Reviewed: June 21, 2011
Released: May 31, 2011
It’s been about two years since The Sims 3 first came out, and as with the previous Sims franchise games, this iteration hit the ground running with a series of expansion packs, each with something dramatic and new to add to the latest version of the well-known life simulator. In 2009, World Adventures threw in international vacation locales, quests, and a dungeon-delving mechanic. 2010 brought Ambitions, which added a variety of new hands-on career choices; and Late Night, which contributed the highlights of urban, celebrity, and vampiric living.|
The Sims 3: Generations, in contrast, is a bit more demure in presentation and is more difficult to summarize in a nutshell. Its additions are subtle and, in many cases, something of a challenge to find. Unlike the past expansions that added concrete new gameplay features, Generations instead enriches the overall Sims 3 experience with many new interactions and little details that touch on virtually every aspect of your Sims’ lives.
Every life stage now has a variety of fresh activities that enable Sims to experience some of the more memorable phases of a typical life. Babies and toddlers have fewer additions, but babies have the opportunity to make friends with a doll that might go on to become an imaginary friend that only the child can see. Interestingly enough, the doll can do chores for the kid and interact with the child like an ordinary Sim, leading to some amusingly odd situations when you watch the game through the eyes of other Sims in the family. If the child grows up with a close relationship to the imaginary friend, feats of science may even turn the doll into a real live boy (or girl).
Children have new options when it comes to play, including a slew of new playground items, treehouses, and—my personal favorite—a costume chest that allows child Sims to dress up as astronauts, princesses, dinosaurs, and such. There’s nothing like watching a kid kick a dollhouse to pieces while pretending to be a T-Rex. New extracurricular activities, like clubs and school dances, and the chance to send your Sim kid off to a boarding school for training in specific skills, round out the new additions for the junior Sims.
When the young Sims hit their teenage years, you’ll find they now have random mood swings that result in urges to act rebellious. New pranks—including egging someone’s house, leaving a flaming bag of something on a neighbor’s doorstep, or rigging the toilet to overflow—allow for some amusing moments, especially when the perpetrators are caught. Teens can also throw teen parties and trash the house while their parents are out, but the wise teen Sim will make sure to break up the party and clean up before the cops arrive. On the flip side, misbehaving teens can be grounded or otherwise punished by their parents, providing opportunities to grovel to the adults for forgiveness or to sneak out of the house and act out further.
Adults also get their share of attention, with a focus on relationships. The options to Give Gift and Date are back. Dating works similarly to the group outing option from Late Night and may result in new Woo Hoo interactions in the shower or a treehouse. A new Romance Reputation means a Sim’s amorous escapades may return to haunt the recklessly promiscuous; illicit affairs caught by another Sim will not go unnoticed. Generations also throws in new wedding parties and bachelor/bachelorette parties—and the new Romance Reputation applies to interactions with the Party Dancers, as well.
Older Sim adults might find themselves suffering a midlife crisis, which, entertainingly enough, results in desires to get a divorce or buy a sports car and can be cured by expensive therapy at a hospital. Adults can also run their own Day Care business as a new home-based profession. Elders, meanwhile, don’t get a whole lot, but you can buy them canes, which can change their gait or be used to harass the pesky young’uns.
Generations also adds bunk and loft beds, strollers, spiral staircases, new wedding items, and various degrees of body hair for the males (which, by the way, can be waxed at the Day Spa). The Chemistry Table is back, allowing your Sims to learn Logic while discovering potions, which can then be mixed into an unknowing Sim’s drink. I’m also a fan of the video camera, which allows your Sims to record short home videos that can then be played on their TVs.
As usual, this Sims 3 expansion is consistent with the others and—in terms of sound, graphics, and animations—melts seamlessly into the original Sims 3 gameplay experience. It’s so well integrated that it’s easy to miss some of the less overt improvements, such as the ability to change the length of each individual life stage, the scrapbook (which adds romance statistics and memories with screenshots to your Sim’s biography section), and enhanced property management interface.
I did encounter a few bugs, including a pathfinding problem that made it impossible for my adult Sim to pick up a child Sim by the top of the stairs and a car that disappeared when my teen Sim went off to boarding school. My teen Sim also missed prom (another Generations feature) because the game never notified me that it was the day of the prom and only told me when the dance was over. Other than that, Generations’ main weakness is the diffuseness of its content. While there’s a lot of great stuff in this latest expansion when you tally up all the new little tweaks, it ends up feeling more like a collection of amusing afterthoughts than an honest-to-goodness expansion pack.
That being said, Generations is a breath of fresh air in that it builds on the original premise of The Sims games and encourages more of the pre-World Adventures open-ended play and unexpected drama and humor that Sims fans first loved. It also motivates players to go back and rediscover the game through all the life stages. Generations goes for the typical expansion suggested retail price of $39.99 and may be hit or miss for you, depending on what you like about The Sims 3 and whether you’d appreciate the more understated improvements of this expansion pack.