The Sims 4's Strangerville game pack is unlike anything I’ve seen before in this game. It’s also very scary.
When most people think of The Sims, they think about removing all the ladders in their pools so their Sims drown. While that’s fun, Sims can get out of the pool on their own now, and also the latest Sims 4 game pack takes you on a lightly scripted adventure, so you don’t have to make up your own story in order to get your horror kick. Strangerville, which came out yesterday, centers on the town of Strangeville, whose residents are slowly getting possessed by alien spores. As a new resident of the town, you can decide to look into this mystery to try to end the spate of possessions..
I admit I was skeptical. The Sims has dabbled in narrative DLC in previous games, like The Sims Medieval for The Sims 3, but they never caught my interest. All I want to do in The Sims is make my Sims marry, have children, and possibly catch fire. The idea of an alien conspiracy is fun—I’ve always loved shows like The X-Files and Roswell—but I wasn’t sure the vibe would translate well, or that I would feel constrained to the narrative. All those fears went away as soon as I moved my new Sim Adrian Esposito into Strangerville and the welcome wagon arrived.
In a normal game of The Sims 4, your neighbors will come over to meet you whenever you move somewhere new. They’ll leave a nasty fruitcake in your house, converse, and generally hang around for an hour or two. These are the Sims that showed up to my Adrian’s new house in Strangerville.
If you’ve never seen a Sim before, they don’t normally have such extreme facial features. They look more like this:
That’s a Sim I made and her BFF taking a selfie. Look at those nice, normal smiles and gestures. Now observe the residents of Strangerville one more time:
I dislike them! I dislike them very much. Not every Sim in Strangerville looks like this, but the possessed ones are all around town and they freak me the hell out.
Sir! I said no, thank you!
You’ll find Sims like this all over Strangerville, and soon I found it hard to resist the desire to figure out what the heck was going on. It was easy to get drawn into the mystery. When I made Adrian, I gave them the Aspiration to figure out the mystery of Strangerville, which helpfully provided a checklist of what to do. In Strangerville, there’s something weird going on at the Secret Lab that’s in the center of a crater at the outskirts of town. You start off just by questioning the locals, and soon move to exploring the lab itself.
One of the things about Strangerville that has kept me most engaged is that there are multiple ways to progress through your investigation. Once I had gathered some evidence looking through documents in the Lab and created a dossier of what I’d collected, the game told me I could show it to a Scientist or a Sim in the Military in order to advance to the next step. Instead of doing that, I went to the laptop and uploaded it to the Hacker Forum and got what I needed. Later on, I needed to convince someone in the military to give me a device to analyze alien spores. I had the option to fight, seduce or impress an officer. First I tried seducing someone, but my Charisma skill isn’t that high and they weren’t convinced. I tried impressing another officer, just to see what my Sim would do. Adrian got on the ground and just did a ton of push ups, and the other Sim dug it and gave me what I needed. I was so surprised and delighted that had worked, I laughed out loud to myself in my apartment.
The Sims has a charming writing style that is all over this pack. When you try to speak to the possessed Sims like the ones in the picture above, you’ll get random notifications of the creepy shit they say to you. Once I got one that just said “BeautyBeautyBeautyBeautyBeauty” over and over again. I was genuinely freaked out, but also was so pleased that the developers have leaned all the way into the pulpy, B-Movie nature of this narrative. I also loved Erwin, the shopkeeper at the Curio shop, who wears a colander decked out with Christmas lights on his head and sells tinfoil hats.
I’m close to the end of the Strangerville story now, and I can’t wait for other people to play through it. It feels weird to write around spoilers when I’m writing about The Sims, but I’ll just say to keep an eye out on how the environment of Strangerville changes the closer you get to solving the mystery. It’s beautiful, and frightening.