Kimberley Ellis
29 May, 2011

The Sims Medieval Review

PC Review | My kingdom is better than thine.
Throughout the eleven years of their existence, The Sims has been a series that has polarised gamers. Whether you love them or hate them, you can't deny that these little virtual beings have some serious staying power - the sheer number of sequels, expansion packs, and spin-offs that the franchise has garnered is quite staggering. Like many long-running series the biggest threat to The Sims is itself, with each new title proving to be a cookie cutter of the last, with a gimmicky feature (insert aliens, werewolves, witches and vampires here) so wacky that gamers can't resist dipping their toes into the water once more. Rather than constructing more ridiculous situations in the middle of suburbia, The Sims Medieval is steering the series in a new direction where kingdoms, castles and knights are the norm. But is it just ye olde gameplay in medieval finery? Verily, it's better than that.

Seriously, it's better than thine.

Seriously, it's better than thine.

Simply described, The Sims Medieval is a combination of the life simulation gameplay that we've come to expect from the series with a dash of adventuring and kingdom-building strategy gaming on the side, allowing you to free yourself from the established rhythm of micromanaging a family or entire community.
The Sims Medieval starts off by allowing players to create a monarch to place in your kingdom. As you level up your monarch, you unlock the ability to build additional structures in your kingdom such as barracks, churches and clinics. Not only do these additional buildings pimp out your castle, they serve a purpose by adding new controllable heroes into the game. These 'Hero Sims' can then be used to complete short, story-driven quests which then provide you with further points to unlock new structures and quests.

Each Hero Sim can be quickly selected using a preset build in the character creator tool, or players who want to give the game a more personal touch can create their own heroes from scratch using the robust character creator. In addition to their physical appearance, Hero Sims each have two traits and one fatal flaw to manage. These behavioural traits can drastically affect how your Sim will behave in the world, and how difficult it will be for you to reign their behaviour in. For instance, Sims affected by the fatal flaw of Gluttony are seemingly always ravenously hungry and you'll find that they will have to polish off double the amount of food as Sims without this flaw. While this certainly adds to the challenge of the title, stopping even five minutes to stuff your Sims guts can get pretty tiresome. We've found that the other flaws that don't have anything to do with eating or sleeping are so much easier to manage.

My mulled wine brings all the knights to the yard.

My mulled wine brings all the knights to the yard.

Thankfully, traits and flaws don't always introduce a new challenge to the game. Some of them exist simply for comedic reasons and we must admit that the unexpectedness of it all can prove to be quite amusing. If left alone to their own devices, lascivious Sims will easily be distracted from their task as they try to score with every bard, trader and lusty bar wench that crosses their path. Evil Sims will have random moments of maniacal laughter, while unkempt Sims will fart in your general direction.

The original Sims games have always felt like a book with no ending, but all of that has changed with The Sims Medieval, making it stand apart from its predecessors. This is largely thanks to the use of quests and kingdom ambitions, a cool addition which gives the game a sense of direction. Kingdom ambitions are broad over-arching goals that range from simply building up your kingdom to taking control of neighboring territories. To satisfy the ambitions, you must first earn enough resource points by completing a number of specific, smaller quests. These quests allow the title to develop a narrative as each quest can be played in any order you propose, will involve different Hero Sims and can be approached in multiple ways. When a child goes missing in the kingdom do you utilise your diplomatic connections to track him down or do you utilise the town guard to thorough search for the youth in the village?

Each Hero Sims will consist of a different profession which comes with its own unique responsibilities and with ten professions to get lost in, there is plenty on hand to keep you entertained for hours. For instance, physicians must collect leeches and diagnose patients, while the monarch will establish relations with neighbouring kingdoms and hobnob with foreign emissaries. The mix of quest goals and classic Sims-style gameplay works really well to facilitate the storytelling and a lot of that is thanks to the watered down micromanagement issues of The Sims. In The Sims Medieval Sims' basic needs are simpler than even before – with eating and sleeping being the only basic needs that you have to concentrate on.

The main problem with The Sims Medieval is one that it feels like a shallow version of The Sims. Which we really shouldn't be surprised by as the series has been known to give out features in one game, only for them to be deleted from the sequel - until the appearance of the inevitable expansion pack that is. While you are given a focus with the questing aspect of the title, the game has completely dumped one of its greatest strengths - that being the build and design features of the title. Being able to design a castle from scratch is sadly one achievement that we will miss out on. The other disappointing factor about the title is that the focus on questing has also taken out the socialising aspect of the game. During our play though we barely remembered that our monarch had married a villager as his family barely set foot onto the castle grounds.

I pity the fool that has to listen to his music.

I pity the fool that has to listen to his music.

It also doesn’t help that the game's interface is uncharacteristically cluttered and unclear. Previous Sims games have boasted a streamlined interface but that has all gone astray in a cluttered menu which tries to jam too many options into one screen.The other issue we have with the title is that it suffers from some of the technical annoyances that have plagued its forefathers - Sims getting stuck walking in circles or stomping their feet when someone's in their way and not attempting to rectify the situation.

Unlike other Sims games, The Sims Medieval has the unique quality of being winnable. There are actual objectives to achieve to conclude the game other than just deciding that you're done with it, something that many fans have been clamouring for for years. This is probably something that will make the game more friendly for the non-Sims-enthusiasts among us, but ultimately we think that the game is a humourous time sink that will lure in Sims fans of all ages. One thing is for sure, this fresh take on a long-running series shows that that there's still some life in this franchise yet.
The Score
Friendly enough to for the non-Sims-enthusiasts among us and something fresh for players that have been around the block before, The Sims Medieval shows that there's still some life in this franchise yet.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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