One of the big things EA has been talking about with regards to the latest iteration of their powerhouse series, The Sims, is the new Create A Sim mode. It’s been described by the publisher as “completely revolutionised,” as the “most powerful and intuitive Create A Sim ever.”
In order to see if it lives up to that benchmark, we took a demo of the new Create A Sim mode for a spin. While the label of “most powerful and intuitive” may technically be true, it does create a sense of grandiosity. It paints a picture of a completely new, never-before-seen approach to character creation that will change the gaming landscape.
What we have is something that, though an improvement on the formula, is not something I’d describe as “revolutionary.” It takes what’s there, keeps what works, and improves upon what doesn’t - which is all you want from a system that’s not broken to begin with, but I just can’t help but feel that the pre-release focus on this mode has set the bar higher than it can deliver, as good as it may be in its current state.
The most significant change is the abandoning of sliders to determine the sizes of various body parts. Instead, you simply ‘mouse over’ that part of the character, and click and drag to adjust it. For some aspects, like facial features and breasts, it works really nicely, because it lets you adjust positioning as well as size at the same time. For example, you can click and drag left and right on a female sim's boobs to adjust their size, while dragging up and down alters how high or low on the chest they fall.
For other features that can’t be moved around, like thighs and stomach, it’s functionally similar to older Create A Sims; adjusting the size is simply a case of dragging that body part in much the same way as you would a slider.
Unfortunately, there isn’t as much freedom with this as one might expect. Although you can alter each body part at will, you are still confined by limits set by the body type you’ve chosen, out of 10 odd static choices. If you’ve been designing a skinny Sim, but decide you want to give them a bit more of a presence, there’s only so much fatter you can make them by dragging out their stomach. To go any further, you’ll have to go back to the body type option and pick one of the larger defaults.
Aside from the way dimensions are handled, the new Create A Sim is more or less the same as what’s come before. You can customise outfits and hairstyles from a range of different options, and create a personality be selecting temperament, aspirations, and quirks. One neat feature though, is the ability to create a range of different default outfits for different activities; you can individually customise a Sim’s everyday clothes, sporting apparel, sleepwear, and others.
The one thing that really let me down with the demo was just how limited the options are beyond body shape. I’m not so much talking about the sheer number of each hairstyles or of each type of clothing, which are sure to be more plentiful in the full release - but of how heavily restricted everything is by gender.
All the options strictly conform to gender norms. If you want long hair on a male Sim, your best option is a shoulder-length shaggy do, while women get all manner of long, styled looks. The opposite is true for short haired options. Compare this to something like Mii Maker, which just gives a huge swathe of hairstyles that you can apply to any Mii, instead of a limited selection of “men’s hairstyles” and “women’s hairstyles.”
Tattoos and clothing colours are even worse. Men are limited to the likes of tribal armbands or sleeves and blacks, greys, and “boys colours” like blues and greens for clothing. Women, meanwhile, can enjoy floral tattoos or a cute dolphin on the ankle, and plenty of pinks and purples in their wardrobe. Being able to subvert these kind of norms is one of the best things about character customisation, so it’s a shame to see EA putting so many limitations in place for no apparent reason.
The new Create A Sim is definitely an improvement on what’s come before, and that’s something to be commended. But it’s more of a tweak of something that already works, rather than a reinvention of the wheel the way EA has been suggesting, so I can’t help but feel it will struggle to meet expectations.