This review was made possible by EA Game Changers.
It’s been quiet on The Sims 4 front for a few months, with not even a whisper of a new pack. That is, until last week, when the official Sims account teased a very ‘strange’ pack, supported by tweets from numerous Sim Guru accounts (these are the accounts used by the Sims dev team). The next day, a trailer announced the StrangerVille game pack, to be released in less than one week.
If you haven’t yet seen that trailer, check it out below:
This trailer suggested something entirely new for The Sims 4: a story! Since this story is a major focus of this game pack, I won’t spoil the details of the later stages in this review. With that out of the way, let’s dig into The Sims 4 StrangerVille.
Strange and stranger
Veteran Simmers may recall Strange Town from Sims 2, a desert town with a higher than average rate of alien abductions. StrangerVille, the new world introduced in this game pack, captures Strange Town’s vibe rather well. It doesn’t include aliens, however, as they are part of the Get to Work expansion. The events of StrangerVille‘s story are self-contained within the town of StrangerVille.
When visiting StrangerVille for the first time, you’ll soon notice that this little desert town is not quite what it seems. There’s a large number of military personnel around, though with a military base on the outskirts of town, perhaps that in itself is not remarkable. There are also a lot of scientists about, who presumably work at the nearby laboratory which is… engulfed in a weird cloud? That seems a little odd… Then there are nutters running around in tinfoil hats, Sims in black suits standing about, inconspicuous vans hanging around inconspicuously… oh, and there’s weird purple plants growing all over the place.
If your Sim starts poking around, chatting to the locals or digging through the archives at the local library, they’ll soon learn that Sims have been acting strange around town. They’ll probably encounter these strange Sims firsthand before long.
Investigating these mysterious events has several stages, triggered by a significant action taken by your Sim. Each stage affects the entire town, though none of them actually impede normal gameplay, meaning you can pretty much stop investigating whenever you like. The story doesn’t seem to progress without player intervention.
You can investigate unguided except for the information you get from speaking to other Sims in the town, or you can give your Sim the new StrangerVille aspiration, which doubles as a step-by-step guide to solving the mystery.
Seeing your actions have a direct effect on the entire town and its inhabitants is rather rewarding, and it’s something we haven’t really seen in The Sims franchise before.
Without going into specifics, solving the mystery requires your Sim to speak to other Sims, investigate certain locations and uncover clues, and eventually deal with the cause of all of the strange happenings in StrangerVille. These actions are not particularly difficult (but what is in Sims 4, really?), but seeing your actions have a direct effect on the entire town and its inhabitants is rather rewarding, and it’s something we haven’t really seen in The Sims franchise before.
I enjoyed working through the little story, but it didn’t take me very long to complete, and I’m not sure it’d be worth replaying. As such, it’s a little hard to recommend this game pack purely on this new aspect of gameplay.
I do hope we see more of this type of gameplay in the future. Perhaps something longer and with multiple outcomes.
Beyond the story, the StrangerVille game pack contains much of the same sort of stuff as other game packs. There’s a host of new clothing items, the majority being for adult females, as always. There’s very little for children and nothing for toddlers. The clothing ranges from cowboy boots and other Western-themed outfits, to army- and science-themed gear, to a cool but somewhat unrelated animal costume.
The new build and buy items include a host of items related to the story, mostly following a military, science lab or conspiracy theorist bunker theme, including some cool clutter items. And lava lamps. I can see this stuff being really great for telling certain types of stories, but the lack of basic items like beds and couches means that the pre-built houses included in the game are rather sparsely decorated with mostly base game furniture.
New interactive items include the sparring bot, a listening station that you can use after your Sim has placed listening devices onto unsuspecting Sims via an awkwardly long hug, and laptops (finally!).
StrangerVille itself is a moderately sized world with 11 buildable lots – pretty substantial for a game pack. The town itself looks great, with views of the desert beyond the town, and it even features a trailer park.
The town itself looks great, with views of the desert beyond the town, and it even features a trailer park.
There’s also the new military career, which is a semi-active job where you can send your Sim to work alone or work from home. Military-focused Sims earn medals as they progress, and unlock a whole lot of military actions like saluting, sparring and giving orders to other Sims. Alternatively, a Sim can follow the path of the covert operative, which will see them planting bugs on other Sims to find out what they’re up to. The military outfits for this career look pretty cool, but progress down the military path can get a little frustrating when the daily tasks are things like ‘give orders to Sims’. My poor Sim had to give dozens of orders to meet the daily requirement, which seemed excessive. Needless to say, I had him stay home the next day and complete the much easier at-home tasks instead.
The Sims 4 StrangerVille is an entirely new type of game pack, and if I could recommend it entirely on its concept, I would. Unraveling the mystery of StrangerVille is a lot of fun, and is executed really well. However, with limited replayability, I feel this is not enough to sell the pack. The new cosmetic and furniture items are, as always, a matter of taste, though I quite liked them. The new town and career are both of high quality, if you want somewhere new for your Sims to live, and a new job path to challenge them.