The 2017 CGMagazine Buyers’ guide is here! With guides to help you make the purchases for people on your holiday wishlist and selections of the best products of the year, this is an indispensable resource for the shopping season.
Inside, you’ll find:
Best of 2017: Action Game
Best of 2017: Platformer
Best of 2017: Simulation Game
Best of 2017: Puzzle and Rhythm Games
Best of 2017: RPG
Best of 2017: Horror Game
Best of 2017: Fighting Game
Best of 2017: Strategy Game
Best of 2017: Racing Game
Best of 2017: Sports Game
Best of 2017: Adventure/Visual Novel games
Best of 2017: Hardware
Best of 2017: Comics
Best of 2017: Movies
As usual, this month’s issue is packed with exciting features, including an exclusive interview with Naoki “Yoshi P” Yoshida and the team behind Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood and their take on why now is a better time than ever to join the fight for Eorza.
I never really got into The Sims. I played the original way back in the day when it was released on the Gamecube, but I think I spent more time building a really cool house with the unlimited money cheat than actually playing the game. I thought MySims was kind of cute on the Wii, but other than that the series never really hooked me.
I just never saw the appeal of playing a game that tried to emulate the monotony of daily life, at least not without some kind of hook. Sure, Animal Crossing’s bread and butter is basically the monotony of everyday life, but at least that game lets you hang out with a talking cat in a Power Rangers helmet.
Going into The Sims 4, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It’s been so long and there have been so many entries into The Sims franchise; who knew how much content could be packed into the 4th and most modern game? Unfortunately, what I got was a testament to tedium; I know The Sims has a pretty big fanbase, but playing this only made me question why.
From a gameplay perspective, The Sims 4 is about the same as I remember. You make a Sim, build a house, furnish it with the essentials and a few recreational items and then watch your Sim take part in the daily grind, repeatedly reminding it to eat, sleep, poop, and bathe. You get your Sim a job, help it to make friends, find love, all that fun stuff. And while I can see why theoretically that can be enjoyable to some people—and I’ll admit there is a certain addictiveness to it—what it boiled down to for me was a game about watching bars go down, and having to make sure they go back up.
That’s it. The Sims are the most needy creatures in video game history, and far beyond basic abilities such as eating when they need to, or going to the bathroom without your constant instruction. Managing one was beyond annoying, and got worse when my Sim had his girlfriend move in with him, and now I had to manage two of these complete buffoons. And beyond the basic necessity bars, the Sims have emotional quantifiers, so a hard day at work would make them stressed out and I would have to spend time I could’ve been using to better my Sim to calm him down with baths and venting to his girlfriend.
But the real problem with The Sims 4 on PS4 is how poorly optimized it is for console. It reeks of a game that takes the same interface as its PC counterpart and just slaps it on a controller. Icons are mapped to the corners of the screen, moving the joystick will cycle between them one by one like a badly designed NES password screen. Clicking the touchpad will shift you to “mouse mode” but the control of the mouse is pathetic, picking up a crazy amount of momentum at any prolonged hold and swinging wildly out of control. Menus and sub-menus are tedious to navigate—again, you can see how this would’ve worked had you had a mouse with proper control, but on a PS4 controller it’s an absolute chore.
And while this isn’t so bad while you’re playing the game proper, it’s beyond frustrating when trying to build anything in The Sims 4. Which is to say nothing of the pathetic camera controls while building; how walls and items swing out of place when turning the camera, the two camera angles you get that range from a slight 45 degree angle to Bird’s Eye View. How you need to click out of every menu if you want to undo or redo any action. My whole neighborhood consists of one single house, because I couldn’t fathom trying to build an entire community with these controls.
And The Sims 4 runs pretty pathetically too. It was particularly bad while in the “Build Mode; ”after building a pretty small house and putting, honestly only a few items into it, it began chugging at 10 frames per second and there were a few moments in the “Life Mode” where began to seize up. Shifting from the “Life Mode” to the “Build Mode” chugged so hard I honestly held my breath in anticipation of a crash. Sure the game looks fine, characters have a cartoonish style that removes them from reality and adds to the silliness of the whole Sims affair, and the music and sound quality isn’t bad, but that’s about it.
Oh and it’s definitely worth mentioning all the DLC that comes with The Sims 4, and by “comes with this game” I mean, EA allowing you the privilege to purchase DLC for a three-year-old game that is being re-released on consoles. This includes the $54 CDN “City Living Pack,” the $27 CDN “Vampire Pack”, and the $14 CDN “Vintage Glamor Pack.” One extra area, some costumes and “abilities” that you’re expected to buy again, to say nothing of the $80 CDN “Deluxe Party Edition” that doesn’t even come with any of these expansion packs.
Like I said, I know The Sims has its fans, and I could probably see why. Like Harvest Moonor Animal Crossing, there’s a certain amount of joy you get from creating something and watching it flourish. But I personally cannot understand the appeal. At the end of the day, it’s a game about watching bars deplete and then fill up with a half-decent house building minigame built in. Maybe I’d have enjoyed The Sims 4 more on PC, and maybe you would too. Skip this one.
In a move that could be interpreted as either a cynical attempt to garner goodwill from consumers, or a genuine gesture made in the spirit of Christmas, Electronic Arts has released a free update for The Sims 4 that, appropriately, is about the holidays. In addition to some new career options, including business and athletic careers, Sims can now enjoy paid time off, as well as family leave options when a new Sim is born into the house hold. Of course, this being December, there’s also a free holiday pack that includes the expected decorations and tasteless sweaters that are part and parcel of the Christmas family experience.
All of this comes on the heels of the previous free update that added the option to build in swimming pools—and subsequently drown Sims in them, a rite of passage for any Sims player. It looks like by degrees, EA and Maxis are addressing the criticisms many had of the base game, and they’re doing it for free. So far. It’ll be interesting to see just how much added content the first inevitable expansion offers when it finally debuts, but for now, EA is giving your Sims free stuff. Go get it.
On this week’s CGM podcast, Ragnar Tornquist and Red Thread games try to run a contest for music fans to donate a tune to their game… and get shut down by angry musicians claiming they are exploiting artists. Supergirl might actually be getting a TV show, but the logistics of networks, licensing and who gets to broadcast what make it dicey. Also, people might not be all that hot on Kara Zor-El anyway. Finally, Destiny is out, and it’s good! Not change your life forever good, but pretty good!
Time To Start Drowning Sims In Pools Aga-… Oh, Wait, No?!
It’s that time again, when the creative and the sadistic all come together to create new people, relationships and families in politically correct, ethnically diverse suburban paradises… and then proceed to torture them into lunacy or nudge them towards success. Five years, 11 expansion packs, eight stuff packs, six world packs and $550 later, The Sims 3 finally walks off into the sunset and welcomes The Sims 4 into the neighborhood. There have been a lot of changes, and, for people that have been following the franchise dutifully since 2000, some of these changes are starting to feel both too familiar and unwelcome.
New Interface, Old Problems
There is no story in The Sims 4 because the whole point of this game—as it was for every previous title—is that you create your own person, or “Sim,” and then live out his, her or their lives, and just see what happens. The fun of a Sims game comes from the emergent situations, the randomness of your Sim’s AI colliding with that of other Sims in the game. Some players meticulously control the destiny of their Sim, creating the perfect, sculpted fantasy life that they never had in reality. Others simply derail their Sims entirely to see how bad their lives can get. Whichever way you play—especially if it’s in between—unexpected things happen, and that’s where the magic of The Sims shines.
“While it’s probably not a deliberate endorsement on EA’s part, incest, pedophilia and statutory rape are currently a normal part of gameplay.”
As to be expected from five years in the studio, the tech behind the latest game is impressive. The Sims 4 puts its best foot forward in the opening minutes. Players are in for a treat with a greatly improved character creation system that should be looked at as a new standard for user-friendliness by any game that features a protagonist created by the players. The mouse allows players to simply grab onto a cheek, nose, chin, eye, arm or ear and pull, push or distort as desired, rather than jumping to a jaw category, an eye category, then a cheek category and adjusting sliders to get what you want. The construction of the Sim home is similarly intuitive with the ability to drop a room, and then stretch and adjust the dimensions as desired. Even furnishing the rooms is easier now thanks to an Ikea-esque interface that shows off entire rooms with all the furnishing appropriate to that room.
Things go a bit south once you get into the actual gameplay, and that’s mostly down to the bewildering number of limitations encountered, and a cynical understanding of why those limitations are in place. The first thing players will notice as they go about the business of occupying their Sims lives is that there’s a lot less stuff to buy and use, especially compared to The Sims 3 in its current state. This is pretty understandable, as The Sims 3 has had 25 add-ons over the years. This also means that the severe drought of furniture, clothing and other items is shrewdly tied into getting players hungry for more expansions, priced at $20. So no, you’re not imagining it, there’s just not a lot of stuff in The Sims 4 because EA plans to charge you for that extra stuff later. This deliberate “gimping” of the game carries on into almost every aspect. Pets, as usual, are gone. Swimming pools have been removed as landscape options, and basements no longer exist. Even the ability to follow your Sim to work and see what he or she is up to has been wiped clean, and returned to the “base” or “vanilla” Sim state where they simply disappear for several hours and return home. All the progress that the expansions brought to Sims 3 has been undone for The Sims 4. At least until they start selling those same expansions again.
That’s not to say it’s all bad for The Sims 4. The core gameplay is still compulsively addictive as ever, even though it amounts essentially to a time management game. Some new mechanics, such as emotional states and “moodlets” add a bit more nuance to how the Sims behave and interact. And of course, new behaviors such as social media, smartphone dependence, and “selfies” are now all part of the Sims vocabulary of behavior. There are still a few things that need to be patched immediately, however. Children, for example, share the same emotional state as adults, and blood/genetic relations don’t appear to have been coded into behavior. So, while it’s probably not a deliberate endorsement on EA’s part, incest, pedophilia and statutory rape are currently a normal part of gameplay, though likely not part of the “weirdness” EA was marketing as a selling point of the game. Well, unless you’ve always wanted to sleep with your natural daughter, in which case, this is the game you’ve been waiting your whole life for. Until they patch it.
The easiest way to describe The Sims 4 is that it’s laid a great foundation for the expansions to follow. The base technology and interface are fantastic, but the limitations in content are severe. People who have gotten used to the massive array of activities, furnishing and clothing available for The Sims 3 are strongly advised to wait at least one or two expansions before diving into The Sims 4. The amount of content and gameplay you’ll feel has been “stripped away” will be shocking. When pets come, more locations, better career mechanics and a bunch of decent clothing and furniture inevitably arrive in two or three forthcoming expansions at $20 each, The Sims 4 will be worth it. Right now, it’s too hamstrung by EA’s need to make those expansions worthwhile to be a solid standalone title. If this is the first time you’ve ever played The Sims, it’s easier than ever to use, there’s just far less to do.