"Thankfully, logic in The Sims Universe skews for the strange in both directions: while burning a plate of waffles can be life changing, even the worst inferno can be calmed by a single fire extinguisher."
Getting sidetracked is part of the charm of The Sims 3, a series that manages to make the mundane tasks of everyday life interesting by having these routines played out by pixel people only partially under your control. A staggering five years into the saga, Island Paradise, the tenth expansion for the Sims 3, takes an unexpectedly creative direction by introducing gameplay previously unseen in the franchise. Past expansions like Late Night, Pets, and Seasons, though successful, have generally been re-imaginings of older Sims releases. Island Paradise seamlessly samples elements from Vacation, Bon Voyage, Castaway Stories, and even Open For Business to enhance what is ultimately a wholly original entry. The release is full of “firsts” for the series and no features feel thrown in or tacked on.
"The Resort system can be uniquely enjoyed by players itching to strategize and start their own business - managing everything from employees to amenities and price points."
Expansions vary in the amount of content they introduce, but Island Paradise is nothing short of robust. It doesn’t simply add new objects (though the build and buy catalog brims with new items), but also launches entirely new gameplay systems, further fostering the customization and endless gameplay characteristic of The Sims. Island Paradise introduces houseboat building, water transportation, resort economics, and underwater exploration. The houseboat system bridges Sim architecture and transportation – rather than rely solely on premade constructs, houseboats can be built from the ground-up with all the customization of traditional homes. They travel with ease between ports and locations and can even stay permanently out at sea. The Resort system can be uniquely enjoyed by players itching to strategize and start their own business - managing everything from employees to amenities and price points. If business management is not your thing, they serve as an interactive venue that Sims can visit for extended periods of time, miles better than rabbit-hole spas or “free vacations” where characters become temporarily unplayable for a few days. The snorkeling and scuba diving skills are wonderfully executed and the dive spots are a delight to discover and explore. Mermaids, the new occult life state, make their debut – and rather than simply being humans with fins, they stay true to mythos and coexist in different forms between land and sea, adding intrigue to the ocean depths.
"Despite the sprawling size and detailed terrain, freezing and texture pop-in are culled to almost non-existence in Paradiso."
Even the Limited Edition content is substantial and purposeful, with items themed around a survivalist storyline paying homage to the linear PS2 release Castaway Stories in the now open-world environment - a vast improvement from a few pieces of pretty but unplayable décor. The vibrant yet mysterious Isla Paradiso makes a huge leap from the base game neighborhood, Sunset Valley. Differences lie not only in visual and architectural style – Sunset Valley’s eternally sunny skies illuminate a caricature of 1950s suburbia while Paradiso epitomizes the Latin tropics - but also technical execution. The new island runs flawlessly. Typically on the first load, Sim neighborhoods suffer from at least a minor amount of lag as an army of townies generate to populate the residential areas and NPCs spawn to fill service roles around the community. It’s not unheard of for a neighborhood to be temporarily mistaken for something out of Minecraft until the landscape fully renders. Despite the sprawling size and detailed terrain, freezing and texture pop-in are culled to almost non-existence in Paradiso.
My first household loaded up instantaneously; I was able to fly over the island between multiple locations, and zoom in down to Sim-level and back out again to map view without a hitch. Eliminating lag is a big deal – if you’re a completionist with most or even all expansions, stuff packs, and premium store items and venues installed, the game occasionally buckles under the strain of so much DLC. This makes a smooth running, playable, and expansive world map heaven-sent, as it sets the stage for more enjoyable, bug-free gameplay. My legacy sim families have all made the move over to Paradiso, and I think they’ll be enjoying an extended stay.
"There’s even the possibility to get shipwrecked on one of the surrounding islands if the mythical Kraken strikes – and with the limited edition set, it’s possible for a Sim to live out their entire life on a minor island, completely isolated and separate from the mainland."
Additionally, other worlds primarily consist of a single uniform land mass. Sunlit Tides first explored the structural theme of multiple islands on a smaller scale but still suffered from minor routing errors. Paradiso improves upon the experimentation and flourishes as a true archipelago. The terrain is varied, and depending upon a lot’s location, the world transitions between bustling downtown scenery perfect for a traditional resort and peaceful secluded enclaves. The variety sets the stage for multiple storylines, making the world adaptable to your play-style. Innovation aside, the structure also encourages players to explore and make use of the new forms of water transportation. There’s even the possibility to get shipwrecked on one of the surrounding islands if the mythical Kraken strikes – and with the limited edition set, it’s possible for a Sim to live out their entire life on a minor island, completely isolated and separate from the mainland.
Island Paradise arrives ideally at the start of Summer. The pack integrates excellently with other expansions like Seasons. While at first glance it may seem like a targeted release, it’s all-encompassing in its reach and offers something for every player.
Review by: Ameenah Salamunic | Reviewed on: PC