Magic comes to Sims 4 (finally)

Screenshot Sims 4 Realm of Magic - floating glowing book

One of the first magic perks I took was of course “Knowledge is magic”, which speeds up reading and research as well as gaining a small amount of wizardry experience points from these activities. (The magical anti-gravity boobies were none of my doing though – she was like this when I found her.)

This is not so much a traditional review as a reaction. I’ve only had the Sims 4 expansion¬†Realm of Magic for a couple days. I accidentally learned of it the day it came out, and the two first reviews I saw agreed that magic made the game too easy. And I was like “YES PLEASE! Let it be so!”

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I wanted to like Sims 4. After all, I loved the three previous games in the series, each more than the last. Sims 3 remained my go-to game during my limited play time up until City of Heroes: Homecoming happened this April. And Sims 4 was technologically superior to them all. I don’t think this was obvious to people who haven’t made software (or at least been educated to do so) but it did not take me long to be impressed by the design of this game. The game still runs smoothly on my 7 year old laptop, where it is installed on an external hard disk. Now if only it was fun! But unfortunately it is not. Or wasn’t until three days ago.

A big part of why I quickly went back to Sims 3 was that the newer game went back to the roots of the series with excessive focus on basic needs. Those were always present, but somehow it feels like they make up more of the game now than in Sims 3 and even Sims 2. I know this is a bit exaggerated, but this is how I remember my sims’ day:

Wake up. Pee. Eat. Briefly do something that puts you in the right mood before going to work. (This depends on the work, but could be playing chess, playing an instrument, or taking a shower.) Work. Eat. Pee. Shower (if you didn’t in the morning.) Scramble to fill fun and social needs before going to bed. Sleep.

What really adds insult to injury, is that jobs now require you to do very specific things to advance. Typically your work-related skills must reach a certain value, but also you are expected to do certain time-consuming work things on your spare time. If you are a programmer, for instance, you need high logic skills, but you also need to do X hours of coding on your spare time. If you are a writer, you have to write X number of books of a certain quality on your free time; but you still have to go to work, and whatever you do there, it neither produces books nor increases your skills. (Meetings, perhaps?)

Compare this to Sims 3, where the relevant skills decided your speed of advancement. If they were high, you added work experience faster. If they were horrifyingly low, you actually got negative work experience. In between was this large area where you might get a raise faster if you improved your skills, but it was a matter of degree. And many jobs had an option to spend part of your work hours improving the leading skill for your work (cooking for the culinary career, a musical instrument for the music career etc). It is hard to see Sims 4 as anything but a big leap backward both in realism and fun.

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So when I learned that the new expansion had a potion that would reset all the needs to max, I whipped out my credit card right quick. It is not like there aren’t many fun things to do in Sims 4, especially if you have a couple expansions already. The problem is finding time to do any of them when your sim takes 40 minutes to drink a glass of water. (I timed it. In all fairness, a sim hour is more like 1 minute real time, but then again they only live like 80 sim days or something. So no more water unless your life depends on it.)

Even with¬†Realm of Magic installed, it is not like you can just fire up the game and cast spells and drink potions. There is an uphill road to power, glory, and death by fiery explosion. Still, if you take the right path from the start, you should see useful results pretty quickly. I can tell you a couple helpful things about that! But we should probably come back to that in another entry. This was more of an opinion piece. Let me just say that in my opinion after two days of play, this expansion goes a long way toward redeeming the game. I won’t say it is better than Sims 3 yet, but it’s starting to become a serious contender.

Unless you like spending your weekends working, sleeping and peeing, and hate all things magical as well as goth clothes and stained-glass windows. In that case, stay away.

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