Reviewed: June 10, 2010
Released: June 1, 2010
Released right around the first birthday of The Sims 3, The Sims 3 Ambitions is the second expansion pack to be released for the latest incarnation of the hugely popular people simulation franchise. While an expansion, no matter how well made, isnít likely to change anyoneís mind about The Sims 3 game or the series, Ambitions is a shining example of a Sims expansion. It dramatically overhauls and expands on a portion of the base game while also managing to make many smaller (but important) improvements also worthy of recognition.|
Many people around the world are, by now, well acquainted with the idea behind The Sims franchise games: players create any number of virtual people called Sims and can play out open-ended stories through managing (or even micromanaging) their Simsí lives, controlling everything from their homesí architectural and interior design, to their relationships and careers. Previously in The Sims 3, besides being able to tell your Sim how hard to work or what to focus on while on the job, players had been closed off from interacting with their Sims during the workday. Needless to say, interactive career gameplay has been a consistently requested feature.
This is where Ambitions makes its biggest contribution to the original game. While the previous Careers remain untouched (except for the Medicine career track, which now has some added interactive aspects), Ambitions introduces five new Professions (in addition to the enhanced medical career gameplay) that allow players to directly control what their Sims do (or donít do) while at work.
These new lines of work Ė Ghost Hunter, Private Investigator, Stylist, Firefighter, and Architectural Designer Ė open up dramatic and diverse new possibilities for exploration and storytelling. Perhaps your Sim is a lazy fireman who never maintains the fire alarms and watches television in the break room while his coworkers do all the heavy lifting. Maybe sheís a private investigator who satisfies kleptomaniacal urges by stealing items under the pretense of collecting evidence. Or, maybe your Sim is a fashion hero who offers makeovers to all the poorly dressed NPCs in town. These are just some examples of the fresh options Ambitions provides, and each Profession introduces a number of new work-related events and opportunities to experience. Itís true that some of the job events can become somewhat repetitive over time, but as with most other daily activities in the game, personal pacing seems to best determine how much a player enjoys the game.
Along with the new jobs are related new Sim traits, lifetime wishes, lifetime rewards, items, outfits, skills, and activities. The three new skills Ė Inventing, Sculpting, and Tattooing Ė are all fantastic additions to the game. Inventing allows Sims to create steampunk-style and da Vinci-esque home decorations, as well as more interesting gadgets like Time Machines and Miners that may lead to adventures resulting in unusual items and clothing, the Floor Hygienator that can increase a Simís mood when he walks past it, and even the elusive Sim Bot (known as Servo in previous games). Sim sculptors can create a wide array of works of art from clay, wood, ice, stone, topiary, or metal, for decorating homes or sale. And, tattoo artists can airbrush designs onto several set locations on a Simís skin in a process similar to tattooing in the Rock Band games: a number of preset designs in custom colors can be layered on top of each other at chosen opacities, but as far as I could tell, it isnít possible to change the exact placement of the graphics.
Ambitions also adds some business-oriented gameplay reminiscent of The Sims 2ís Open for Business expansion, allowing your Sims to buy out virtually any lot in town and to earn money from them over time. Self-employed Sims with a crafting skill Ė including, for instance, Writing and Gardening from the original game and Nectar Making from The Sims 3 World Adventures Ė can also make a decent living through selling their handmade goods at the new Consignment Store.
The improved gameplay takes advantage of The Sims 3ís seamless town and fits right in with the base game so that the expanded options feel natural to anyone whoís been playing The Sims 3 for a while. Nevertheless, the expansion adds optional, quick tutorial lessons for just about every feature (also occasionally useful for those of us who have taken a break from the game for a while) and some subtle user interface improvements that make the game even easier on the eyes.
Other improvements I like include a one-click button for quickly completing opportunity steps when theyíre available; an optional laundry system that can bestow significant mood benefits (to opt out, just donít buy the new washer item); basements (in case you didnít get World Adventures) and variable roof pitch; and the ability to add, modify, and remove lots in Edit Town mode.
Graphically and aurally, too, Ambitions matches wonderfully with the base game. The new town, Twinbrook, features a foggy marsh area for a creepy ghost-hunting atmosphere, and the new music (like the epic-sounding firefighting anthem and goofy haunted house theme) and sounds have all the humor of past Sims games.
At a retail price of $39.95, Ambitions goes for 10 bucks more than previous Sims expansions. If youíre looking for new furniture, clothing, or hairstyles, youíll find that this expansion doesnít have too many of them; EA seems to have moved most custom content to the online store and separate stuff packs. In terms of gameplay improvements, however, Ambitions is solid.
In short, The Sims 3 Ambitions is a fine specimen of a Sims expansion that introduces fresh, fan-requested gameplay options to the core game, as well as many smaller tweaks that make the game more fun as a whole. Moreover, Ambitions manages to accomplish all of this without any noticeable increase in lag, even on my outdated system. The six new interactive career paths are a good start, and I would love to see more of them, as well as more of the original Sims 3 careers updated to include interactive elements. Letís see if EA will take us up on that.