybe you'll even be able to poison them. Accidentally, of course. Also, two new areas sounds like an exciting addition—though I'm not sure how they'll fit into the existing neighborhood and lot structure, exactly. Regardless, Granite Falls and the national park sound like a nice way to add an extra dash of variety to the two main worlds that are currently in The Sims 4. While both look great and have plenty of fun things to do within, I and many other Sims fans have definitely started to feel a tad...bored with the game's current offerings.
All of this sounds good, then. So what's the problem? Well, the one part that weirds me out about The Sims 4's "Game Pack" announcement is how and why the game's developer is shifting away from creating proper "expansions," which have been a fan-favorite staple of the series for a long time now. This change is particularly surprising to me as a Sims fan because the new game has been mired in a wealth of controversies since before it even came out. As I reported back in October, most of these issues stem from the fact that players and longtime Sims fans feel that The Sims 4 comes up short, content-wise, in comparison to its beloved predecessors.