When hearing the name “The Sims Medieval” you would be forgiven for thinking it is simply another items pack for the ever expanding Sims franchise that has saturated the PC market for the last 11 years. However in contrast to the usual no-value-for-money Sims games that are still being churned out, “The Sims Medieval” is a very refreshing breath of life into the otherwise stagnated Sims franchise. If you are expecting a typical Sims game with added chamber pots, plagues and wizards you would be, for the most part, mistaken.
The game starts off on a strong footing, with an impressive and boastful introductory cinematic promising you (you being the god of the world, appropriately named “The Watcher”) a world of “limitless possibilities”. This sets the scene nicely and is voiced by none other than Patrick Stewart (Mr Picard himself) and from here on in you are in control of various types of hero Sim that range from the King or Queen of the Kingdom to a lowly blacksmith. The create-a-Sim is simple and lacks any real level of detail that some previous Sim games have been able to offer, and once you enter the Kingdom for the first time you are greeted with a very lengthy tutorial that doesn’t deem it necessary to have the save feature enabled until it is complete.
The core gameplay of any Sims game is the life simulation and the same can be said here, however this time it is now an extremely simplified version of what you might expect from this series, instead of the typical six or so requirements that your Sims pester you to satisfy at the most inconvenient times, you will only need to look after their hunger and energy levels. Although this may seem like a relief at first, it really does remove any depth and attachment you might have to a Sim as you spend little time looking after them and taking charge of their medieval lifestyle. The most obvious flaw to this game is how it handles the story and the subsequent quests associated with it. Where you might expect to be able to explore thick forests while hunting for bears, or patrol winding highways in search of bandits to kill, instead it all occurs through the means of text. To go on a “quest” you simply click on a signpost and select which option you would like to carry out and your hero wanders off out of view and then a little while later returns to you, with a wall of text explaining what has happened on the adventure. Sometimes you get to make choices while they are adventuring on these quests, but this is little more than choosing between two options, such as drinking a bottle of bright green liquid with a skull on the bottle or saving a peasant in distress. The fact that nearly all the events that occur in the kingdom happen through a written description seriously damage the immersion of the game, when having the target audience of this kind of game in mind it really doesn’t seem an appropriate feature to have included.
The quest goals and the associated paths that lead you to your goal can be interesting and varied and there are a wide range of goals, paths and rewards to ensure you want to keep questing through the kingdom. The wide range of heroes you will be using throughout the game enable quests to be handled with different approaches, some quests give you the option to choose a path to take, be it religious, violent or diplomatic. This also paves the way for consequential decision making, where choosing good or bad can lead to the quest altering and the rewards changing. Unfortunately it doesn’t pay to take your time questing, as the longer you take to complete a quest, the more the rewards of the quest drop in value. With questing acting as a form of resource gathering in this game, it is vital to gather build points to expand your kingdom and create new buildings for more advanced opportunities. This ultimately leads you to rush through most quests, making use of the time adjustment tool that’s on offer for a very obvious reason.
As anyone familiar with the series will know, the ability to create magnificent and crazy buildings is a huge part of the gameplay and is often one of the most enjoyable aspects of a Sims game. This just makes it more mystifying as to why it was decided that there would be no building opportunities throughout the entire game, with the customization going as far as allowing you to decorate the inside of fairly small rooms. The prospect of castle building is one that I would assume most people would be excited by, I find it hard to imagine an entire development team not realising this, so I can only guess that it was laziness that stopped it from being implemented, which does not shine a good light on a game that already is lacklustre enough, yet alone with the absence of a heavily expected core feature.
Despite the games shortcomings, it is a successfully implemented new take on the heavily recycled Sims core gameplay, while remaining recognisable to the casual Sims fan. The interesting new setting combined with a much more goal-orientated gameplay style allows for this game to be a pleasant gaming experience for the first few hours despite the sometimes frustrating flaws that come with it. With the text based questing, the limited replay value and the general grinding feeling you will no doubt feel at some point in the game, it stops itself from being something great, and falls into mediocrity. If you are looking for a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and has some fun new tweaks and additions of the Sims formula then this is a game worth trying, just don’t expect endless hours of immersive based addiction some previous Sims games may have offered you.