Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Sims 3: World Adventures

I've been meaning to do this for a while. Let's talk The Sims 3: World Adventures.

It's not surprising that EA would put out an expansion pack for the Sims. That's where the money is and part of the reason why the Sims remains one of the top-selling game franchises for the past decade or so.

This one is a sort-of retread of previous expansions (namely Vacation and Bon Voyage) and allows your Sims to leave their homes and go on crazy adventures. Unlike the previous iterations, World Adventures includes three "real life" destinations, namely France, China, and Egypt (although I doubt anyone would ever find a place called Champs Les Sims, but I digress).

There's also the requisite new textures, furniture, and so on, plus three new skills for a Sim to learn (photography, "nectar" making, and martial arts. There aren't any new career tracks, which kind of surprised me since those are usually included as well.

Truth be told, there's not a lot to do at these destinations unless you want to go on the titular adventures (more on those in a bit). There's a general market for each new city, plus a few additional features (such as the nectary in France or the martial arts academy in China). You can certainly get to know the local Sims, go fishing, collect rocks and seeds, but that didn't hold a lot of appeal for me. What makes this expansion pack interesting is the tomb raiding.

That's right, each of the three destinations have numerous tombs scattered throughout. You can just plumb their depths right away, but I've found it a bit more satisfying to do the missions that accompany each one. Upon arriving at your destination, you arrive at a "base camp" with a mission bulletin board where local Sims post adventure requests. You can then accept the missions and go out to do them. This is actually an important part of the game, because how long you can stay in country is dependent on your visa level. The only way to increase that level is to earn visa points by doing the missions.

Some missions are easy: collect X number of Y and deliver them to Z. Others require you to go into the various tombs and retrieve certain objects or artifacts.

Ah, the tombs, where the game really shines. Inside the depths of these tombs, you find floor and wall traps that shoot darts or try to fry you. There are huge piles of rubble that need to be cleared away to expose treasure chests and hidden doors. There are relics galore to collect and keep. Some of them are fairly straight forward in terms of raiding. The worst seems to be Abu Simbel in Egypt. I'm pretty sure I botched that one when I cleared it, even though the game says I did fine.

Again, the focus on the expansion pack seems to be the tomb raiding, which is kind of an interesting twist to the franchise. It's not in the usual vein of life simulation and has an almost linear game-play feel to it. But it's kind of a nice change of pace. You certainly don't have to go raiding if you don't want to.

But there are benefits. Not only do you get lots of stuff that can be sold for lots of simoleans, you also can collect "epic" relics that, when gathered into one collection, give your Sim a nice mood bonus.

All that said, there are some serious bugs in the game, enough to really bother me about EA's quality control. I've had some experience with some of them. The game launcher will crash occasionally, although if I wait a few minutes, that problem resolves itself. More problematic is the strange relationship bug.

Let me tell you my story: before the expansion had come out, I had been playing with one family for a while. I really liked this crew and had some plans for where I wanted to take them even after the expansion was added. Small problem: once the expansion was added, I couldn't get their relationships to progress. They could become friends with other Sims, but those friendships couldn't progress to love or marriage or children (which is a small problem when you're trying to keep the game going).

From a quick search on the Sims 3 forums, I discovered this isn't a unique problem. A lot of players have run afoul of this bug. In my case, I was a bit frustrated because when I initially contacted EA about the problem, the tech support guy condescendingly suggested I was playing the game wrong and needed a game strategy guy to figure out what I was doing wrong. Um, no, this isn't my problem, buddy, it's yours.

The last I heard, EA is "working on it," whatever that means. Hopefully a future patch will resolve the issue. I did find a solution: I uninstalled my game and reinstalled everything and the problem seems to have been solved. But I shouldn't have had to do that.

Anyway, it's a fun addition, even with the bugs. Although if EA wants to fix those sometime soon, I certainly wouldn't object.

1 comment:

JCL said...

I ran into a similar bug that I was able to work around. I'm going to post what I figured out here, in case it is useful to others.

I had a female sim that was in love with a guy in China. Although the romantic interest meter was maxed out, the game would never offer the "go steady", "propose", or "marriage" options. I tried everything... Inviting him back home, turning him into a vampire, breaking up with other sims, having a baby -- nothing worked.

Then, on a trip to China, I noticed in the family tree view that there was a strange Chinese sim next to mine with the same last name but a Chinese first name ("Chen") -- and they had a Chinese son with the same last name as well. Of course, the only lot on the map with my sim's last name was the Home Base, but there was no sign of these strange sims there. But that explained why my sim was unable to go steady with her Chinese boyfriend: as far as the game was concerned, she was already married!

I managed to fix the situation by having my sim invite her boyfriend to move in with her during a trip to China. Then, once they returned from the trip, I took control of the boyfriend, who eventually had the option of asking her to break up with "Chen", which she did without hesitation. After that, I was easily able to have her advance through the stages to marriage.

My working theory is that when the game initially loads the foreign maps, it assigns foreign families randomly to some of the lots -- and, due to a bug, it includes Home Base in the list. So when your sims visit, they get assigned relationships with the family that Home Base is dropped on top of. To get new partners, you need to somehow break off these spurious relationships.

(It's kind of sad that two years later this bug still is not fixed. But I guess it isn't surprising, considering that it only happens to a few people, and that -- aside from the family tree view -- it's indistinguishable from someone being incredibly unlucky in conversation options.)