In an attempt to steal the award for least imaginative add-on title away from the likes of Pets, University and City Living, The Sims Studio came up with The Sims 4: Vampires. The fourth in a series of $20 ‘game-packs’, Vampires does exactly what it says on the tin.
When the vampire leaks first came to surface, I was pretty skeptical. Since The Sims 2: University, each and every Sims expansion included a new ‘life state’, a playable monster or supernatural kind of sim tangentially related to the expansion’s theme. With monstery and otherwise weird sims being one of my favorite aspects of the series, it was disappointing as hell to see both Get Together and City Living ship without a new life state. It was even more disappointing when combing of new patch files brought to light the possibility that EA would start packaging off my favorite part of the game and selling them separately. For $20 a pop.
But, having played Vampires quite a bit in the past week I realize that I don’t… actually hate the idea? Of course I’d rather not spend more money, but the pack does feel like it justifies the $20 price tag.
For one, this is probably the most complete vampire implementation in the series so far. Whereas 2’s Night Life focused more on the stereotypical Stoker-esque interpretation of vampire folklore, with ashy skin, bat transformations and more Counts than you could count, 3’s Late Night implementation followed the sexier, more brooding strain of vampirism that was extremely popular in young adult novels around that time. The Sims 3 vampires also all had neck tattoos for some reason. Seriously.
This implementation, however, doesn’t limit itself to one version.
There’s a wonderful amount of customization to be had with your vampires, both aesthetically and mechanically. Vampires have unique CAS options that allow the player to choose how monstrous they look, including glowing eyes, cracked skin, visible veins and a total of 5 different kinds of fangs. You can end up with an Edward or a Nosferatu if you so choose.
Vampire abilities also work in a sort of skill tree type system. Doing vampirey things nets a vampire sim experience, which you can then spend on customizing how that vampire works mechanically. If you really like the idea of moving around as a bat, that’s an early skill that can be taken. If you want to go full Twilight, you can just load your tree up with the increased strength and speed abilities and take the one that grants them a bit more sun resistance (no sparking, though, I’m sorry to say.) For every few abilities your vampire learns they must also take a weakness. Since one of my biggest complaints about the Sims 3 and 4 has been that they don’t ever force enough difficulty on the player to stay interesting, forcing players to adopt a handicap to continue progress is really nice.
(As an aside, I really wish aliens had gotten the same skill tree treatment.)
The above customization is probably the best part of the pack. I praised Get Together’s club system and lambasted City Living’s limited options for apartment buildings because I believe that the best Sims content is the stuff that lets you make your own content. The Sims 2: University will always be better than The Sims 3: University Life because in the former, building one’s own colleges was allowed and encouraged, while the latter simply handed you a bland model of the quintessential American university town and expected you to be happy with it.
Speaking of neighborhoods you can’t customize, let’s talk Forgotten Hollow. The latest in the Sims 4’s long line of neighborhoods you can’t customize, Forgotten Hollow is rather lovely to look at. Fog rolls in at night and the lighting sometimes takes on an eerie green tint and there are small details scattered around that really bring about that spooky feel. Behind my sims’ new home there is a freaky demon statue with candles set at the base that light up at night. I tried to get some cool screenshots of my vampire meditating there, but the terrain around it was unroutable for no immediately apparent reason. Go figure. There are visibly distant city skylines in Forgotten Hollow as there are in most other neighborhoods, making the place feel perfectly lonely and isolated.
Buuuut Forgotten Hollow only has four buildable lots. Where EA is very good at creating beautiful, thematically appropriate neighborhoods, they fall flat in both letting you make them your own and giving you enough to do with them. It also does that thing I hate with its fog effects where it just looks like you’ve turned the game’s draw distance down. There are also hidden or special lots in the same vein as the hidden cave in the base game and Winenburg’s unique lots. There’s a rumor being spread that the abandonment of hidden lots was a choice made because not enough players were apparently finding them. Go figure.
Anyway, from what I’ve seen so far, this is a really well put together pack. There’s not a lot I can really say negatively about it. I wish Forgotten Hollow was bigger and I can’t imagine using most of the new clothing options very much. Between the new vampire ‘dark forms’ and the Aliens’ disguises, EA seems to have a fixation on giving their life states alternate forms and it’s not exactly necessary. There’s never been any real encouragement for aliens to keep up the masquerade and there seems to be even less for vampires to do so, as every sim already seems to know they’re vampires anyway.
Oh, and the toddler patch that I failed to provide a write-up of also included mentions in its files of dogs and cats. So there’s your tri-monthly Sims leak news for the quarter. Stay peeled because I’ll probably be reviewing The Sims 4: Pets a week late, too.