Last time I talked about the Sims, it was maybe not in the most positive or optimistic of lights. It seemed like the game was stuck in a rut that I wasn’t sure it would ever be able to struggle its way out of.
And yet… things have changed since that post. Since I wrote about EA’s greed ruining a franchise I loved, huge news dropped regarding the newest expansion… one Sims fans have been asking for for a long time. Seasons.
It’s out now and… boy is it good. It’s good enough that it makes me feel better about this franchise’s future… and that’s really saying something, considering how the popular theory in the Sims fandom not too long ago was that Sims 4 was on its way out.
How did one expansion turn the fandom’s opinion around so totally? Well… it’s a lot of factors, from the quality of the expansion itself, to the context surrounding it, to the way it was advertised and released.
The Expansion Itself
I wanna start with this because I think it’s the most important. No amount of good PR for a below-average expansion could have saved the Sims from the My First Pet Stuff debacle, in my opinion. And though packs came out after MFPS that were good (I have since gotten Jungle Adventures and actually really enjoyed it), these packs still had that problem of nicheness. Sims needed a pack that would appeal to a broad range of simmers, and affect the game enough that it couldn’t be brushed off as a waste of money.
It also, of course, had to be good. And Seasons is really, really good.
Let’s start off with a little info on what I, personally, like to see in a Sims expansion. Ideally, expansions should have the most game-changing content of the three types of DLC for this game. That means they should have a broad assortment of new CAS items, new objects, and new gameplay. I also think the best expansions have broad appeal – that is, no matter what type of simmer you are, you can find something to enjoy in the new content. And finally, I feel as though expansions especially should really change how the game runs and improve upon the game to a degree that playing the game without that expansion would be markedly different.
I was very impressed with both the CAS and object selections from this new pack. We got a nice look at the new CAS items in the livestream, and then and now I was struck by how diverse the new clothing and hairstyles look. It’s clear the Sims team has been working hard on making their textures look more unique and realistic than ever. I like how the clothing items all have many color options and all look like something people would wear in real life.
Also, I have to give props to the new hairstyles in particular. The Sims team has commented that they’ve been working to make the Sims 4 more diverse and inclusive, and this pack’s focus on textured hairs really puts their money where their mouth is. The new hairstyles are gorgeous, and are different than anything I’ve ever seen from this series, and is a nice step forward toward more inclusivity. I hope the team continues to add content like this to the game.
The bulidmode objects are chock full of fun new decorations for all the holidays, which is something I, as a person who loves realism in their game, really appreciate. I can see people who wouldn’t be as excited about these as I am, because it may seem like a hassle to decorate your sim’s house for each new holiday and season, but for people who love to get into the weeds of all that detail, it’s a welcome addition. Plus, most of the decorations are versatile, with swatches for as many holidays and seasons as I can think of.
Discussion of decorations, though, leads me right into the gameplay features of this new pack. And there’s a lot of good stuff here.
On the subject of decor, I have to commend the attic box decoration feature. While I loved Sims 3 Seasons, one of the more annoying aspects of it was the lack of customization available for exteriors of houses, and how what customization there was was a really huge hassle to mess around with. Sims 4 has found a slick way to make exterior decoration much easier and more engaging, with a surprisingly dense selection of different decorations that are applied easily to the outside of sims’ houses. I also love how other houses in the neighborhood also decorate for each holiday… it really adds to the realism and makes the world feel connected, even if it’s not open.
Moving onto those holidays, though, huge props for making the giant improvement to allow players to create their own holidays. This is a feature I immediately wanted to use as soon as I got my hands on it, and it’s just so intuitive, versatile, and fun that I can’t imagine a Seasons pack without it.
The calendar function is useful for more than just these holidays, though. I absolutely adore the option to plan parties in advance – before, my sims rarely threw parties just because it was weird that you had to plan them the day of. Now, it’s easy to just throw a party out a few days before it happens, giving the player a chance to plan and prepare.
Weather is also a huge addition to the game, and it’s as gorgeous as I expected. I love how dramatic the weather can be – from huge blasts of lighting to vicious blizzards. Plus, it adds an element of risk to the game I haven’t seen anywhere except maybe in Jungle Adventure, because the weather actually is quite dangerous for your sims. Sending them out into the cold without the proper gear or letting them just run around outside during a storm puts their lives actually at risk, just like in real life, and there are moodlets to reflect that. I like that this pack adds stakes to decisions, and makes it so a player can’t just run around willy-nilly without any consequence.
Every season feels distinct and different from each other, and the weather is a big factor in that. Even summer, which is more or less the “default” season that the base game was stuck in eternally before this pack came out, feels different, with heat waves and bright colors that make it distinct from the darkness of fall and winter. And I’m not sure if this is true but it seems to me that the team also put hard work into retexturing the sky… I got this beautiful screenshot of Brindleton Bay in fall as soon as I booted up the game with Seasons for the first time, and I don’t remember the moon ever looking so bright and beautiful with this game.
There’s a lot more to discuss in the gameplay, but I feel like I’d be repeating myself. Seasons seems to have touched every part of this game, to the point where everything feels new and exciting, and the level of realism has really been dialed up. I also love the changes to gardening and the scarecrow feature and scouting and the new objects sims can interact with and… if I praised everything I liked, we’d be here all day.
And I do want to touch a bit on the context surrounding this game, and its popular reception within the fandom, because I think that is another thing that set this expansion apart from the others.
Seasons was the first expansion pack for the Sims 4 I’ve felt legitimate excitement for. And that’s… huge. If you read my last post about my disappointment with how EA was treating the expansions in TS4, you’ll know that that’s huge for me. And while the expansion itself is great and that helped, I also can’t help but think that how the expansion was revealed to the fandom, and what was different about the marketing, did help.
First of all, it’s good to know that Seasons has been asked for for a long, long time. Seasons was one of the most popular expansions from both Sims 2 and Sims 3, and so people were clamoring for it for Sims 4 as well, basically as soon as the base game came out. But after much of the negativity that came along with My First Pet Stuff, I saw a lot of people joking that instead of a full Seasons pack, we’d be getting split gamepacks for each season or something to that effect.
But then, suddenly, with really only a bit of warning, the trailer dropped. And suddenly the mood in the fandom was like night and day. Suddenly, people were excited about this game again. It was cautious, in some cases, but the game just looked so good in the trailer, and most importantly, the announcement came only a month before the release date.
In a lot of ways, I think this was a huge positive for the reception of Seasons. Giving the fandom less time to speculate and tear the information we had to shreds before the actual expansion dropped and keeping that time dense with livestreams and gurus answering questions on Twitter. This kept excitement high and harsh critique to a low.
I think that overall improved the fans’ overall perception of this game pack. It was a sudden surprise, which is exciting, and the short month between the surprise and the actual drop of the pack was filled with even more exciting reveals. What disappointments there were (major ones I can think of only being the lack of snow depth and the lack of a new world), were overall not that big of a deal to most of the people I saw discussing the pack, and more often than not the tone was excitement.
And that coming from a group of fans that not too long ago was griping over a dying game series spitting out bad packs no one really wanted is a huge step forward. And this expansion, with everything its brought along with it, has really reinvigorated my love for this series, and made me hopeful for where it’s going to go in the next few years.
I’m so happy to be able to say that.