The Sims Social | Review

The Sims Social Review

By: Jasmine Henry | Apr 27th 2012
The Sims is the giantly popular (this may be an understatement) franchise that lets players, lovingly known as ‘Simmers’, play god, proceeding to make virtual versions of themselves walk, talk, live, love and even think as you help them to “Build a home. Build a relationship. Build a life” (the game’s tagline).

As of May, 2011, The Sims franchise and its collection of spin-offs, add-on packs and content discs had sold 150 million copies. Spanning over an entire decade, on over 6 different platforms, with Game of the Year awards and celebrity endorsements out the wazzoo, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of it.

The Sims Social is EA’s attempt at bringing the meta life control fun to Facebook, a social media platform, so that you can talk about your life while you set up an in-game life and then talk about that life too. With over 16 million Simmers setting up virtual, Facebook gaming lives, the proof is in the pudding that even inside the realms of a web browser, The Sims franchise can still hold its own.

At the very core of The Sims franchise is the game's fantastic character creation mode, so well-crafted that millions bought the disced version when it was launched as a standalone title. Now, in The Sims Social, you are directly launched into the character creation mode when you first begin the game. From here you can pick your character’s name, face, gender, skin colour, personality and, of course, their attire. Skin tones range in everything from Edward Cullen levels of pale to Hershey’s chocolate levels of dark. The face customisation allows you to pick from a number of eyebrows, examples of facial hair and noses, along with other facial and hair variations for you to pick, as you do the best not to design the serial killer-looking version of yourself.

Personalities are no longer the hulking great decisions of balancing attribute points between 'sloppy’ and ‘neat freak’ or ‘shy’ and ‘outgoing’ and are instead replaced with the nine general choices Creative, Villain, Socialite, Rocker, Romantic, Introvert, Tycoon, Geek and Athlete. Plenty of choices there but not so helpful if you had plans of being a Tycoon by day, taking money from those who will willingly hand it over, and being a Villain by night, taking money from those who had wanted to keep it to themselves. Clothing options too are pared down, with players of The Sims Social being denied access to the custom clothing database that players of The Sims 2 and 3 can get pieces from, should the default options not take their fancy. Though, if you’ve always wanted to dress your character in a biker jacket, green bikini bottoms and boat shoes, you’ll be delighted.

Once you’ve imposed your real life self upon your virtual, Sims Social self (or hit random/made up a totally original person, choice is the biggest feature of this game, after all) you are whisked off to see your newest place of residence : Littlehaven. At this point you are introduced to the real meat of the game.

Just like the larger, on-disc versions of The Sims, The Sims Social focuses on the happiness and wellbeing of your Sim, with red icons indicating a ‘Troubled Sim’ and all green indicating an ‘ Inspired Sim’. Using the utilities in your newly accquired Littlehaven home, you must cater to the six of your Sim’s needs – Hunger, Bladder, Fun, Hygeine, Social, Sleep etc. To keep up these levels, you must carry out various tasks. These range from the simple use of the toilet, which would obviously sort out the bladder section of your Sims’ mindset, to playing guitar, something that for a creative Sim, would be both satisfying to the fun level as well as boosting a skill level. These can be done by clicking on the place of the activity, e.g the toilet and selecting an activity from the selections that pop up, e.g use the toilet. An easy way of doing things in a game that lets your control the world.

While completing those small feats is useful for boosting the need levels and the skill levels (of which I shall explain shortly), carrying them out also rewards you with a handful of Sims Social currencies. One of these currencies is XP, required for levelling up – XP can be gained by doing almost anything that is relevant to your Sim, be it getting a snack or the aformentioned playing a guitar. Another of these currencies is Social Points. In Sims Social, speaking to your neighbours and being sociable is quite literally the name of the game – you are rewarded for chatting in the gibberish-like babblings of Simlish with your Littlehaven neighbours as you visit the other Sims Social players on your Facebook friends list – but you needn't worry if your friends haven't begun playing Sims Social, you can visit the default neighbour ‘Bella Goth’ (a nod to the famous Goth family who have featured in several Sims games) to converse, bother and literally have a boogie with as you begin your plight to make an AI controlled friend. Simoleons are another currency, these fictional coins making a return in The Sims Social having previously been a staple in the other Sims games. Simoleons are coins of fake money, basically. You need them to buy things such as decorations and furniture for your Sims’ home. There’s also energy. Now energy is only used up when you do certain things. For example, unpacking boxes won’t use up any energy pips whatsoever but picking strawberries will, however the game hovers a little icon over the activity informing you so there’ll be fairly few incidents of accidental energy wasting if you’re careful! The final Sims Social currency, before I go on to explain what on Earth a ‘skill level’ is, is SimCash. Whereas Simoleons are relatively easy to come by, SimCash is the premium money, and it’ll cost you. Quite literally. You, yourself (you, the player, not you, the Sim) will have to pay for this from your own wallet. You don’t have to pay through the nose for it, and it can even be accumulated by signing up for sepcial, sponsored offers that are promoted in the space outside the game window, though if you want to be able to afford special in-game items to spruce up your decorum or boost your energy levels, you’ll want to add to the deafult levels of SimCash that EA automatically give you when you play The Sims Social by forking out the cash for it.

Another way for you to pick up some extra Simoleons is by taking advantage of the game's career options. You pick a career out of three offered selections (which are dependent on what character trait you decided upon earlier) and then select a task out of a myriad of choices. These can range from lowly tasks that take up to 5 minutes of real life time or the whopping great feats that will take an entire 2 days to finish. These run in the background and your Sim 'goes to work' in The Sims Social almost in their mind, as you can still have them do things and deal with their other needs as the job process is on the go. You can go back and pick up your 'paycheck' (which provides you with Simoleons, XP and separate job points) at any time though there are are bonuses for being relatively on time. As for those job points, you can maximise your earnings by getting a promotion, which can be acquired by completing job tasks and levelling up at work (separate form levelling up your Sim in general). It will take you a while to get anywhere on your chosen career path but, as is the case with everything in The Sims Social, it's optional.

Now, on to skill levels! On top of all of that currency you’ll be accumulating, some tasks, that are a little bit relevant to the trait you picked at the beinging of the game (Creative, Villain, Rcoker etc.) will increase youtr Sims’ proficency at that thing. So, playing more guitar aids your guitar and song composing ability and if your Sim is of the Creative or Rocker types, they will naturally gravitate to that and event want to do that on their own. However, any Sim of any trait can carry out skill tasks and get better at them, no matter if they prefer robbing people blind to writing novels, they can still potentially excel at either, should you wish to push them in that direction!

When you’re not trying to understand what peculiar phrases your Simlish speaking character is saying, or trying to figure out why there is a tiny underpant-wearing bull in your garden (one day in and I haven’t figured that one out either), you can take on some quests. In the beginning, they start off as miniscule as you could possibly get, with the “Beautify Your Garden” quest quite literally being as easy as taking a flower patch form your inventory and placing it. Eventually, the quests will work themselves up to a such a difficulty that theycannot be completed without the aid of your friends, who you will no doubt coerse into playing Sims Social by begging them to provide you with rocks and other such miscellanous items to finish one mission or another. There’s also the craft collection quests, in which you must collect special items in order to craft something greater – you can either find these items or persuade your friends to send you them. It’s these missions that put the real life ‘social’ into the game’s name, you are actively encouraged to bring in new players to the game on one hand, but on the other, you’ll find yourself slightly giddy and worryingly enthusiastic as you discuss the game with those on your friends list who too have experienced the same Sims-related dramas (namely watching your Sim relieve themselves on the floor or crashing from exhastion).

I think that it’s the talking point aspect of Sims Social that shows how much The Sims franchise has grown up. Yes, The Sims games have always featured those water cooler moments but The Sims Social takes that to all new highs, perfectly capturing the essence of The Sims in a new age where people would rather post their antics as a Facebook status than stand around an actual water cooler.

It’s for that reason that The Sims Social gets a 9. One point away from a flawless score, this is The Sims repackaged and reskinned for a new generation, getting everything its slightly less socal media savvy brethren have yet to even think about. The game is only held back by the frustrating loading times and that it has the occasional tendency to crash your browser. While the former do not plague every inch of the game, they hold back enough of it to make you wonder if EA shouldn’t have tried to stuff so much of the big Sims games into this little, tiny, social package.

If you have time, a love of feeling omnipotent and just a smidgeon of patience, The Sims Social will become one of the best titles in your Facebook games roster.

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