I’m a big fan of the Sims series; I bought the original on it’s release day years ago, so I’m not some band-wagon rider. Hell, I could drive the bandwagon. In any case, I’ve been looking forward to playing this game since it’s preview in the last ever issue of Games for Windows (formerly Computer Gaming World). The possibilities of an open world and a new Traits system for defining a sim’s personality sounded exciting. Little did I know, that was only the beginning.

Let’s start with what I really like about The Sims 3. The open world is very slickly done. My main sim, Ace Redding, lived near a small park in Sunset Valley and likes to take jogs through it to start his day. He also enjoys going next door to bug his neighbors. He’s taken their son under his wing and (being an athletic sim) is working him into shape in his spare time. Ace occasionally stops by the central park to fish when he’s not working on climbing the chess tournament ladder. Does this sound like I’m writing fan fiction here? I’m not. These are all actual things I can do when I’m playing Sims 3. The open world allows your sims to intermingle with their neighbors like never before, and the new skill system makes most everything you do worth the effort. You can work on your charisma skill by chatting up other sims, or you can polish up your fishing skill so you can catch that elusive clown fish. Once you do catch a fish, you can either mount it, name it and put it in a fish bowl, sell it, or even eat it. Gardening is also something allot of sims get in to, with the many plants you can grow feeding the cooking system. You have to stock your fridge with specific ingredients to cook each dish your sim knows, which makes shopping sounds like a chore. However, if you know what you want to cook, you can just choose to shop by recipe. Skill books, cook books, fishing books, music books and reading books are all available at your neighborhood book store, so you’ll be there on a regular basis. Provided, that is, your sims can afford the new luxuries of life.

Sims now get paid by the hour, rather then the day. They can also get pay raises independent of a promotion. I like that you can set your sims’ work ethic each day, from Work Hard to Slack Off to Schmooze the Boss. It varies by job, what you can do at work. Ace likes to Hang out with Teammates most days and Prepare for Game Day the day before games. Jobs have various performance ratings that affect how well you do. The athlete track, for example, has Teammate Relations, Game Readiness, Athleticism, and Boss Relation as markers for how well you’re doing (or not doing).

The traits system is a list of 60 or so personality traits that are attributed to your sims to give them their uniqueness. There are positive traits like Friendly, Good, Artistic, and Charismatic, as well as negative traits like Kleptomaniac, Evil, Mean Spirited and Hates Children. What makes this fun is finding a unique balance between the traits you choose to make a sim that’s fun to play.  I can tell you from experience that an angelic sim isn’t allot of fun to play as. However, if you have one devious sim and one goody-two-shoes in the same house (a la my pair of sim brothers, Frick and Frack Frama), hilarity can ensue.

The graphics in Sims 3 isn’t going to blow anyone away. They’ve obviously gone for lower-end systems to target those who only play The Sims and likely don’t have high-end rigs. Sounds, likewise, are basic. If you’ve played The Sims before, you probably will know what to expect. Sure, the lighting and shadows are better, the foliage is more varied, and the polygon counts are higher, but overall it’s pretty much Sims 2 with another level of polish.

Finally we get to the question: Who will like The Sims 3? Sims fans will be in heaven, of course, but even those who have played The Sims and got burned out on it will enjoy this new entry. Sims haters, however, will see this as another ‘cash in’ by Maxis and EA, and y’know what? Their loss. Alphasim out.