The Sims: Life Stories
It stands to reason that the best-selling PC franchise of all time is also one of the most prolific and given the nature of the game The Sims and it’s sequel, cunningly titled The Sims 2, regular expansion packs are to be expected. But the latest in the series isn’t really an expansion pack, neither is it an entirely separate game. Instead EA and Maxis have brought what they hope to be a new spin-off to a market they already dominate. Say hello to The Sims: Life Stories.
This game takes a different stance to previous titles, instead of giving you a blank canvas to create whatever weird and wonderful characters and houses your imagination can think of you are required to take hold of two Sims, Riley and Vincent and guide them through life.They each have different needs and personal goals which you have to achieve during their lifetime. Aside from the regular need food/love/toilet goals; there are plenty of longer term aims like getting a job, getting married and settling down etc. that will take you a while to accomplish. Other mid-term goals crop up from time to time and although they start to repeat after a while they do at least offer some diversity.
And there are some other locations you can visit if you and your chosen Sim get bored of your surroundings. In a nod to the many expansion packs, you can go visit places like the Gym, Shops and Cafes which let you meet other Sims and make friends and can also lead to new objectives.
Unfortunately there are some major issues with the game, particularly with length as it only offers a paltry two Sims to play through. The camera views are also troublesome and it’s easy to lose track of what’s going on when your Sim’s friends visit for instance. The graphics, which retain the game engine used in The Sims 2, are impressive but prone to slowdown and even crashing, far more than the original which can be a huge pain when you’ve just spent time refurnishing your house without saving.
The problems of longevity are offset slightly by the inclusion of a Free Play mode which is arguably where you’ll find the most fun in this package. Like the original you can create any number of characters and customise their personalities and living conditions but this is again limited, using the cut-down options from Story Mode. If you’ve never played the original games this could keep you entertained for a while but it’s not something that will attract hardened fans.
Although it shares many of the gameplay elements it’s quite clear from the outset that Life Stories doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the series. Part of the appeal of The Sims has been with the customisation options that offer near infinite possibilities for characters and their surroundings but this is somewhat restricted in this game. The addition of more personal goals and the cut down interface have obviously been taken from the console versions but they are perhaps better suited on other formats, where joypad buttons and internal memory are at a premium.
There is some fun to be had here and it certainly kept my Mum entertained for quite some time before she got bored and returned to the more familiar surroundings of the original Sims. In simplifying every aspect of gameplay, EA have produced a watered down experience and have perhaps underestimated how much complexity their target audience can cope with. After all, the original Sims was far from simplistic yet entrapped millions of people whose only PC gaming experience was the odd bash at Solitaire or Minesweeper. The change of pace may be welcomed by some and detested by others.
Life Stories may be seen as an entry level title but to be honest, it’s hard to recommend instead of it’s older and cheaper brother.