Reviewed: September 15, 2011
Released: August 30, 2011
MAC OS X Requirements
When The Sims Medieval came out in March earlier this year, the developers made it very clear that TSM is a new base game on which they intend to build, much as they have with the other Sims games. In this case, it’s only been short five months, and the first add-on, The Sims Medieval: Pirates & Nobles is already here. |
Before I go on, I should probably note that the box labels Pirates and Nobles as an “adventure pack,” rather than “expansion pack.” This is a significant distinction in this case because Sims fans are used to add-ons that introduce dramatic new gameplay features that didn’t exist in the base game before, along with various other incidental goodies. Pirates and Nobles, however, is exactly what it describes itself as: no real new gameplay features, but many more hours-worth of quests and related paraphernalia.
Installing the adventure pack gives you the opportunity to start with a new Kingdom Ambition to end a war between two factions, the Pirates of Aarbyville, and the Nobles of Tredony. The new Ambition is available from the start of the game, in case you haven’t played The Sims Medieval yet, and is an easy choice for players who want to start fresh and play through the storyline of the new quests. If you’d rather, though, you can also play the new quests in any existing kingdom.
The main new feature introduced by Pirates and Nobles is a War Effort Gauge that keeps track of your kingdom’s allegiance as soon as you complete the first add-on quest. Naturally, your choices in Pirates and Nobles-related quests will determine which way, if any, your loyalties swing. In turn, allying with a faction or remaining carefully neutral bestows certain advantages on your kingdom. As far as I can tell, though, it’s more beneficial (and fun) to pick a side, as it’ll unlock faction outfits, crafting recipes, and activities that you won’t have access to otherwise.
The quests themselves are generally well written, allow multiple approaches to different effect, and have all the usual humor of the Sims series. They span a wide range of themes, too, from the silly (curing your poor pit beast of indigestion) to the dark (having your dastardly monarch murder her entire staff). If you enjoyed The Sims Medieval to begin with, you’ll probably find something you like in the spread included.
That said, Pirates and Nobles is fairly linear, and as I mentioned, offers very little in the way of new gameplay features. The add-on throws in new personality traits and daily responsibilities; pet falcons and parrots, which can hunt or find treasure for their owners but are otherwise not particularly remarkable; and treasure hunting, which is basically that hot and cold game you might have played as a kid. And, as usual, you’ll find a smattering of new outfits (plus plentiful eyeliner) and furniture for your kingdom citizens.
Most disappointingly, though—and I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels this way—I was all excited about the possibility of actually going on a pirate raid with my Sim, but it turns out that they’re not interactive. Instead, raiding is what Sims players have termed a “rabbit hole”: you tell your Sim to go on a pirate raid, and you spend the next few long minutes fast-forwarding and napping while waiting for the ship to return to the dock. It’s a downright shame that more effort wasn’t put into that aspect of a game add-on that has “pirates” in the title.
I should also mention that Pirates and Nobles is a little buggy. It’s adequately playable, but the Sims still have pathfinding problems, there were times my Hero couldn’t enter her house for no discernible reason, and some actions seem to be interrupted randomly. One bug completely stymied one quest when the next step involved being arrested by the constable NPC, who simply never showed up like he was supposed to.
Other than those issues, though, Pirates and Nobles is an enjoyable quest pack. It features the same high quality of visuals and sound that we’ve come to expect from the Sims franchise. The music—with adventuresome themes appropriately reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean—is particularly well matched with the subject matter. The retail price tag of $29.99 seems to imply that there should more to Pirates and Nobles, considering that some full-on expansions cost about that much, but it does offer many hours of gameplay, if you enjoy the quests.
In short, if you liked The Sims Medieval, you’re likely to find Pirates & Nobles pretty fun, too—as long as you keep in mind that it’s an adventure pack, not an honest-to-goodness expansion. Hopefully, they’ll iron out the bugs in upcoming patches, and maybe we’ll eventually have the interactive swashbuckling action many of us were looking forward to. In the meantime, this quest pack will do.