Reviews Sims

Review: The Sims 4 Seasons

June 29, 2018
A thick layer of fog over a New-England-looking town in The Sims 4.

Dynamic weather ought to be considered the starting point for video game immersion, especially in an open-format game that ostensibly aims to simulate real life. This is probably why the previous two ‘Seasons’ expansions for The Sims 2 and 3 have been among my favorites; they rely on such a simple concept yet still breathe so much life into the game.

No longer do our sims exist in an endless summer but instead in a changing world, the whims of which can often be dangerous and out of player control. Thunderstorms, for instance (my favorite weather type in both real life and fantasy) are brutal. Lightning will often strike the lot (leaving collectible crystals and elements in its wake) and it’s best to make sure your sims seek shelter if you care for their well being. Or not, because it seems possible to grant your sims temporary superpowers by having them be struck by lightning. If they survive, that is.

Lightning will also destroy objects on the lot if it strikes. This has only happened for me with outdoor objects that sims happen to be using at the time, and the sim using it gets a tense moodlet to show for their close call. All sims on the lot also get a small tense moodlet for as long as the storm’s duration. It seems unlikely that weather will eventually become inconsequential  background dressing in our sims lives.

Blizzards, freezing temperature and heatwaves are equally as dangerous. Spending too long out in the heat without appropriate clothing will cause sims to overheat and die rather quickly. The same is true for the freezing temperature. Blizzards are similar to thunderstorms in that a sim will autonomously run indoors rather than being trapped outside, but unlike storms, once inside, they don’t particularly mind whatever is going on outdoors.

All of this danger can be disabled in the options panel if one so chooses, but why would you ever want to?

Less deadly weather includes heat, cold, wind and varying levels of falling snow and rain. Unlike in previous games, snow on the ground doesn’t fall in two levels and knee-height snow banks are a thing of the past. This has been a cause of contention in the community so it bears mentioning, but it hasn’t actually had an effect on my own immersion. Sims still leave footprints in the snow and small snow drifts form that require shoveling and give the snow cover some illusion of depth. There’s also a really lovely glittery effect on the snow that still screenshots doesn’t quite capture.

Enough rain also forms mud puddles, which look a tad too cartoony (even for The Sims 4) but sims can get a negative moodlet from stepping in, or even slipping in, them and a nice big drop in hygiene. As far as I can recall, these are completely new to the series.

The weather control machine is back, but this time purchasable in the buy catalogue instead of for reward points, further making me question why The Sims 4 even has reward points. This one works forever, but seems to still have a chance of failure, which can be upgraded away with the Handiness skill.

But enough with the weather itself, as the system encompassing it deserves some coverage too. No longer is weather determined by the season alone, but also the world itself. In The Sims 2, Strangetown players were forced to either deal with unrealistic heavy snowfall or miss out completely on the buff to family relationship gains brought about by winter. Now, you can still experience winter temperature drops in Oasis Springs, and all the EAxis holidays that go along with them, but it’s a much more deserty winter than what you would find in, let’s say, Brindleton Bay.

A sim fishing during a heat wave.

This is a really great system but it kind of misses the mark in several cases. For instance, the swampy Willow Creek is seemingly based on the subtropical New Orleans but experiences heavy snowfall and no more rain than similarly green worlds. Another case is the distinctly European Windenburg, which experiences the same heat waves as more tropical or deserty worlds.

I’d love for a neighborhood to eventually be introduced that stays cool all year round, in contrast to Oasis Springs and Selvadorada’s warm climates. It’s too bad that that oppurtunity wasn’t taken with Windenburg.

Speaking of the worlds themselves, there isn’t one included with Seasons. Those resources seem to have instead been dedicated to updating assets in all existing worlds to change accordingly with the season, as well as adding seasonal food stands and pop-up skating rinks to pre-City Living worlds. If you’ve found yourself wanting for more play space then this is a disappointment, but I can’t say that the worlds don’t look great all dressed up for winter or autumn.

Returning from The Sims 3 Seasons are holidays, and they’re much better implemented this time. Although the default ones that the game ships with are similar to 3’s highly Americanized set, just generic enough to give off the illusion of secularism, we can create our own this time around. In my game I have deleted Maxis’ Thanksgiving lookalike and have replaced it with my own version of Guy Fawkes Night, of which my traditions include ‘Fire’ and ‘Fireworks’.

I spoke about my experience playing The Sims games as a non-American previously in my Get Together review and the new holiday system is a really great step in allowing international players to personalize their game. I’m also not a fan of annoying genericism in general, so the ability to allow people to turn ‘Spooky Day’ into ‘All Hallow’s Eve’ and ‘Winterfest’ into ‘Shitscram’ is welcome.

And really, the feature is just inclusive as hell all over. Some traditions that you can add to your holidays also includes ‘Festive Lighting’ (lighting a menorah, kinara or Christmas tree), ‘Attend Holiday Ceremony’ (a rabbit hole event that can be used as a stand-in for attending some kind of religious service) and even fasting. Some other fun holiday traditions include fighting, streaking and a cute countdown to midnight interaction on the TV. I hope the holiday systems end up like the club system, where it gets updated with new traditions as more content is added to the game, because there’s a lot of potential here.

Oh and the stupid gnomes that teleport around and break things are back. Fuck those creepy little assholes.

I’m a tad disappointed in the ‘wear costumes’ tradition, as the costume options that the self-interaction gives you only include costumes available in the base game, and none of the (frankly better) costumes from the Spooky Stuff pack. It’s odd, because the candy bowl added in that pack interacts with the ‘trick or treat’ tradition (allowing kids to take sweets from the bowl instead of bothering you) so there is some integration with that pack, just not enough or as much as there could be.

All of these holidays can be tracked in the new in-game calendar, which should have been part of the base game patch considering its insane usefulness. It also tracks school and work days, weather forecasts and allows you to plan parties and the like for specific times and dates in the future.

You can also decorate for holidays and your neighborhood will also decorate accordingly. Sadly there weren’t any giant neon Father Christmases added in build/buy mode so I cannot accurately recreate what Christmas is like in my parents’ neighborhood. There will never be enough neon in the game for that…

A thunderstorm.

The CAS and build/buy stuff is pretty uniformly great and nothing bears particular attention except the really, really, really, really nice bathroom set. Swing sets are back! And toddles now get swimwear for the new kiddie pool.

Gardening received an overhaul with the base game patch, and installing Seasons expands on it even further. Each crop now has specific seasons that it can be harvested in, and lie dormant for the rest of the year, and there are new AoE interactions for watering and weeding, making maintaining a massive garden less of a chore (and more profitable to boot). There’s also a scarecrow and you can fuck it. Standard Sims stuff, really.

Flower arranging is back from The Sims 2 Open for Business, tying into the new gardening career. It’s its own skill although highly benefits from having a competent gardener around in order to procure fresh ingredients. The skill itself is interesting, but not quite my thing. There are a lot of different arrangements that can be made but the arrangements themselves don’t really have any mechanical differences. Instead, sims can ‘scent’ arrangements that are of high enough quality and the chosen sent determines what happens when a sim smells or receives the bouquet. Scents seem to mostly just bestow emotional moodlets but there are few more interesting ones. Arranged bouquets don’t seem to live for very long, so that may put a stopper in any plans you have of running a flower shop.

Beekeeping has also returned from The Sims Makin’ Magic and 3’s Supernatural. Honey isn’t used for any otherworldly purposes this time around, it just seems like it’s good for making a new kind of tea on the tea infuser and a new cake. Sims with good relationships with their bees can also collect swarms of bees from the box and sic them on other sims, which, let’s face it, makes this the best iteration of beekeeping so far.

Children can also take up scouting as an after school activity. They level up in the ‘career’ by earning merit badges from doing various things around the game (sadly, the volunteering rabbithole from Parenthood doesn’t grant any badge) and as a reward for hitting the highest level grow up with a trait… increases the skill gain across all skills. If they keep adding childhood reward traits that increase skill gain our kids will eventually end up with everything capped before they age out of teendom. A nice feature that gives our youngin’s something to do, but disappointing that they couldn’t come up with a more creative reward for maxing the career.

The after school activity UI seems awfully open for a feature that so far includes only one ‘career’ track, so hopefully this is something that gets added to in later content. In retrospect, I’m surprised something similar wasn’t already implemented with Parenthood.

Speaking of traits, there are no new traits available in CAS, as all new traits in the pack are bought from the rewards store. This is a choice I actually agree with because not only doesn’t my love of thunderstorms make up an entire third of my personality, but also the reward store in The Sims 4 has a severe wanting for things to buy that aren’t just straight-up cheats. Through aspiration reward points sims can acclimatize themselves to different kinds of weather or just make themselves immune (still cheaty…).

Oddly enough there are no new lot traits included in Seasons, which is a missed opportunity. Traits that make the lot run hotter or cooler than the world around them would be an interesting and thematic addition and are a striking absence.

Snow thawing in spring.

Finally: technical bits…

The pack has been extremely stable on my end. I haven’t experienced any out of the ordinary lag or game-breaking bugs. Once I had an issue where snow had fallen on the ground but hadn’t shown up visually, but restarting the game fixed that and I haven’t come across the bug again. Several frustrating bugs came with the base game patch that accompanied the expansion release, but fixes for those were pushed out in a patch earlier this week. There are two remaining issues that I’m experiencing:

Thermostats don’t seem to work on rental lots, but I’m not actually sure whether or not that is a bug or a (bad) intentional design choice. While it is understandable that a dinky little forest cabin doesn’t have complete climate control, not so much for the large lakeside mansion my richer sims winter in.

The second is that leaf piles out in the world don’t seem to despawn on their own and instead stick around, rotting, for the entire year. There’s one right outside my sims’ house and no matter how many times they try to burn it away, it inevitably returns. Apparently leaves in the sims’ world aren’t bio-degradable.

The Sims 4 Seasons is going to the top of my ‘must-have’ list of Sims 4 content. Not only does the content from this pack add to every part of the game in a way that no pack has done (so far?), it’s also the best Seasons expansion in the series. Not only are the new weather effects immersive as hell (and gorgeous to boot), the more extreme of the weather patterns also add back a sense of danger that has been missing from the series since The Sims 2. My game has also been ridiculously stable. Seasons and pets are usually the two primary performance droppers in Sims games and yet I’ve noticed no drop whatsoever with this expansion.

There are flaws, as mentioned, in how some of the new features integrate with those from previous packs and I do feel that certain features could have been better implemented than they were. But so far, Seasons has been a solid, stable experience and now that weather is out of the way I’m interested in seeing what Maxis comes up with next.

As flawed as expansions like World Adventures and Into the Future were, you can’t argue that they weren’t creative. And that’s what I’m looking forward to in the future now that the crowd favorites of pets and weather are out of the way. I had problems with how The Sims 3 implemented a lot of things, but The Sims 4 right now could do with a healthy dose of its predecessor’s adventurousness.

Disclaimer stuff: My copy of the expansion was paid for by my mother, who gifted me my pre-order for my birthday. Thanks, mum! I’ve played The Sims 4 for roughly 60 hours between installing Seasons and publishing this post. Information about the computer I ran the game on can be found here.