Expansions are to The Sims series as pimples are to puberty: they're going to happen, so embrace them and try to avoid nasty pit scars. It's just part of growing up.
The Sims 3: World Adventures opens up three new remote locations your Sim can visit: China, France and Egypt. The purpose of visiting the exotic locations is to give your Sims the chance to complete adventures inside local tombs and temples. The gameplay in these sections is very much like old school point-and-click adventures where your Sim needs to explore nooks and crannies to find keys, treasure and secret locks to hidden doors. Completing these expeditions nets your Sim Visa Points so they can stay longer in foreign countries and eventually purchase vacation homes.
In addition to the gameplay, however, World Adventures also augments the Sims experience with a bunch of new skills, traits and Lifetime Rewards to update your ho-hum Riverside or Sunset Valley gameplay in the core game. But is it an adventure worth taking?
Adventuring: Taking your Sim into a temple or a tomb for some exploration turns out to be a pretty intimate and oftentimes hilarious experience. In tombs, Sims encounter all kinds of danger that they don't normally back at home — like mummies that can infect them with a fatal curse or traps that can burn them alive. This makes you anxious for your Sim in a way that encourages bonding — I totally reloaded a game once when my Tenzing Norgay got charred in an Egyptian pyramid puzzle. Aside from that aspect of gameplay, the Sims themselves entertain you with their own feelings on the adventures. If you've got a Sim with a good set of traits (Adventuring, Bravery, etc.), getting through the winding passages and around dangerous traps is a healthy challenge that sometimes really makes you think like a puzzle game. Sending a Sim in with bad traits, though (Cowardice, Loser, etc.), while frustrating for treasure-hunting definitely yields laughs when your Sim flees from a mummy.
New Skills: World Adventures adds Photography, Martial Arts and Nectar Making to the Sim skill set. I spent most of my time on Photography and Martial Arts — making Tenzing Norgay something of a photojournalist monk in the process. The Photography skill gives Sims access to different types of camera (crappy, decent and awesome) and lets them take pictures from the first person perspective pretty much anywhere in the game. Depending on the subject of the photo (and you can tell what you're capturing via little labels in first-person mode), your Sim can score major money by taking pictures of foreign landmarks. Martial Arts, meanwhile, is exactly what it sounds like. Your Sim can learn Sim Fu and compete against other Sims in karate tournaments or just sit around and meditate until they float in the air. Lastly, Nectar-Making builds off your Sims' gardening skills by letting you combine various fruits to create original nectars that you can sell for mad bank.
Elements of Multiculturalism: The native Sims in China, France and Egypt actually look like Chinese, French and Arab people. This alone is a big step for The Sims in terms of multiculturalism, but there's also a lot of little things about local Sims you start to notice that keep up the foreign facade. For example, every location has a set of songs that people sing to themselves in the markets or at their homes. There are also local books and recipes your Sim can pick up (like Dim Sum and Frogs Legs) to read or make at home. My all time favorite little touch, though, is still the part where children with at least one Asian parent eat with chopsticks. So cute!
It's A Little Bit Broken: There is a major gameplay bug I encountered that should never have made it to retail. Sometimes when sending your Sim abroad (and usually when they've got a child or a teenager Sim with them), the game makes your family vanish. Like, completely disappear both from the foreign location you were sending them to and from the home location. In my case, I sent Tenzing and his teenage son to China while his wife was laid up at home with twin girls. Mid-load into China, the game suddenly deposited the camera view into China — only there was no family there and no Sim in the control bar to keep track of. I could do thing — not even edit the town. So I quit out and went back to Sunset Valley expecting to find them there, but the same thing happened. The wife and babies were gone and in the family viewer, there was only a placeholder graphic of a dotted outline where the Norgays should have been. I was able to fix the problem after consulting a fan forum, but it wasn't a simple solution (having to move around backup files and save files) and I lost data.
Loss of Continuity: A big selling point of The Sims 3 was the persistent environment. Sims around your Sim grew old and died and the world moved within the same time frame. World Adventures wrecks the continuity by making China, France and Egypt into stagnant environments. It's like time stops when you go abroad and your Sim doesn't age and life back at home freezes until you come back. On the one hand, this is convenient when you want to dodge an age transition without just turning aging off. However, on the other hand, it also creates weird situations.
Take for example my French mistress's "abortion." I had invited her from France to stay with Tenzing and then Tried for Baby. She got pregnant and when the morning sickness started, she ended her vacation and went home early. I followed her to France the very next day, expecting to visit my pregnant mistress. However, when I got there, she was no longer pregnant and there wasn't a baby anywhere. I contacted the developer to make sure I hadn't encountered a bug and they told me that because infants and toddlers simply can't exist in the foreign environments (for all kinds of development issues), the child should have been "aged up" automatically to childhood when the mistress went back to France. What I should have seen was a child Sim in the mistress's household with her last name that the game would still recognize as Tenzing's kid and "the fiction" would be that a significant amount of time has passed between the time my mistress left Sunset Valley and the time Tenzing arrived in France. This kind of continuity is not only confusing, but also kind of against the persistent environment The Sims 3 is popular for.
The Sims 3: World Adventures is an experience that deserves the title "expansion." It adds a lot to the core experience of the game, it offers an alternative style of gameplay and it's pulled off in a way that blends pretty well with the game (with the exception of the hiccups mentioned above).
If you're a Sims fan, though, you've probably already guessed this having played the game for the last month solid. But if you're not really a Sims fan, or you were one of the skeptics who were holding back because the rampant expansions of the Sims 2 tired you out, don't hold back. There's a whole wide world out there for your Sim to explore (three of them, in fact) and you won't want to miss it.
The Sims 3: World Adventures was developed and published by EA for the PC. The game released November 17 for $40 USD. A copy of the game was given to Kotaku by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Created Tenzing Norgay as a young adult and raised his Visa level to at least eight days' worth of travel in each country. Maxed out the Photography and Martial Arts skills.
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