When I first heard of The Sims Medieval, I dismissed it as another pointless installment in the Sims series that EA was endlessly milking. Originally, I had no idea that this game supposedly boasted all sorts of new gameplay mechanics that drastically set it apart from its older household-themed siblings.
The Sims Medieval is, in short, the most refreshing entry in the Sims series since the original game. It expands upon and introduces many features, though it also seems to take a few steps back which prevents this from being the definitive life simulation game.
When you boot up Sims Medieval, you’re treated to the game’s very well put together presentation. Music sounds like it came straight out of a renaissance fair or cheesy fantasy movie, and the usual bright and happy blue menus from the previous Sims have been replaced with a lot of brown. Surprisingly, the brown actually works. It is a colourful and vibrant sort of brown, ff that even makes sense.
After beginning a new game from the main menu, you get to watch a clever little cinematic that tells you about the kingdom you’ll be inheriting and then, from there, you get to design your king or queen. Creating a sim in this game is exactly as it was in The Sims 3. When I say exactly as it was before, I mean it’s pretty much ripped straight out of the last game. You have your body and face sliders, voice tempo, clothing selections, and character traits. There’s a little bit less customization here than there was in The Sims 3, though. All clothing options are now full body costumes and outfits, so instead of manually choosing your shirt or pants, you are selecting one entire outfit. They can still be recoloured, which is a definite plus.
The notable change in the sims editor for Sims Medieval is the traits. No longer do we just choose several personality traits, but rather just two and then a fatal flaw. The traits are what you’d expect to see (friendly, loves outdoors, etc.) but the fatal flaws add a new dimension to character personalities. It is required that all characters have one, and these fatal flaws range from being a chronic drunk to being blood thirsty and always wanting a fight.
When you finish making a monarch sim, you get to check out the kingdom you get to direct. You basically just start off with your castle, but as you progress you will be able to build many other buildings like barracks, a tavern, and even a wizard tower. In order to construct these buildings, you have to take on quests that award points required for developing your budding kingdom. Quests in a Sims game may sound a little awkward at first, but it works surprisingly well here. You cannot play the game without taking on a quest, and you must accept one from a pretty lengthy list before the game lets you control a sim. Quests can be just about anything you can imagine in a medieval setting. One quest has you trying to find a way to remove a bad luck curse from yourself while another has you going into a cave and forming an alliance with a crab monster. They are pretty varied and are often very fun to do.
Standard Sims gameplay from before is of course present. When you take on a quest, you have an infinite amount of time to complete it. If you don’t feel like working on whatever given quest you are on, you can simply lead your sim around and live out their life by eating gross sounding medieval meals, getting absolutely hammered by brewing alcohol, getting into fist fights and duels to the death, and much more. The interaction is the same here as it has always been in Sims games, meaning you are able to form friendships and relationships with other characters, and you will always have to pay close attention to your character’s mood to make sure they stay happy. In the past, we had to keep our sims happy by managing about eight different bars that represented energy, hunger, fun, atmosphere, and much more. There are only two now, energy and hunger. Culling so many of these bars from past games does this game a lot of good, as it was not uncommon to sometimes to feel overwhelmed when your sims were unhappy over several things at once in previous Sims titles. It is now fairly simple to keep sims happy, as all you have to do is make sure they get to eat and sleep.
Their mood bar can still dip into the red if you’re not careful, however. Various actions can have a negative impact on your sim’s focus, which is a statistic that governs how your sim feels and how well they perform their duties. The higher a sim’s focus, the more happy and successful they will be. Focus can be increased by making your sims do good things such as bathing, eating, winning a fight, and getting married. Focus will decrease when sims get sick, are hurt from other sims or wild animals, and even when they are locked up in the stocks and bombarded in the face with eggs and tomatoes.
As your kingdom expands and you build new buildings, you will get to create hero sims. The monarch character was the first, but each building you add to your kingdom is managed by one as well. The tavern will grant you a bard sim, the smith gives you a blacksmith, and the cathedral gives you a priestly sim. You get to design each of these characters by yourself and then eventually use them on various quests. There are some quests that are specific to certain hero sims, such as one where the bard aspires to become a better writer so that they can impress people with their plays and poetry. Some quests will have you using two or more hero sims that you have created, which helps you build chemistry between the characters and feel like the sims in the kingdom really are working together to overcome problems.
Each hero sim has their own distinct style of gameplay as well beyond the standard eat, sleep, and have fun. For instance, the monarch sim can willingly arrest anyone without any consequences, the merchant sim can open their shop and sell wares, and the bard sim can play music to earn money and seek inspiration from other sims. Each and every single sim feels very unique once you check out what they can do, and it’s fun to try them all out.
It is worth nothing that you cannot actually construct any buildings in the way that you could design your own homes in previous Sims games. All buildings already have preset designs, it is just up to the player to furnish them and make them look unique. As far as customizing the interior of buildings go, Sims Medieval probably offers us the most options. There are loads of items to purchase, and the amount of options for painting your floors and walls is really impressive. So, while The Sims Medieval isn’t much of a playground for budding architects, I think that aspiring interior decorators will be very happy.
The graphics in Sims Medieval are probably slightly better than they were in The Sims 3, but that is not saying much. The game has a very silly look to it and graphics junkies should probably look elsewhere if they are only looking to play a game that is very graphically advanced. The graphics in Sims Medieval aren’t top of the line, but they are certainly sufficient. At the very least, they will be an upgrade for Sims 3 players. The sound is also exactly what you would expect from a Sims game. Simlish, the language spoken by Sims, is of course here and is as interesting as ever to listen to. Environmental sounds, as well as those caused by sims going about their daily business, aren’t breaking any boundaries but certainly sound good enough. Keep in mind that the game is presented in a comical fashion, so neither the graphics nor the sound are meant to be realistic.
In the end, I would have to say that The Sims Medieval turned out to be a very pleasant surprise and I’m a little disappointed that it has flown under the radar of just about everyone, since nobody I know seemed to have even heard of this game except for one Sims junkie. This is certainly a Sims game and it should appeal to anyone who liked the previous games, but the added depth from questing and managing a kingdom is probably enough to lure in those who could never get into The Sims before. The medieval setting is also very interesting, and I think that anyone who likes fantasy settings could enjoy this game as well. This is certainly the most original Sims game to come along since the very first one was released eleven years ago.