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The Sims Medieval is not an expansion of the venerable series, but an spin off. I don’t know if there will be more of these kinds of series extensions, but from this game alone I can see promise. It may not appeal to everyone but there’s a niche here. Let’s see who fills that market.
You begin by creating a ruler for your small kingdom. Seeing as how this is a sims game, you get a good bit of play in their appearance and personality. You pick two traits and one fatal flaw for each sim you make. My first king, for example, was eloquent, a good haggler, and a compulsive gambler. These aren’t as varied or detailed as Sims 3’s traits but they do cover most of the basics, and then some.
The whole game looks, to me, to be almost a Sims theatrical production. You play most of the game from a side view of buildings you’re in, like they’re sets on a stage. This isn’t a bad thing in my book but it may bother some players who have to try and adjust the camera to other angles that suit their preferences each time they return to a building. Buildings you place down around your kingdom provide different professions and therefore playable characters but they come pre-designed. Again, this is a plus for me because I can spend over an hour just building my home in Sims 3 and be worn out with the game before my sim even moves in. You get to place objects around, some decorative, some functional, but nothing major can be altered.
The majority of the game plays out via quests. You select an quest and a sim to undertake it, and then use that sim’s particular traits to complete said adventure. Part of the draw of the game is that different heroes (that’s what your sims with professions are called) tackle problems differently. A merchant won’t handle problems like a wizard, who won’t do the same thing as a knight. It’s an intriguing concept, but there are some minor hiccups.
In order to succeed in your missions, your focus must be high. It’s allot like the aspiration bar in Sims 2, and even occupies a similar spot on the interface. If your focus is low, you’ll fail the random, behind the scenes die rolls that determine your success. While keeping your focus high isn’t usually a problem, there are times when one or both of the two daily objectives you’re asked to complete (on top of your quest) is hard or nigh impossible to complete, and you get a serious focus hit for missing either of your objectives. A negative focus causes other interactions to fail, leading to a fatal spiral that can be really hard to pull out of. Completing your daily objective can be made even harder when it requires trial-and-error or a long process because your needs are constantly in decay, and negative needs also lower your focus.
For a really simple example, say your merchant’s two goals are to go to the town market and buy the hottest items, and to sell something to someone at your stall. Normally not a problem for an experienced merchant, but let’s say this is your second or third day on the job, and you’ve got your main quest line nagging at you as well. First off you might got to town and get the goods you need. Great, one objective completed. You get back to your house and now your sim is hungry. You cook yourself some food, and now you’ve got just a few hours left – assuming your sim got a good night’s rest and got up at a good time – to open your shop and convince someone to buy something. This isn’t real easy for a starting merchant because no one trusts you, so you have to smooth talk folks before you try to try and sell something to them. You only need to fail twice or so before the time limit on your objectives runs out (you only have until evening to complete them) and you haven’t made any progress on your overarching quest. This makes the whole game feel like you have to rush to get everything done before the game tells you you’re out of time. There are also random events that can slow down your progress, like getting mugged by a bandit. I wish there was a sandbox mode, but there’s not.
Sims Medieval isn’t a bad game, and can be allot of fun once you get into the flow of it, but just know that you’ll have to play at it’s pace and not yours. If you’re coming from the regular Sims games, this can be quite a shock to the system. If you approach it on it’s own, though, you’ll see it as an ambitious but flawed game that may have tried to incorporate too much. Still, it’s better then The Guild 2. Alphasim out.