The first of The Sims 3 expansion packs has finally hit the shelves. And after the core title was released to ecstatic reception (Sims fans are passionate creatures) expectations for this first expansion pack have been sky-high. Simmers spoke wistfully of favourite past expansions, including Pets, Makin’ Magic and Bon Voyage, while others hoped desperately that they wouldn’t have to go back to University (or Open for Business). Just what aspect of life were we about to see represented in the Sims 3 universe?
The red curtains parted, and we were presented with: World Adventures.
Now before you think this has all been done before (after all, Sims 1 had Vacation, and Sims 2 had Bon Voyage), let me stop you right there. World Adventures isn’t just about throwing axes or befrending bigfoot (though he made an excellent maid/babysitter, truth be told) and looking at new scenery or a whole load of NPCs with foreign-sounding names.
Sure, you can send your Sim to China, Egypt or France, and just let them potter around, seeing the sights, meeting the locals and finding out about their customs. But that is only one tiny part of what this expansion pack is all about. When a Sim arrives in a new country, they can take a look at a job board posted outside their home base, and accept missions, much like the opportunities they get back at home. By completing missions, Sims might get paid money, or have their relationship with another Sim improve. They also get all-important visa points, which contribute to a Sim’s overall visa level for that country.
Your Sim’s visa level determines how long they can stay in a country, but it has some other benefits too. Sims with a level-three visa, for example, can purchase a holiday home in that country, and they can buy extra special goods from a particular vendor in that city’s market.
While many of the missions include your standard ‘fetch this, speak to so-and-so’ tasks, the majority of quests involve actual adventuring in tombs and secret areas. As your Sim makes his or her way through a tomb, they will search for secret passageways, clear rubble, and solve puzzles to unlock doors or disarm traps. Some of the treasure they find can simply be sold, but in other cases, your Sim will collect pieces of a sarcophagus, or dive well, that they can reconstruct back at home. Nothing says “I’m a real adventurer,” like a set of sarcophagi outside the front of one’s house. While tomb exploration itself isn’t overly difficult, the design of the different tombs is extremely well done, which makes for an enjoyable experience. Some tombs are straightforward, while others will take days to fully explore.
While that’s the core of the game, tomb exploration and treasure collection is really only the beginning of World Adventures. The expansion brings, in addition to the three new cities to visit, new traits, skills and lifetime rewards. The traits, Photographer’s Eye, and Disciplined, relate to two of the new skills: photography and sim-fu. And the third trait, Adventurous, is a good one for anyone who’s interested in doing a lot of travelling.
The photography skill has been really well thought-out this time around. (If anyone can remember this skill from the Sims 2, it was pretty ho-hum). As Sims improve with their skill they can take different types of photos, and apply different filters to their shots. They can hang their photos on their walls, and reminisce about past trips, or sell them for some pretty good cash. There are different types of cameras available to buy, and also books on photography as well.
Sims who travel to Shang Simla in China may get the opportunity to learn martial arts. As they study this ancient discipline, Sims work their way through a series of belts, as they learn to train on a practice dummy, or even break boards, spar with others, and enter tournaments in Shang Simla.
The third new skill in World Adventures is that of Nectar Making. Nectar is essentially the PG-version of wine, and gardening or foodie type Sims will absolutely love the new skill. There are loads of new grape varietals to harvest and grow, and a Nectar Press that Sims can use to press all sorts of different fruits, and make their own special drop. Those that seriously get into the finer points of the drink will choose to create a basement of their own where they can store and mature their nectar.
In addition to the new skills and traits, there are a heap of new lifetime rewards, including one that excuses your Sim from ever paying bills again, or another, No Jealousy, that will let your Sim flirt with anyone and not have to worry about the repercussions!
While the verdict is still out as to how the exploration aspect of the game will hold up with several run-throughs (it’s important to note that the tombs do not re-set within each game; in order to start over again you would need to create a new game) there is so much to like in this expansion, for me, I can’t see this being a problem. And unlike University, there is a lot from the expansion that threads through into every day life, even once the holiday is over. The three cities look incredible, each in their own unique way, right down to the region-specific music, and dress of the locals. And if all that wasn’t enough, collecting has been ratcheted up a few notches more as well.
We can’t forget the monster inclusion either! While Sims 3 gave us playable ghosts, World Adventures gives us the mummy. If you find one in a tomb, these guys can really mess you up (so don’t try with the small talk) – but if you find a special sarcophagus, you’ll be able to summon one to move in with you. If previous Sims titles have taught us anything, it’s to never expect the cliché; the first thing my summoned mummy did in his new incarnation, was to crank the French tunes and start boogieing with my guests.
It’s great to see that the Sims franchise still has a few surprises up its sleeves (can a franchise have sleeves? Don’t ask) and while some aspects of the expansion will be familiar to long-time fans, there is so much new material in here that players will have to spend a long time with the game before it starts to feel old. World Adventures brings an intriguing addition to the Sims game mechanic, some beautiful new locations and tons of great new material. Make sure this one’s on your Christmas wish list!