Family experience is the focus of the new Sims 3 expansion pack, dubbed Generations by EA. But while letting off stink bombs and egging houses definitely holds some appeal, readers may very well wonder what else is on offer - after all, the concept of generational gameplay was the basis for the game’s core experience. So how new are the goods in this expansion pack really?
For starters, the best part of Generations is that the toddler, child, and teen stages have been given a lot more attention, which means they are a lot more fun to play now. Toddlers and children have tons of new toys, from see-saws to sand pits, to a dress-up trunk and a massive treetop playhouse. What’s more, the adult world has opened up for child exploration, with new ‘imaginative play’ options. Kids can now go on a submarine adventure in the bathtub, hold court at the dinner table, and host tea parties for their stuffed animals. There are also new interactions with adults (and elders), the nicest of which is to be read bedtime stories before going to sleep.
Some babies, when they are born, can be sent a special toy that they carry around with them for all of their young lives. Depending on how much they play with these toys, at some point during childhood the toy can morph into a ‘real’ imaginary friend that the child can interact with like any other person - only no-one else can see the friend but the Sim child. There are ways to bring this imaginary friend to life - to get him or her to join your Sims’ family - but you don’t want me to give away all the game’s secrets, do you?
The teen stage has certainly become a lot more true to life, a welcome improvement compared to the fairly bland teen stage established in the core game. Teens can now really act up - throw parties when their parents are away, have slumber parties, learn to drive, and go to their prom. From time to time, they also wake up to a mood swing, where all their wants are based on being generally contrary and grumpy with everyone around them.
But teenagers aren’t the only ones who can wake up on the wrong side of the bed; when young adults become adults they go through a mid-life crisis, with dreams of doing things to make them feel young again. During this time they want to get fit, get makeovers, new cars, and spend heaps of money on house renovations. Granting them the opportunity to pursue these midlife wishes gives them a good happiness boost, but you can’t cancel these promises once you have locked them in, and then it’s a race against time to complete them before the mid-life crisis ends.
Aside from all of the age-related activities and objects, the main new addition to the game is that of memories. At various points in the game, when Sims experience new things, such as a first kiss, or improving skills, they’ll be prompted to add a snapshot of that event to their scrapbook. You can then upload your Sims’ memories to your sims3.com or Facebook accounts. While it’s cool to build up a bank of memories, the number of prompts can sometimes get overwhelming. Luckily you can switch these off if you’d prefer (in the game options menu).
Other favourite new features include: new body hair options, the ability to be able to mute the TV, the new romance reputation, releasing frogs from the biology classroom, spiral staircases, and the return of the chemistry table (and potions you can leave about the place for unsuspecting Sims to drink). Sims can now also use movie cameras to record major moments in their lives, which they can then re-watch on their TVs at home.
Although the new profession of Daycare Worker fits in with the Generations theme, I found it to be a fairly horrifying way for my Sim to spend her time. After all, it’s tough enough with just one (Sim) child at home! Plus to make things worse, as your Sim gains profession levels, more and more kids get dropped off at their house to be looked after. Still, if parents are happy with the care of their little darlings, they’ll pay your Sim extra money, or even give them presents to say thanks.
All up, though Generations hook is slightly more tenuous than previous titles (Generations’ features read as more of a goody bag of fan-wants than a cohesive module), you can’t argue that all the new features make for a much more interesting game. Sure, there’s new life experiences, a new profession to try, a new creature, and even new houses and community lots to add to your existing neighbourhoods, but in many ways the integration of these new features feels more subtle than the “hey, look at me, I’m new!” feel of previous expansion packs. What it does bring instead, is a new refinement to the gameplay. It brings new humour, new methods of interaction, and a much more fleshed-out portrayal of personality for your Sims. In fact, it can be argued that this is the desert-island expansion pack; the pack you’d choose if you could only pick one. If you own the Sims 3 you need to buy Generations.