The Sims 4 Team kicks off 2015 to a solid start with their first DLC, Outdoor Retreat. Granite Falls, the brand new vacation destination, reminds me just how much I love the visual style of Sims 4. The woodsy neighborhood is small but atmospheric. And the trees! Lush evergreens reach to the skies, establishing a fantastic sense of scale. Luxury cabins that look like Lincoln Log masterpieces dot the landscape, bordered by snow-capped mountains on the horizon. Over-sized insects liven up the terrain. There’s a friendly swarm of flies to greet your sim at the entrance to the dingy facilities. New plants aren’t purely decorative, but serve as fun collectibles through the robust herbalism skill.
"The woodsy neighborhood is small but atmospheric. And the trees! Lush evergreens reach to the skies, establishing a fantastic sense of scale."
Sims can don chic pigtails and colorful activewear. There's a good chunk of wardrobe additions not lacking for usable presets. Thankfully, the team didn’t skimp on options for the males. Performed through the smartphone, the vacation mechanic works much like any other travel. Despite the handful of loading screens, it’s a quick process. I have so far been spared from the significant bugs that accompanied World Adventure’s travel in the previous installment.
Most importantly, your sim can choose to masquerade as one of several species of bears. The panda, polar bear and grizzly all share a sufficiently creepy glassy-eyed stare, like walking taxidermy experiments. I love it a hundred times more than the hot dog suit. Oh, and there’s a mini version for those pesky gnomes, too. It wouldn't be The Sims without dipping into the wackier side of the spectrum. Yes, you can create weirder stories, but it meshes well with the Pixar aesthetic. Impromptu stargazing has never been cuter.
"Yes, you can create weirder stories, but it meshes well with the Pixar aesthetic. Impromptu stargazing has never been cuter."
The digital exclusive is a welcome change from EA's crammed release schedule. Sims 3 brimmed with extras from almost too many sources. On a monthly basis, the online store introduced premium items. These items offered added functionality, and came with related hair, clothing and decorative objects. Every few months, the store also published player worlds. Bi-annual minor expansions, dubbed stuff packs, grouped content around a central theme. Subject matter included everything from high-end furnishings to Katy Perry-inspired couture. Twice a year, full expansion packs combined the above with actual gameplay enhancements. Expansions were a better deal, but still came with a bigger price tag. On one hand, I appreciated the abundance of shiny things. But my inner collector made keeping up-to-date with the Sims both expensive and confusing.
Game Packs combine the best of both worlds to give a complete experience. The team bundled the neighborhood with both items and game features. Outdoor Retreat feels more like a true sampling of an expansion. At half the cost, it's also a great way for the team to trial new ideas. Outdoor Retreat isn't a rehash of an older release, and I’m excited for this new direction.
Article by: Ameenah Salamunic