The Sims 3 World Adventures - Exclusive Hands-On
We don our khaki trousers and pith helmets and get our hands on the first expansion pack for The Sims 3.
If you're not familiar with The Sims, well…where have you been? Seriously. The hugely popular series of games lets you take control of self-aware little computer people as they live, love, laugh, and pursue their lifelong dreams while taking the occasional potty break. The most recent edition of the game was this year's highly anticipated The Sims 3, and now, the first expansion pack, World Adventures, is on the horizon. The expansion lets your sims leave home to explore ancient ruins in one of three locations (China, France, and Egypt) while taking on new professions and collecting all sorts of new loot and achievements. We had a chance to try out a portion of an Egyptian pyramid and get a look at the new adventure tools that are being added to the Sims 3 editor, and we have much to report.
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Our journey started off like any other expedition into an ancient Egyptian period--with a comfortable pair of short pants and the willingness to try anything. In order to successfully navigate any of World Adventures' ruins in search of the treasure troves of collectible artifacts hidden within, you'll want to monkey with every switch, examine every suspicious-looking statue, inspect every funny-looking wall for secret doors, and step on every loose panel you can find. While these interactive objects aren't that hard to find (the hardest you'll have to work will be briefly dragging your mouse cursor along the wall to find secret doors), it'll be anyone's guess as to what any of them actually do. That's because the new tools in the editor let you link multiple interactive objects together to trigger a series of puzzles that can pretty much be as long and complicated as you like (though the tombs that come with the game will vary in difficulty and offer some easy, some medium, and a handful of tough challenges). So, you may have a pile of rubble that your sim hacks away at with a mining pick to reveal a pressure plate hiding a button, which, when pressed, will deactivate the deadly trap in another chamber two rooms back that kept you from picking up a shiny pile of treasure and so on.
The Egyptian tomb we entered was well lit with torches and consisted of equal parts stony walls and watery pools that could be navigated by swimming. Just like in the original version of The Sims 3, you can still use your mouse to give movement commands and other orders to your sims, but World Adventures has a new fog-of-war system that enshrouds unexplored areas. Fortunately, it's not that hard to see most secrets (unless they've been cleverly hidden). So aside from making sure your sim has lots of provisions, such as plenty of dried food and a portable tent for sleeping (and possibly a few of the handy new "shower-in-a-can" items to deal with personal hygiene issues), exploring a temple is really more about trial and error, sniffing out hidden triggers and playing around with them to figure out what they do.
We carefully explored the ruin by taking a series of branching paths and peeking into every nook and cranny we could find. In World Adventures, it's likely that you'll find yourself using The Sims 3's camera controls more than you have in just about any other Sims game because you'll want to make sure you can locate any hidden goodies, as well as position yourself to interact with objects that are jammed into tight corners or located behind other roadblocks. Diligently searching is usually rewarded with bonus treasures and other goodies, such as special adventure-only coins, which can be used to purchase adventure-specific items from the merchants back at the three different campsites, and money bags (which are full of cold, hard cash). Producer Grant Rodiek suggests that adventuring can actually be profitable enough to be used as a full-on source of income that keeps your sims well fed and well stocked with possessions to make them happy. In fact, the new portable tent item actually, and at long last, makes it possible for your sims to be homeless, property-free itinerants who don't need a house. They can bum around with other sims as long as they like and then pitch a tent when they get sleepy.
In many cases, in the easier tombs that ship with the game, rooms will be laid out in a way that encourages you to poke around. While we didn't find any mummies to leap out of sarcophagi and attack us (the physical body skills of your sims will help you get the upper hand, as will the new martial arts skills you can learn in the Chinese ruins area), we did find plenty of harmless-looking rooms with only a few apparent interactive objects--a trap here or there, a pressure plate, or a sliding statue. You can pull or push statues by lining up your cursor with the direction you want to push or pull, and leaving a statue on top of a pressure plate will keep that plate "triggered," which is a state you may need the plate in to solve the next part of the puzzle. Once we triggered the plates or pressed buttons, we'd find any number of other results--other hidden plates and triggers popping up, traps activating or deactivating, hidden treasures and keys popping up, and stairways going up or down to the next levels. Yes, ruins can have multiple floors and can be created to be absolutely huge. They can be so huge, in fact, that in order to ease your transit time from deep in the dungeon to back to the campsite, you may also find, if you're lucky (or put in yourself, if you use the editing tools), a diving pool your sims can use to instantaneously route back home.
World Adventures is clearly a very different and very bold direction for The Sims games. And while you can definitely burn through an evening or three puttering around the prebuilt ruins that the Sims team at EA has put together, the real potential seems to be in the editing tools. It will be interesting to see how enterprising builders use the series of triggering objects within the ruins to interconnect and design not just a house or a shop but a full-on playable dungeon of their own. World Adventures ships in November.
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