Five months after the new-feel Sims 4 landed on our shores, the first Game Pack has been released. While the slow drip-feed of updates to the base game with objects like pools and ghosts helped keep things interesting, it was definitely time for some new content. Enter Outdoor Retreat, a camping-themed Game Pack for the Sims 4.
We're not calling them Expansion Packs anymore. While I can't pinpoint exactly what the difference is between the two, the Sims 4 webpage defines the Game Pack as a release of new gameplay features, objects and clothes that all relate to a particular theme.
In this case, camping.
We can't camp without an outdoors, and so Outdoor Retreat introduces a new area called Granite Falls. But hang on, Sims can't just wander off to Granite Falls willy-nilly! Sims with jobs first need to make sure they have enough vacation days to support a trip into the woods (or they might not have a job waiting for them when they get home). Then it's just a matter of using the phone or computer to choose the Vacation option.
Granite Falls has a couple of different areas, with a "landing zone" consisting of different places where Sims can stay. They can choose from a campground (that will still set them back $111 a night!) or a more expensive rental house with fancier facilities. Be warned, if your Sim chooses to camp they'll still need to purchase a tent, as well as other sundry items like a cooler and camping light. This camping area really does feel like a big neighborhood with lots of socialisation options and a fair share of hotties and weirdoes wandering around. There will also be Sims dressed in bear costumes. In the woods. If one of these is your Sim, don’t expect other Sims to like you if you do this.
There's a reasonable amount of stuff to do in Granite Falls, including meeting other vacationers, hunting for wild plants and bugs, fishing, throwing horseshoes and lighting fires. There's a friendly (*too* friendly?) Park Ranger who will tell you all about things you can do in the area, and even a Deep Woods area and resident hermit to search for.
Your Sims will enjoy playing the guitar 'round the campfire, roasting marshmallows (and beetles), hiking, and developing their herbalism skill. Herbalism is a pretty cool new skill that lets Sims identify unknown plants they find in the wild, and make potions from them. It's interesting as a skill, but I wonder in the long term if it will be enough to keep Sims returning again and again to search for elusive wild plants.
This camping area really does feel like a big neighborhood with lots of socialisation options and a fair share of hotties and weirdoes wandering around.
Of course your camping Sims will need new outdoorsy clothes, and lots of furniture, most of it in plaid and rustic wood, so they can outfit their homes like a 50s-era hunting lodge. My Sims enjoyed making their trailer park house feel like they were really roughing it, with Ghost Dad even having to sleep outdoors in the tent after he came back from the dead. Another very cool perk of using a tent is that your Sim can basically "set up camp" anywhere they like, including other Sims' houses and public spaces - perfect if you are playing a family of hobos or starting a particularly tricky Legacy gameplay run.
All of these new features of Outdoor Retreat make it a solid first addition to the core Sims 4 game, though it does feel smaller in scope to the Sims 3 expansion packs we are all familiar with. But at $40 NZD I don't know if the price is pushing it a bit for what we get. The new content is certainly welcome, but how much replay value the new area will generate still remains to be seen. In any case, the ability to crash your obnoxious Sim, permanently, at anyone's fancy digs is never going to get old.