Reviewed: April 21, 2011
Released: March 22, 2011
MAC OS X Requirements
As a longtime reviewer and fan of The Sims franchise, Iíve played just about every incarnation of the series and enjoyed most of its many expansions. Even as much as I love The Sims, though, even I have to admit that I was beginning to wonder if the developers had begun running out of interesting new ideas for our favorite human life simulator. Fortunately though, for those of you who had the same suspicions I first had, |
The Sims Medieval is more than just a sword-and-sorcery re-skin of The Sims 3 and provides a refreshing taste of future possibilities for the series.
The Sims Medieval experiments with a combination of features from The Sims 3, the roleplaying genre, and a kingdom simulation game with mixed, though generally positive, results. For starters, The Sims Medieval is a much more linear gameóat least at first, but more on that lateróand involves building a kingdom from the ground up. Unlike the entirely open-ended The Sims 3, The Sims Medieval is almost entirely achievement and quest-based. In fact, youíll find that you canít play with your Sims unless youíre on a specific quest, and even then, only one Hero Sim can be played at one time. At any given moment, youíll only be in control of your kingdomís Monarch, Knight, Spy, Wizard, Physician, Blacksmith, Bard, Merchant, Peteran Priest, or Jacoban Priest. Moreover, you canít start a quest without spending finite Quest Points, which are earned through completing Achievements (in-game milestones) and Ambitions (your kingdom goal chosen when that kingdom is created). Later in the game, some strategizing is sometimes needed for the best return.
If youíre an old hand at the Sims games, itís possible you might be reading all of this with marked distasteóand frankly, if thatís the case, this might not be the game for you. In fact, if youíve played the World Adventures expansion and absolutely hated the quest system, this might not be the game for you, since The Sims Medieval mostly revolves around exploring and completing preset quest objectives. The game allows for different approaches to every quest, usually depending on the Heroes you have available to choose from, but the steps for each approach are predetermined.
Thatís not to say that players donít have some latitude in between quest objectives. You can still fit in a lot of freeform Simming in between tasks, like fishing, collecting herbs, cooking, practicing skills, wooing another Sim, or even having a family. Unfortunately, though, you canít drag your toes too much, or your quest performance will degrade and earn you fewer rewards (like loot, Resource Points for building your kingdom, and experience points for your Hero). The same may not be true for everyone, but it put a bit of a damper on my laidback approach. Later on, though, after you complete a kingdomís Ambition, that kingdom will be open for classic open-ended Sims gameplay.
The Sims Medieval has some other familiar features from The Sims 3. Hero Sims, for instance, can be customized in just about as much minute detail as their modern counterparts (except for glasses and makeup, which probably havenít been invented yet in the Middle Ages), down to the height of the nose or size of the jaw. Clothing and furniture is also fully customizable much in the same manner as in The Sims 3, allowing players to choose textures and colors.
In terms of life simulation, The Sims Medieval gameplay has been somewhat simplified. There is no aging system, so though your Sims can have children, they will remain children forever. Hero Simsí personalities have been simplified to two traits and one fatal flaw. These donít seem to impact gameplay too heavily, but itís kind of amusing when your Bloodthirsty Sim randomly punches someone out. Youíll also find that Medieval Sims only have two needs (hunger and energy)óeverything else has been boiled down into mood-affecting status effects. Thatís right; youíll never have to watch your Sim use ye olde chamber pot again. Still, taking care of those invisible needs seems to raise Simsí Focus, increasing their chances of success with tasks.
The Sims Medieval introduces some potentially intriguing other features, as well. For instance, Monarchs can pass Edicts that require votes from various domestic administrators and foreign dignitaries, and getting people to vote your way often requires some schmoozing. Passing edicts and holding court can affect the state of the kingdom, including foreign relations. In turn, good foreign relations can actually affect your options in the game, since other kingdoms might provide certain resources or unlock recipes as a result of trade. Given all the choices available to play a benevolent ruler or tyrant, peaceable neighbor or conqueror, thereís really more to The Sims Medieval than first meets the eye.
Of course, The Sims Medieval also has its flaws. As of the time of this writing, despite a patch, Sims still get stuck when path-finding, and the more limited camera can be problematic. Iíve also found a few glitches that prevented me from fulfilling certain Hero responsibilities. Additionally, you wonít find any lot-buying or home-building in this game, so folks who most enjoyed that aspect of The Sims 3 will be disappointed. (You can, however, select the dťcor style of the throne room and festoon the predesigned buildings to your heartís content with medieval-themed furniture.) It would have also been nice to have the option to save the game during the somewhat lengthy tutorial.
In any case, The Sims Medieval is beautifully presented, with a pleasantly bardic soundtrack and an attractive art style featuring comic book-like ink illustrations and hand-painted-looking textures. The endearing humor of the original games is also intact in this incarnation. There were times I couldnít help but laughólike when a nurse threw leeches in my kingís face, or when my wizard smacked himself in the face with a staff to forget a spell. Tying it all together is an easy-to-use interface that somehow manages to be sleekly modern and quaintly medieval at the same time.
At the middling suggested retail price of $49.99, the game provides potentially endless hours of entertainment (if you enjoy sandbox games), and even playing through the Ambitions will take quite a few hours. As with previous Sims base games, it feels as though some features were held back in The Sims Medieval, but Iíd wager that weíll see them in a future add-on.
In summary, The Sims Medieval provides an unexpected jumpstart to a series that, while still well loved, was probably due for a refresher. The condensed, more directed gameplay might be hit or miss with Sims veterans and might be different enough from previous Sims games to attract a different demographic. While itís not perfect, however, The Sims Medieval plays well and introduces many new features and exploration options alongside the familiar, all delivered in an attractive package.