A Look At Barnacle Bay

The Kent farm, miles from Smallville

Following in the footsteps of Zynga, Microsoft, and others, EA set up their Sim store around the launch of the third title in their popular franchise to provide add-ons and extras…for a price.  Since then, the Sims 3 Store has divided opinion among even dedicated Sims fans, with the primary complaint being the cost.

This reputation for being overpriced is not unfairly earned, with users being required to purchase blocks of points in order to buy from the expensive and ever growing range of furniture, clothing, decorations and build objects with which gamers can pad out their Sims’ lives.  A store full of such things may seem trivial, but when the Sims game was stripped back to bare bones for the third time at bat it seemed, to a cynical mind, that EA knew we’d be on the look out for more variety.

Over a year and a half on, the store boasts a wealth of furniture sets and goodies and now, a whole new town to add to the ever expanding Sims world.  Having already teased their customers with a free town in the form of Riverview, this new world, Barnacle Bay may cause eyes to water when gamers take note of the price.

Attempting to cover an add-on as opposed to a full expansion was always going to be a difficult task so I should perhaps begin with what it isn’t.  Barnacle Bay isn’t an expansion or stuff pack, nor is it chock full of baubles or new gameplay elements.  It is purely a downloadable town, a world, complete with all the requisite buildings such as homes, shops and careers related buildings, ready for your Sims to holiday or simply move in.  As such, there are no new interactions, no traits, deaths, moodlets, or anything else, just a fresh world, full of piratey promise.

Barnacle Bay is an island in the Simuyan Sea which was originally settled by a motley assortment of pirates, fishermen, and various bohemian tumbleweeds.  Sharing the fate of all good historical locales, it has become a tourist magnet, boasting a number of beaches, campgrounds, and parks.

For all the pirate themed names and advertising though, Barnacle Bay doesn’t quite live up to its potential and it honestly has a great deal of that commodity.  The island setting is a good one, allowing for sweeping coastlines and numerous beaches and coves, tucked away among rocky cliffs, however, the meat and potatoes are what lets it down.  Barnacle Bay is oddly modern, as opposed to being a ‘ye olde’ paradise of broken down nostalgia as one would expect and, as such, lacks the character promised by its name.  This is exacerbated by the chequered, ploughed fields and homesteads in its mid-region which imbues it with an odd American, Mid-West feel.  I swear I actually saw the Kent farm from Smallville at one point.

The bulk of the town lays at the northern end while the southern part of the island has a lot of empty space but very few vacant lots, meaning that a great deal of prime real-estate is wasted.  On the plus side (depending on whether you prefer to buy or build), there are more empty lots than actual vacant homes in Barnacle Bay, giving the player scope to build some impressive structures.  However, the location of these lots is largely lacking, with the opportunity for more great cliff-top locations being wasted.  The  largest sized lots are few and far between and there are several grand, modern properties hogging the lion’s share of choice locales on the island’s various extremities and vantage points, so those licking their pencil in preparation for designing a breathtaking cliff-top structure may have to resort to evicting the incumbent tenants or tinkering in the ‘Edit Town’ mode.  Perhaps one of the most spectacular locations for a property is the south eastern tip which is sadly empty; a large lighthouse or character property here would have been perfect.

While the town is the picture of common modernity, what Barnacle Bay does well are some of the more scenic locations, of which there are more than a few.  There are a wealth of hidden coves and beaches and scenic picnic areas tucked away in leafy glades.  The best of these is at the top of a fantastic waterfall and while Sim health and safety would have a field day, it is a spectacular spot from above and below.

Looks like a lovely spot for a picnic!

As welcome as beaches are for angling and ambling Sims, we’re here for the pirates and while there is no shortage of suitably nautical place names, you’ll have to dig a little deeper for anything else.  Smuggler’s Beach, Lookout Point, and Olde Pillager’s Pond are all arrr-worthy titles, however the gems among them are Barnacle Boneyard, Pirate’s Hideaway, and the Dead Men Tell No Tales Cemetery.  These areas provide the character which is sorely missing from the rest of the island and, as such, they stand out.  Barnacle Boneyard is a quaint, cliff-top graveyard, while the cemetery is tucked away amid a rugged landscape of lightning trees and standing stones, all presided over by the Grim Reaper.  A stone’s throw away lays Pirate’s Hideaway which is actually easy to miss.  A lone stairway lurks, smothered in trees and scrubland, revealing a compact hideaway full of urns and long forgotten smuggling detritus which was a great touch.

On the beachfront is nestled a superb looking restaurant, fashioned from an old ship and though it remains, as most buildings in the Sims (much to the chagrin of players), a rabbit hole, it is a welcome touch of character.  Barnacle Bay does have some great areas and inspired ideas, but it could just do with more of them. There is a great deal of potential here but sadly it doesn’t seize upon it with gusto.

The landscape, as mentioned, is very out of keeping with what one would expect, and ideally a more rugged overall terrain of thick brooding forests and crags would have gone a long way, as would  more waterfalls, hidden secrets, caves, and even a wrecked hulk or three.  As it stands, the only ship is the beachfront eatery…there are no wooden skeletons laying battered by the surf, no homes fashioned, Frankenstein style, from timbers of old ships, and no way, at the moment, to create them yourself to make up for it.  While there are a great deal of empty lots, there are no real build items in the included 18 objects which seems a shame (unless we can expect them to wash up as part of anther set on the store at some point).  To be honest, a truly piratey set of bits would make for part of a good fantasy themed stuff or expansion pack.  The objects themselves are a mix of clothing and decorations and range from the must-have pirate headgear to portholes, swinging inn-signs, and a wrecked boat and all are very welcome.

We sat outside the clock tower for hours, but the DeLorean never showed.

On one hand, there is much to like about Barnacle Bay – there are some inspired touches, though they are, sadly, all too few and the whole island doesn’t have the character or charm to make it really standout as it could have.  Patchwork fields and modern homes just don’t fit to my mind.  If it were free, none of this would matter quite so much, since the island itself will make a good base to tweak in EA’s free Create A World tool, however, the price is an issue.

Barnacle Bay comes in at an eye watering 1650 SimPoints and since you can only buy them in blocks of 1000, that will set you back close to £14.00.  For just a few quid more, you could grab an actual expansion.  Yes, the exclusive objects are a nice addition, however, when you consider that the Sims Design and High Tech Stuff Pack includes 40 new objects and comes in at under a tenner, Barnacle Bay seems rather over priced and sadly just doesn’t quite deliver.

Barnacle Bay Giveaway

We have three Sims 3 Barnacle Bay download codes to give away to our readers.  We’re not going to expect you to throw your friends in a swimming pool and take away the stairs, or lock them in a windowless room and remove the door as you watch them slowly turn to insanity… instead we just need you to follow us on Twitter and use the following phrase as your Twitter status update, including the web address at the end:

I want to win a #BarnacleBay #Sims3 download @GamingLives because One Eyed Willy is my childhood hero http://bit.ly/GLBarnacle

The giveaway is open from now until October 30th at 6pm and the lucky winner will be announced on this page and on Twitter and Facebook.  If you’re one of the three lucky winners, we’ll send you a DM on Twitter and ask for your email address so we can get the download details sent off to you.

Last five articles by Lorna



  1. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    See… if I could buy some modded DeLorean and get a Sim kitted out in a Superman cossie then I’d be up for this… I wouldn’t bother about the whole pirate thing at all, I’d just create my own blockbuster movie. Also… it’s an island… needs Godzilla or, at the very least, Rubberduckzilla.

    Great idea but, as you said, appears to be lacking that edge that makes it something other than “just an island” which is a shame. Love the circle of tombstones though, nice eerie touch.

  2. Richie Rich says:

    I’ve never really gotten on with Sims unfortunately (anything with more options than Little Computer People invariably puts me into coma) but as ever I still appreciate the detail and quality you get from a Lorna post as standard. Good stuff.

  3. Ben Ben says:

    Keep wanting to like The Sims but for some reason it just never clicks with me. Just wish EA had Valve’s mantra when it comes to the modding community, loosen their grasp a little and they just may see it being to flourish ten fold.

    It has a pirate ship though, everyone likes pirate ships!

  4. Lorna Lorna says:

    Thanks for the comments folks, always appreciated, especially since the Sims games are something of an acquired taste around these here parts :)

    @ Mark – Rubberduckzilla should be in every game ever. Yeah, the whole thing was just not piratey enough and at least three times more expensive than it should have been.

    @Rich – Thanks :) Probably just as well as it will suck your life away and bring out a sadistic streak. I was heartily disappointed by the minimal amount of ways to kill a Sim in the base game.

    @ Ben – It is hard to get used to the third game after everything was stripped back out of the second one and the Sims 3 base game was released…until there are a few expansions under its belt – as there are now- it can be a struggle keeping interested.

    The modding community is very much present but often for a price, which is fair enough I suppose, after all, it is someone’s hard work), though I don’t know whether it is merely tolerated or actively encouraged :( The adult stuff is quite limited and can be tricky to track down, however, I use a number of great sites for all kinds of mods and objects, especially the adult stuff which makes it a lot more diverting.

    The pirate ship is a rabbit hole sadly and can’t be entered. As with all such locations you are left tapping your foot outside, clockwatching, while your Sim larges it up inside.

  5. Ben Ben says:

    Ah so modders get portion of revenue from the sales of their creations? That’s cool (if I’m reading it right – you can see my knowledge of Sims is absolute zero).

    Surprised movie studios haven’t yet jumped on board and get some sets created based on films a Hogwarts style town would surely sell by the bucket load and be probably pretty cool as well.

  6. Lorna Lorna says:

    No, the stuff that fans upload to the exchange on the EA site is all free and no one gets anything from it, however, there are a load of fan sites, some of them huge and which charge for content…although there is the constant problem of people nicking their stuff and selling it as their own. It is a vast community when you scratch the surface and the amount of stuff can be overwhelming, especially if you are just browsing. Some folks are genius with their creations though.

    This for example:

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