The best improvement made to by The Sims 2 to the Sims series wasn’t aging, more life stages and generation play, it was its Aspiration system. Where sims previously only had to mind their own survival, in The Sims 2 they also had to balance that with personal fulfillment. Fulfilling a sim’s wants would temporarily prevent a mental breakdown and reward the player with Aspiration Points to spend on powerful, not-quite-cheaty, objects. Similar systems in The Sims 3 and 4 don’t come close in depth and fun, to that which introduced the idea to the series.
Aspiration reward objects in The Sims 2 were powerful, expensive, but also came with a chance of catastrophic failure. Almost all of them could only be used a small number of times before becoming useless. The cheat-factor of objects designed to prolong a sim’s life, change their personality of simply boost their mood was balanced out by the difficulty in obtaining them, the object’s limited uses and the high (50%-80%) chance of failure when not being used by a sim with an already high level of satisfaction.
In contrast, later rewards are… lacking in the balance department. I wrote some time ago about how the two most recent games completely forwent with any chance of failure with their equivalent systems, making them totally optional and, in my opinion, pointless. Even more so when you look at what rewards are available for aspiration reward points in both games.
The Sims 3 ‘Lifetime Rewards’ store does have some cool stuff. Some of my favorite include the ability to add a rusted simbot to the household (compared to the shiny ones created by inventors), a voucher to get your sim cloned, the ability to summon the kraken and a weather control machine. A lot of reward objects, although they don’t have a chance of failure, still have limited uses. Unfortunately there are quite a few ones that I really don’t like. There are the ones that make a particular decay slower and refill faster, remove the failure chance on certain interactions and even things like removing bills from the game entirely (until the sim with that trait dies).
My problem with these rewards isn’t necessarily that they’re cheaty (although, if I wanted to cheat I could do that in the console without spending points), but that they actually remove aspects of the game. And my big problem with The Sims 4’s reward store is that almost everything in it is just like this.
The Sims 4 not only kept the rewards that slowed need decay, but also added new ones that freeze that need indefinitely. There are also rewards that always make craftables come out at a higher quality, making sims incapable of feeling negative emotions and a bunch of cheap potions that instantly solve needs or create positive emotions. Other than Mentor and a couple of the new ones in Seasons there aren’t any rewards that add something new to the game.
If my goal in The Sims 4 is to gain aspiration points in order to purchase rewards from the store, and all of those rewards do something like make skills build faster, freeze needs and make more money, aren’t I really just playing the game in order to earn the ability to play less of it? I love my vampires but I always find myself killing them off eventually because they just get boring after a while. Eventually their skills and careers all become maxed out, they gain enough vampire levels in order to take need-freezing powers and they’ll never age or die. Eventually they just run out of things to do. With no more skills to gain, few needs to maintain and no fighting against that endless cycle between work and bills, the game just stops being interesting.
Even the Potion of Youth has no chance of failure and will reset a sim back the first day of their current life state. Compare that to the version in The Sims 2, where 5 uses of the Elixer of Life was the most expensive reward available, only turned back the sim’s age by 3 days, could fail and instead make the sims 3 days older. For very cheap you can turn your Sims 4 sim effectively immortal and not have to suffer any of the drawbacks, like a risk or failure or aversion to sunlight.
Every time I buy something from The Sims 4’s aspirations rewards, it feels like I’m just kneecapping my own enjoyment. So I usually don’t touch it, and just let my aspiration points build up forever. Maybe I’ll pick something like Speedy Cleaner up (a stand in for the old Cleaning Skill, I suppose) or one of the new traits from Seasons that better acclimatizes your sim to a certain temperature or makes them enjoy thunderstorms. But generally that system just goes unused for me.
The only reason I even bother with 4’s aspiration system at all is for the aspiration-specific reward traits. Most of them are still somewhat cheaty, yes, but the amount of effort that most aspirations require to complete makes them feel well and truly earned.
The Sims 4 team says they’re going to go on with 4 for at least the next few years, so I’d like to see more things added to the store in the same vein as some of the Seasons traits. Also, more actual object rewards. Some of the most entertaining objects in both The Sims 2 were reward objects: a sexy pink hot tub, a counterfitting machine that the cops could fine you for using, a vacuum that sucked skill points out of other sims and a personality changer that could backfire and give your sim a life dedicated to grilled cheese.
That’s the kind of silly, risky stuff that made The Sims 2 really great. That and the career reward objects (which should eventually get their own post).