OXCGN’s Dragon Age Inquisition Review – In Progress


I’m only 15 hours into Dragon Age: Inquisition and I can say I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this game has to offer. Be prepared for a whole new open world that is packed full of quests, characters, fights and loot with the beloved lore that Dragon Age fans absorb.

DAI_Review_Screenshot (8)

Dragon Age: Inquisition gives you the power to craft your own story, creating a unique, personal experience for each player. It encourages you to carve your own path through many elements in the game including your combat style, dialogue choices and the large array of missions you can pick and choose from. Another element that keeps it personal is the character creation. Inquisition expands the species you can be with the addition of qunari to the previous playable races humans, dwarves and elves. You also have an extensive amount of classes and get to use this highly detailed face creation tool. No longer do you have to sift though sliding bars to get the right size and shape of a facial feature. Instead Inquisition introduces a new mechanic that changes a particular part of the body through moving your cursor in the confines of a square. This leads to an amazing variety of looks your character can have and, if you so desire, you would be able to create yourself to enter this fantasy world.

Before strapping your newly created character into the game, you have the choice to connect your save file to the Dragon Age Keep, an online mini-game that lets you pick the choices you made from the previous games to spill into Inquisition. It’s required for all consoles and it’s a nice addition for those who poured hours into Inquisition’s predecessors. There’s just this lovely sense of glee you get whenever you encounter characters you’ve previously met or hear others talk about the aftermath of the choices you made and this feature just adds to the players gaming experience, making it a personal journey.

ScreenshotWin32_0024_Final_WM

This journey begins with the aftermath of the destruction of the Conclave and the world is now subject to many giant rifts that leak into the demon world. You are a survivor of this event and were blessed with the ability to seal these rifts, stopping any evil that may crawl in. Accompanied by Lelianna, Cassandra and other familiar faces, you must seal The Breach whilst trying to restore order to this chaotic world. For now my experience with the story has been a bit sour and it wasn’t until I played a solid amount of hours did I finally get sucked into this world. They’ve taken their time to build up the story but it is worth it as you approach the first twist. I guarantee you’ll be on the edge of your seat, anxiously waiting to see what happens next, just as I am now.

A lot of why it’s taken the time to become involved in the story is the lack of connection I feel with the characters. In Origins and II there were many opportunities to talk to those in your party and develop a relationship with them. I knew all their backstories, their worries and their triumphs but I feel like I’m missing out on this with Inquisition. My party members seem disconnected from the story, not really intervening at any point, and whenever it says so and so disapproves after a dialogue choice, I don’t really care. They don’t seem to react afterwards or change their behaviour towards me, but I still have a large amount to play so I may see consequences soon.

ScreenshotWin32_0019_Final_WM

At least I’ve seen some consequences, but these are to the world due to my dialogue choices. It now is a trademark of Bioware games to include a dialogue wheel of some kind and they always are a central part of the game. It’s satisfying knowing that you have an actual effect on the world and this is prevalent in Inquisition. I’ve seen many of my choices play out and it’s an enjoyable knowing that many gamers would be exploring completely different options. My only gripe about this system is that the dialogue wheel still shows you the affects of picking each option, which was introduced in II. I don’t enjoy seeing that this option is aggressive or this one makes me look like a wimp because it looses that sense of mystery and you can then always choose the safe option. Dialogue choices would’ve been perfect if it went back to Origin’s style where there were so many options and you always had no idea if your character was saying the right thing but sadly we’re stuck with a dumbed down version, At least there are options to hide some of the wheel icons, letting you sort of take hold of the reigns.

You also get to make many decisions around your war table. With your colleagues by your side, you pick how operations will be carried out, by either using your influence with nobles, sending out armies or sneaking around with some rangers. Each produce different rewards and take a different amount of time so you must be selective on how each mission is carried out. Also at the war table you can also send the Inquisition forces out to places in either Orlais or Ferelden to scout the land and reveal areas of the world map, opening new areas to explore.

ScreenshotWin32_0021_Final_WM

These areas are all beautifully crafted a variety of locations such as snow-coated lands, scorching deserts and luscious, green forests. There have been many times I’ve just had to stop and look off into the horizon absorbing the beauty that surrounds me. You’ll easily get lost in these lands as you come across spectacular waterfalls or dangerous caves and there is always something to do in each unique area. They’ve let you free from the confines of Dragon Age II’s world and now encourage you to explore wherever you want by making it a requirement to complete side missions to unlock the story. I don’t particularly like this feature as I prefer delving straight into the narrative and doing side missions at my own pace but I slowly warmed up to it since this world is exquisite and setting up new camps and closing rifts is an easy and fun way to quickly progress.

As you explore these worlds I definitely recommend you bump up the difficulty, as the game can get very easy, very fast. On normal you can breeze through fights holding down the right trigger to attack and tapping other buttons to use special abilities when they’ve charged up. Just moving through the fights like this is quite monotonous and if they didn’t have tactical view this game would get quite boring very fast. The tactical camera view lets you plan out your attacks, see the stats of your enemies whilst time is frozen. I spent most of my time using this mechanic as it made me feel like I was actually doing something in fights rather than holding down one button the entire fight. During the harder battles the tactical camera is a blessing letting you plan out every move and giving you time to think and have a breather. You’ll occasionally come across enemies in the world that are too strong for you but with the tactical camera you have a chance to win and the feeling of satisfaction you get is glorious.

ScreenshotWin32_0025_Final_WM

Those are my current thoughts on Dragon Age: Inquisition and I’m finding it such a joy to play. I’m still to explore the story more, hopefully learn about the characters accompanying me and encounter new lands and foes. I’ll have the rest of my thoughts and my review score coming in the next couple of days.

This Xbox One review copy was conducted by a digital download code provided by Electronic Arts and is a review in progress.

OXCGN’s PAX Aus Dragon Age Inquisition Preview


Before the hectic weekend of PAX Aus, I went to EA’s Dragon Age Inquisition event playing the first three hours of the game. I played it on PlayStation 4 and had a great time exploring the land, doing quests and enjoying the new tactical camera during combat.

It started with the usual character customisation and it was beyond what we’ve ever seen in a Dragon Age game before. There were four different races, Human, Quanari, Dwarf and Mage, as well as various types of classes determining your style of combat. Classes went beyond just your usual mage, warrior and rogue and expand into specialisation of a particular weapon. For instance I chose the rogue class which lead to picking between archery and double-bladed weapon wielding. I’m assuming with these various choices just in the first 30 seconds of the game it will allow for a lot of replay-ability and encourage gamers to get more out of their purchase.

Creating your character’s look was incredible with a variety of facial features to pick and choose from. Different from any game that I’ve ever played before is their new system to change the sizes and direction of body parts through the movement in a box. Now that might sound a bit weird and I probably won’t explain it perfectly but bear with me. Pretty much you move this square around your characters face and it adjusts the way the particular feature you’ve chosen looks. It took me quite a bit to get my head around it but it worked effectively and didn’t make your avatar look like too much of some weird creature.

There are plenty of default facial features as well if you prefer to jump right into the action.

dai_sept_29_0000_final

Now the game leaps you straight into the aftermath of the explosion of the Conclave and surprisingly you aren’t the Inquisitor. Instead you’re a survivor who has the newly acquired ability to close rifts in the demon world. Cassandra and Lelianna, familiar faces from the previous games, jump on the chance of recruiting you to hopefully get rid of the largest rift in the world, The Breach.

After the quick injection of story the game, the game quickly exposes you to the combat, half of which being very fun whilst the other a tad monotonous. Now the usual fighting requires holding down the right trigger, moving towards enemies and sometimes using your special attacks. I loved mixing in my special attacks whenever I could but whilst waiting for it recharge it’s easy to become disconnected to the game. It just didn’t feel like I was participating in the fights and pushing through the formalities. Even with the chance to change characters on the fly there just isn’t enough variety to make it enjoyable.

With the tactical camera it is a much different experience, making the player think and plan out each fight trying to achieve the best outcome. The tactical camera gives you a bird’s eye view of the battlefield with the time pulled to a hault. You can switch between characters and set their enemy to target, see opponent’s stats and set time rolling again. This mode expands with the ability to customise your party’s behaviour, a mechanic used in previous Dragon Age games, and the variety of choice whilst leveling up.

dai_sept_29_2_wm

Included in the game after fights is the use of “operations” which is where you control the Inquisitor’s forces through a war table. You can send them off into either Orlais or Ferelden with perks that can either improve their attack, persuasion skills or their ability to observe and explore the surroundings. You can send them on three different mission types whilst scouting, making them focus on building connections, gathering recruits or revealing secrets as they expand and reveal more of the world map.

Dragon Age Inquisition’s world is quite beautiful showing off familiar locations such as Kirkwall and Redcliffe. It is a magnificent craftedsetting which is much more open than its predecessors. You can easily find hidden places to explore such as caves and many opponents that are far stronger than yourself. I managed to bump into a couple of dragons, which one-hit killed me with its flaming breath, causing myself to rush the rest of my party to safety. These random encounters occurred because this installment in the series seemed to be more focused on carving your own story rather than following the story missions one-by-one.

This saddens me a bit though because I love getting immersed in a game’s narrative, and Dragon Age Inquisition doesn’t feel like it wants you to do that. Majority of my play through I was off doing side missions to gain enough power to continue the story and it was a struggle trying to find the next main mission marker. It’ll be interesting to see the final product and if it will have an epic story like Origins hidden between the side missions.

dai_sept_29_2_wm

Rejoice Simmers! Ghosts, Pools, and Careers Abounds


The title says it all; Simmers’ prayers have been answered. Just last night, Sim Guru, Rachel revealed the return of Ghosts, Pools, and new Careers on the Sims blog. In fact, Ghosts are already available to start wandering the plains of Oasis Springs or New Orleans-esque Willow Creek.

As noted in an Interview with Rachel with Kotaku, Ghosts are now a significantly more involved experience. They experience the new emotions and change colour accordingly, as well as having the ability to possess objects to destroy or repair them. Ghosts will still develop a personality based on their death as per Sims 3; death by fire will create a vengeful ghost that oozes flames; death by hysteria will have all Sims around the ghosts feel the brunt of that emotion, as well as all other deaths.

10717503_10152759330939662_2038376730_n

Oh. Did I mention that ghosts are fully playable? Did I also mention that they’re entirely free and available through the latest Origin update?

Alongside the release of Ghosts, Rachel also detailed future updates to the Sims 4, coming in November and December. In November we will be getting, also for FREE, Pools. Yes, Simmers, one of your two biggest prayers has truly been answered, and come November, our Sims will be splashing and showing off their new swimmin’ holes. In December, as per the post-release cries of many fans, new careers will be introduced as well as their respective paths and rewards; further details yet to be announced.

10714834_10152759331354662_301292314_n

Finally, just in time for Hallowe’en, Maxis are releasing an adorable Star-Wars themed costume set as well as community requested, brand new eye colours.

This news will no doubt come as both exciting and  surprising to many Simmers and gamers alike. EA‘s merchandising past had people worried we’d be paying for the “stolen” features that were lacking in the Sims 4, but this time around it seems the fans are coming first.

There’s still no word on Toddlers yet, but I don’t think it would be risky to predict their arrival sometime in the future.

OXCGN’s The Sims 4 Review


The Sims 4 has by no means had the best PR scheme of any game… ever. The game was announced, and after that, the more the developers spoke, the more the fans shared their despair. Now the game is out and it all seems to have gone relatively quiet, and personally, I think it is because everyone is so involved in the game. Some fan favourite features are missing, and when the Sim Gurus said there is plenty else to do, we didn’t believe them. We should have.

If you will allow me a brief editorial, from almost the beginning, Maxis have stressed that this is not ‘The Sims 3.2’ – this is a new direction for the Sims franchise: a whole new game. So in this review, I will be analysing the game in this manner. It is impossible not to compare to previous instalments, but my final statement and rating will be based solely on ‘The Sims 4’. This will not be a comparison review, and it is inaccurate to say I can please everybody, but I will do my best to offer a fair, calculated review of what has proven a controversial title.

To begin, the Sims is a big game, and there’s a lot to cover. For a base game, the Sims 4 brings a lot to do, and a lot of different ways to do it. I will admit, going into the game for the first time I thought I would be playing for a few hours then stop due to the typical base game’s lack of content: I was terribly wrong. Even now, weeks following the release, I am playing constantly. The Sims 4 brings a staggering variety to the skills, career branches, exploration (yes… exploration), and socialisation for a base game. This review will be broken down into 5 sections as follows. These sections will make more of a point to detail content and offer my perspective, the final judgements will be made in the summaries following, so skip through if you feel you know everything and just want a straight-forward review.

  1. Create-a-Sim

Arguably one of the most vital features of the Sims franchise, create-a-sim has undergone an incredible overhaul, and the days of limited customisation, strictly Caucasian Sims, and endless slider fiddling are over. Create-a-sim is now more akin to a potter’s wheel, but with a person’s face and body. Instead of clicking through endless anatomical tabs to make adjustments to your Sims, you now click directly on their face or body and drag them around like a clay model. However, there are still a fair number of presets to choose from, and the newly revamped genetics system is unbelievable.

Each preset represents a particular cultural facial structure, and each has its own draggable parameters.
Each preset represents a particular cultural facial structure, and each has its own draggable parameters.  ~ feat. Katy Perry

An interesting note about these presets; each preset facial feature (head, nose, mouth, etc.) has its own drag-able parameters. What I mean by this, for example, is that one chin can be moulded to be comically pointed or sensibly sharp, while another can be made to look ridiculously chubby, or nicely rounded, but there is no real way to go from comically pointed to ridiculously chubby without changing the presets. This may seem limiting in a way, but once you adapt to the system it becomes quick and simple to create uncanny recreations. Whole face presets now each have a very distinct underlying bone structure, and each represents a different nationality and makes multicultural sim creation very easy, which unlike all previous instalments was quite difficult.

Each aspiration has up to 3 variations and its own specialty trait. Traits themselves feel more lively than ever.
Each aspiration has up to 3 variations and its own specialty trait. Traits themselves feel more lively than ever.

Traits and Personalities in the Sims 4 may seem slimmed down to fans initially, as being limited to 3 starting traits for Adult Sims seems like a step backward, especially when the big selling point of this game is personality. This is just create-a-sim, and when you take your Sims out into the World, it becomes quickly apparent that each trait has been thoroughly fleshed-out and offers a more staggering impact on gameplay than traits have previously.

The available selection of clothes, hairstyles, and accessories is larger than any previous base game, and each item is unique, with a vast array of colour swatches to compensate for the lack of create-a-style. The selection of swatches and designs that Maxis have provided are pleasantly sufficient, and the loss of create-a-style has little impact on the game other than create-a-sim loading faster. Though we’re now limited to 3 traits to start with for an Adult sim, the new Aspirations system offers lots of new bonuses and ways to play.

Overall, create-a-sim is a whole new ballgame in Sim creation and is definitely one of the instalments highlights.

  1. Build/Buy Mode

Yes there are no pools, and yes there is no terraforming, but I have never been the best builder and I made some damn fine houses in my time playing the Sims 4. The new tools take some time getting used to, and construction in the Sims 4 requires a whole different state of mind. No longer is building drawing up a floor plan wall-by-wall. Build mode is now more akin to playing with building blocks or Lego: creating houses is now done via ‘rooms’. Now with build and buy mode combined, not only has loading time decrease significantly, but the theme of quick changes established by the new build tools is carried over.

Clicking and dragging around rooms is now smooth and simple.
Clicking and dragging around rooms is now smooth and simple.

A room is not some fancy new system; it is literally a block that is created once you have connected four walls. Unlike in previous instalments, once you have created a room, you can now move the whole room around freely; resize it by clicking and dragging the walls; easily connect it to other rooms; even upload it to the gallery as an individual room, not with the whole house attached. This system makes building incredibly simple, right down to the point where, if you grow tired of building a house and want to just play, you can grab that last bathroom from a catalogue or the gallery, and place the entire room straight onto your house. You can even pick up and drag the entire house. The ability to drag and manipulate walls was introduced sometime along in the Sims 3’s lifespan, and it was very buggy. I can assure you, wall dragging and manipulation works beautifully in the Sims 4.

There are numerous new features available to builders, as well as further upgrades to old ones. Roof construction has been the bane of many a builder: always a sloppy mess of roof-tiling and graphic clipping. Roofing in the Sims 4 was taken back to primary school and has managed to graduate university, as it is now both simple and quick to create a nice roof to your building. As well as the new roof manipulation tools, there is the ability to add eaves and friezes to your building, alongside the ability to add columns straight into fencing and walls without the use of cheats.

3 different wall heights are available per floor, making your mansions even more formidable.
3 different wall heights are available per floor, making your mansions even more formidable.

Walls themselves have gotten a slight upgrade, and now come in 3 heights of 3, 4, and 5 metres, with 3 being the standard height of a house we have become accustomed to. Alongside new wall heights, is the option to make sure all of their grandiose height is covered in windows and wall decorations. Now you can move any wall decoration freely around the surface of any wall, allowing you to cover every inch of your room’s walls in decorations and lighting.

We may be down pools, but the returning fountain tool allows for an adequate aesthetic replacement in the meantime. The new water features are all entertaining including generic spouts and jumping features.

Build tools are more intuitive than ever, but restrict the use of foundations as much as it enhances them.
Build tools are more intuitive than ever, but restrict the use of foundations as much as it enhances them.

The new foundation tool is both a major improvement and a step backwards at the same time. You can now add and remove a foundation straight from underneath your house. You also have 8 different foundation heights to choose from, and any attached staircases will adapt according to your edits. The disadvantages, is that this foundation must be applied to every ground level room you create, so there’s no creating a garage at the side for your house with a foundation.

Catalogue view allows you to place down whole, pre-made rooms, or even buy individual items right from the picture.
Catalogue view allows you to place down whole, pre-made rooms, or even buy individual items right from the picture.

Despite some major features lacking in the new build mode, the new features and alterations to existing systems have made building easier, more convenient, and more detailed than ever. Buy mode brings a ton of objects, more than any other base game, and despite lacking create-a-style it offers many swatch options for all objects.

  1. Solo Gameplay: Careers, Skills, and Exploration

For some, the Sims is a game about building relationships and creating a family legacy. For others it is about creating the ultimate lone wolf. Mastering skills, climbing career ladders and racking up your collectable hoards. The Sims 3 introduced collectables, and the Sims 4 continues the new tradition, as well as adding new instrumental skills, a ton of social skills, and giving careers 2 times the punch.

With 19 skills and hundreds of options within each, your sims will have plenty to do.
With 19 skills and hundreds of options within each, your sims will have plenty to do.

The Sims 4 offers up a plethora of new skills for your Sims to master:

  • Cooking
  • Gourmet Cooking
  • Handiness
  • Charisma
  • Fitness
  • Logic
  • Painting
  • Guitar
  • Violin
  • Piano
  • Fishing
  • Writing
  • Gardening
  • Mixology
  • Comedy
  • Mischief
  • Programming
  • Rocket Science
  • Video Gaming

The Sims 4 offers up 6 brand new skills, with violin, mixology, and piano returning as base game content. All the skills are thoroughly fleshed out and each new level offers brand new opportunities including adding modules to your rocket ship, hacking big companies for big simoleons, composing songs to sell for their royalties, or even grafting a plant species with another for interesting new breeds. With 9 new base game skills, there is almost too much for one sim to accomplish in even the longest lifespan available.

10 careers and 2 paths each make for 20 possible careers for each of your Sims.
10 careers and 2 paths each make for 20 possible careers for each of your Sims.

Careers have also had a revamp, and though you won’t find “normal” careers (as many fans have described them) like business or education, each and every career comes with 2 paths after level 5. 10 careers with 2 paths each makes a total of 20 top-level jobs for your Sims to strive for:

  • Astronaut
    • Smuggler
    • Space Ranger
  • Criminal
    • Boss
    • Oracle
  • Culinary
    • Chef
    • Mixologist
  • Entertainer
    • Comedian
    • Musician
  • Painter
    • Master of the Real
    • Patron of the Arts
  • Secret Agent
    • Diamond Agent
    • Villain
  • Tech Guru
    • eSport Gamer
    • Start-up Entrepreneur
  • Writer
    • Author
    • Journalist

The biggest issue with careers, for a player that generally shies away from socialising with other Sims and opts for the ‘loner’ trait, is that many of the careers, particularly Entertainer, require earning ridiculous amounts of friends to level up. Not only does this mean making those friends, which is more difficult in the Sims 4, but maintaining those friendships in order to make sure you have enough to level up again. The part-time careers available to Teens don’t offer much at all, and are more a means of storytelling and role-play.

On the plus side, each job comes with daily tasks to complete that will increase your performance towards a promotion after your next shift, as well as objectives to meet in order to receive your next promotion (other than making friends). These objectives keep your Sims building their relevant skills and unlocking new content. As well as off-the-clock objectives, those random encounter messages you would sometimes get in the Sims 3, requiring you to solve a dilemma for your Sims, have become much more frequent.

Numerous varieties of gems, rocks, ores, and secrets lay about Willow Creek and Oasis Springs.
Numerous varieties of gems, rocks, ores, and secrets lay about Willow Creek and Oasis Springs.

Exploration and collecting is still present in the Sims 4 despite lacking a totally open world. Around your active lot is a surprisingly large space. I was pleasantly surprised to find, after opening up my first lot, to find a large field behind my house, with a park, running track, and river surrounding my neighbourhood on all sides. There’s a lot of open space. Filling this open space are numerous collectibles from earthly minerals to ores, and cute figurines of characters from MySims hidden in suspicious time capsules. Many wild plants are also scattered about the public space of neighbourhoods, bearing seeds for planting that cannot otherwise be obtained.

Each skill comes with hours of content each, and with 19 base game skills all equally fleshed out with its own options and rewards, the game time based on solely this content is substantial. Adding to that the extensive career options and rewards from each job and the game already offers up what the Sims 3 offered 4 expansion packs in. Some more “normal” jobs may not be available anymore, but with all the options covering all skills and tons of content, there is still plenty to achieve. The promotion requirements however, do bring significant obstacles to players who do not particularly interact with the social aspect of the game.

  1. Emotional, Social, and Familial Gameplay

EMOTIONS! Emotions are a concept we have heard about since the Sims 4 was first announced, and to many fans it seemed like a major cop out to be replacing beloved content in favour of this alien gameplay mechanic. You might believe there is only so much emotional gameplay can offer, and you are right, but in the wrong way. The extent to which the effects of your Sims new emotions reach are unprecedented.

Emotions are displayed down here, and your sim shows off their best emotional pose.
Emotions are displayed down here, and your sim shows off their best emotional pose.

Emotions are generated via the moodlets we know from the Sims 3, but each now carries some “emotional baggage.” Each moodlet has am emotional strength and depending on your Sim’s overall emotion, will either change or boost what your Sims is currently feeling. The emotions and their variants include:

  • Angry > Very Angry > Enraged > Furious
  • Bored
  • Confident > Very Confident
  • Dazed
  • Embarrassed > Very Embarrassed > Mortified
  • Energised > Very Energised
  • Fine
  • Flirty > Very Flirty > Passionate
  • Focused > Very Focused
  • Happy > Very Happy
  • Inspired > Very Inspired
  • Playful > Very Playful > Hysterical
  • Uncomfortable > Very Uncomfortable
  • Sad > Very Sad
  • Tense > Very Tense > Stressed
  • Asleep

Emotions effect your Sims every interaction and even unlock new interactions that can dissipate or increase the strength of that particular emotion. The extents to which these emotions affect your Sims are not game changing. Your Sims do not have to be Inspired in order to paint nice pictures. They do not have to be angry to earn fitness skill. The advantage given by utilising skills, however, is one worth pursuing.

Emotions come with a musical stinger every time you earn them, and it gets damn annoying. Fortunately the Sims community have already created a mod to remove it, and if you find the jingles irritating it would be worth looking in to.

Another downside to the emotions is that, for a non-storyteller, they can be a little intrusive. The sadness moodlets following a family or friend’s death are so strong that they last for days, and require many counter-moodlets to overtake. For a story-teller, this is a great tool for showing depression, but for a skill-trainer or collector, the sadness emotion can really get in the way of progress.

Emotions are heavily tied to the social aspect of the game, and they both effect and unlock new interactions, and vice versa. Telling a lot of jokes will make your Sim playful, and being playful will unlock more jokes and pranks. Arguing with another Sims will anger your own, and again unlock new angry interactions.

As a player who tends to go for skill and career development over socialisation, I found myself quite actively engaging in conversations. The emotions make conversation quite interesting, and the Sim’s newfound intelligence really adds to the flow of conversation, which I will elaborate on in the final section.

Teens and Adults are the same height, but the teens look more baby-faces and have leaner frames.
Teens and Adults are the same height, but the teens look more baby-faces and have leaner frames.

When it comes to your Sim’s family, yes there are no longer Toddlers. It still seems like a questionable move on Maxis’ part, but I can say with confidence that toddlers will make a return, and when they do, they’ll be more than just an extension of the baby life stage that can learn to walk and talk. To compromise, the Baby stage now allows for much more intimate interactions between parent and child, and the new restriction of babies to their crib may seem like a bad idea, but now Sims have stopped leaving their children out on the sidewalk or on the kitchen floor. Teenagers also share the same height as Adult and Elders, which makes for a confusing time when finding a potential suitor. Another odd move from Maxis that does deteriorate generational and story-telling experiences.

  1. Multitasking, Action Management, and “Simtelligence”

Multitasking is new to the Sims, and is arguably one of its strongest new features, encompassing both skill and social gameplay. Your Sim can now build fitness on a treadmill, while building cooking from the TV, and building their relationships with an entire group of other Sims. Multitasking allows the simultaneous use of multiple objects and conversations.

Eating, chatting, and taking selfies. All at once!
Eating, chatting, and taking selfies. All at once!

Group conversations are an interesting dynamic in the Sims 4, as it both works well and is a great inconvenience. In terms of making friends, group conversations are great, and the animations are all incredibly advanced for what we have come to know as the Sims. Sims will make eye contact with each other, and rotate not just their heads, but their bodies in natural ways to maintain conversation with each other. Where group conversations become inconvenient is, for example, when trying to flirt with another Sim. Sims tend to join in on your public conversations, and when flirting, extra Sims make the conversation awkward and flirts more likely to fail. When in private, the system works nicely. Having conversations while eating and drinking make for significantly nicer stories and gameplay.

When Sims are at work or on another lot, you can click their photo to control their actions from afar.
When Sims are at work or on another lot, you can click their photo to control their actions from afar.

Given the new neighbourhood system, when you have Sims across multiple lots, you can’t control multiple Sims without a loading screen. However, on a Sims portrait is a small icon you can select, and then choose options like “Care for Self” or “Build <insert skill>”. This allows you to control your Sims from afar, and allows you to focus on one at a time.

In saying this, Sims in the Sims 4 are very intelligent. I mean this in the way that Sims really feel like ‘people’ now, and I am comfortable focusing on one Sim’s skills while knowing that his Wife and Son aren’t going to go die or stare at a painting for hours. While building my Sim’s violin skill for a few days, his Son kept his moods up, practiced painting, did his homework, and played with his friends like any normal teenager would do. It really felt like my other Sims were “living.” In previous titles, I have never participated in generational gameplay because I was just incapable of keeping a whole family alive while trying to achieve anything substantial. Now I can safely focus on one Sim’s achievements while the others in the family all work, practice, and play like real people.

Pros

  • The new Create-a-sim offers significantly greater customisation and control over your Sim’s appearance.
  • New build mode features and tactility allow for anyone to jump in on building and be proud of their work.
  • Emotions add a whole new layer to socialisation and interaction
  • Multitasking (I need say no more)
  • Tons of Careers paths and more base skills than any other Sim game.
  • Every skill and career is fleshed out with unlockables and in-depth content.
  • Sims feel and act like competent, living humans.

Cons

  • Create-a-sim and build/buy mode require a lot of experimentation to get used to.
  • Tutorial messages come in the hundreds and require command-line edits to turn off.
  • No toddlers (yet), and teenagers are the same height as adults.
  • Moveobjects cheat, and having different foundation heights across the lot are missing.
  • Group conversations are as much a burden as they are a blessing.
  • Loading screens take some getting used to for a Sims 3 player.

TL;DR

The Sims 4 is definitely a new direction for the Sims series. The new creative tools are, dare I say it, more intuitive and tactile than ever. There are the little things, however, but these are the little things that get introduced and left behind in every reiteration of the Sims thus far. There was a lot to be desired in the Sims 3, and there’s still features left to be desired in the Sims 4. That does not however, constitute by any degree the Sims 4 being a bad game. Yes there are things missing, and yes there are some usual launch bugs, but this is the first time I have really felt like I am playing a “Sims” game since the Sims 2. The Sims 4 brings back what makes the Sims so loveable and that is a life outside of life. Sims are smart, truly unique, and bring some real personalities along for the ride.

The extensive amount of skills, career paths, collectibles and unlockables provide more to do than any base game has ever offered. The game takes a lot of getting used to, there are some sentimental features missing, but my score is based on the experience I got out of the Sims 4, not a comparison between old and new features. This is not to say that lacking features do not reduce the quality, but it also does not reduce it unreasonably. The experience I had, plainly put was “this game is The Sims through and through.” My opinion will most certainly differ from others and go against the grain, but I had so much fun in the Sims 4, and that is truly what gaming is about. I personally do not buy my games based on which has the longest list of features, and that certainly does not decide on its playability. I’m 100% confident in the future of The Sims 4, and I hope despite its terrible PR, you, as a Simmer, will give it a try.

7.5/10

Review copy was not provided. This was a release copy as purchased by reviewer.

Which Hashtag Will Best Describe Your Unique Sim?


It is just over a week left before The Sims 4 comes out which includes a new generation of Sims with strong personalities. Learn what kind of rich, developed and surprising stories you can tell with their new official launch trailer that they have released. Sims themselves, heart of the franchise, are smarter, more realistic and with new emotions every action is influenced by what they think and how they feel. Players control the mind, body, and now the heart of the new Sims and give life to their stories with a richness and intensity unprecedented in the franchise.

In addition to these new revolutionary Sims, The Sims 4 offers powerful new tools, tactile and user-created, and the new Gallery that provides access to content created by other players for the world to admire directly in the game. With all these elements it makes The Sims 4 an exciting new experience that marks the beginning of a new era for The Sims. The Sims 4 will be releasing on 4 September for the PC, in the meantime while you wait you can download The Sims 4 Create a Sim Demo and create your unique Sim by customizing their appearance, fashion, walk styles, aspirations, and personality traits.

Is EA Access Worth Your Money?


Yesterday, EA announced a new subscription service called ‘EA Access’ coming exclusively to Xbox One. Gamers will pay a monthly or annual fee ($6.99 or $39.99 AU respectively) and will have access to what EA is calling ‘The Vault’, a collection of games from their back catalogue, as well as access to 10% discounts and pre-release trials for newer games.

Yep, you read that right: You’re paying for the ability to pay less for their games. If this sounds like PlayStation Plus or Xbox Games with Gold, that’s because it’s essentially the same thing, but exclusively with EA titles.

I already pay for PlayStation Plus, and have found incredible value in the service, though the idea of paying for a second discount service has never crossed my mind. Truthfully, it still hasn’t. Games such as FIFA and Battlefield are incredibly popular, and I’m sure will be the main marketing points for EA in their campaign to get gamers to care about this service, but one thing we have to remember is that we are still paying for the games.

EA Access

The best thing about PlayStation Plus and Xbox Games with Gold is that each month you are given access to a slew of free games – some old, but increasingly we are being given awesome games that are brand new to the platform – from a whole range of developers. I find the idea of having access to one publishers games for a price quite silly – and frankly it’s kind of scary. Think about one year from now, when Activision and Ubisoft have jumped on to this bandwagon as well, offer their own membership services and PlayStation Plus and Xbox Games with Gold are a shallow husk of what they used to be. Why would any of these publishers give their games away for free when they can charge the consumer for the right to pay less?

One thing to mention is that this is exclusive for Xbox One. Sony passed on the service, and were quoted as saying: ‘We don’t think asking our fans to pay an additional $5 (US) a month for this EA-specific program represents good value to the PlayStation gamer”. Personally, I have to agree with Sony on this one. The only EA games that spring to mind that I would be interested in playing in the coming years would be the next Mass Effect, and if ever made, the next Dead Space – but that’s just my opinion. I know how big Battlefield, FIFA and Madden are, so if a gamer plays all of these titles it may be worth their while to pay to save a bit of money AND have access to a library of older titles.

When I say ‘older titles’ I mean those that are already available on Xbox One, as there has been no mention of whether you’ll be able to play ‘last-gen games’ with this service. Perhaps down the road, when more titles are available in ‘the Vault’ it could be worth it for me, but by then we will have access to PlayStation Now, which will grant access to multi-generation games streaming – as well as whatever competing publishers cook up to combat EA’s service.

Honestly, this feels like the next evolution of online passes to me, and I wouldn’t put it past EA to eventually make EA Access mandatory for online multiplayer for their games – but I’d love to hear your opinions? Feel free to comment in the comment section below, or send me a tweet at @deanypants.

EA Games Australia Wants Your Help


Have a part in the EA Community Lounge for PAX Australia 2014

Heading to PAX Australia this year? The local EA Community Team, Pidgeo, FooLiz, Bowden and Jiggsy want you to come and hang out with them in the EA Community Lounge, but need your help on what they should have in there. Jiggsy has tweeted it out, that they’re looking for great ideas.

The EA Community Team love throwing VIP Community events. In their last event, they showed their E3 2014 Press Conference and the hottest trailers from upcoming titles in an exclusive cinema screening, followed by drinks with the local EA Community team. Currently the ideas that we have seen range from comfy couches and charging points to community meet ups / signings and PAX exclusive physical or digital items for EA titles. One of the more creative ideas was the Plants vs Zombies dress-up Nerf battles. If you think you have an idea that the team at EA would love to hear don’t forget to tweet!

EA at PAX 2014

Get Battlefield 3 Through Origin On The House


Battlefield 3 Free

Previously, we’ve reported on Dead Space being free on EA’s online gaming service, Origin.

EA recently updated their ‘On The House‘ page, which now has them offering Battlefield 3 for free, until the 4th of June.

Battlefield 3 is valued at $29.99 on EA’s Origin store, although your local gaming stores prices may vary.

Battlefield 3 was released back in October 2011, and we only just recently saw it’s younger brother, Battlefield 4, come out late last year.

Battlefield 3 Premium Edition, unfortunately, is not for free, however does include the 5 expansion packs released for the game.

With Premium Edition, you get a digital service that includes all five themed expansion packs—delivering 20 new maps, 20 new weapons, more than 10 new vehicles and four new game modes. Plus, you get access to exclusive in-game items and features not available anywhere else, like new decals to show off and Double XP events to get an edge on your friends.

For those with a itchy trigger finger, Battlefield 3 can be downloaded here (Origin client and account required.)

© Yvan Zivkovic 2014