The Sims 3: Supernatural – Preview
If patterns from former generations are to be held up as a template, then the Sims 3 is reaching its twilight years, with the Autumn release of what could well be its penultimate expansion pack – Sims 3: Supernatural. With a few, arguably, weak expansions bloating out the third generation’s roster, the series needs a shake up to perk up the naysayers and what better way to do it than with those tried and tested fan favourites: magic and the supernatural. Of course, one could argue that we’ve been down this road already, with vampires appearing early on in Late Night, and a number of magical items for sale on the Sims Store, albeit at exorbitant prices, but with Supernatural, The Sims Studio have upped the ante in many surprising ways, which could well see this expansion become the favourite of its generation. GamingLives grabbed a moment of time from the busy Sims 3 Supernatural Studio Team to find out more, ahead of the September release.
Sims 3: Supernatural allows the players to immerse themselves in all things weird and fantastical with the ability to create and live as a number of supernatural beings, from werewolves and witches, to vampires and fairies. While we have already had a taste (sorry) of vampires from Late Night, and of werewolves in Sims 2, now, for the first time, players can directly create these creatures, or ‘supernaturals’ as the team refer to them, from scratch in the Create-A-Sim tool. Rather than having to get bitten by a sinister dog or schmooze a vampire and ask them to turn you, you can build your own from the ground up, no mess, no fuss. Want a Grotbags-style witch (Google her, younger generation, for this was the entertainment we ‘olds’ had as kids) with bright green hair and black lippy? You can have her. Or you can go down the sexier route and have a quartet of Craft-style witches, with a Fairuza Balk lookalike smouldering your screen into meltdown.
Indeed, with magic being at the core of the expansion, there are a number of spells and elixirs to be cast and created, which can have a variety of effects, from turning Sims into gold, to making them fall in love, or even zombifying them. With the undead shuffling into every game on the planet, you didn’t think that they would leave Sims alone, did you? Zombified Sims will be able to ‘chomp on other Sims’ and wreak havoc on the town, at least until you concoct a special elixir to change them back.
However, such magical meddling and mischief can have startling consequences and the team explain that “Spells can certainly backfire on the caster, causing effects as diverse as the spells themselves.” As someone whose utterly illegal counterfeiting machine in Sims 2 (stashed out the back of my dorms) regularly burst into flames, I can attest to the humour in such things, and I suspect that much of the enjoyment from the expansion will be derived from things not going to plan, as much as when things do.
With new creatures and a new theme comes new gameplay and, of course, this means interactions and abilities. The team at The Sims 3: Supernatural Studio Team were happy to elaborate on what we can expect, starting with werewolves, whose lycanthropy ability will enable them to transform at will. “Werewolves struggle to control their inner beast and tend to gather in packs,” they explained. “One of their primary strengths is the ability to hunt for collectables throughout the world.” This is obviously great news for collectable-hunters and those whose Sims enjoy a more bohemian or freewheeling existence, finding and selling these things without having to resort to a career. Vampires, on the other hand were always going to be interesting – after all, we already have them – and they have been tweaked: “Vampires have been enhanced with hypnotic abilities, intimidation and the potential to become immortal day-walkers.” No dusty deaths anymore then? The team didn’t elaborate, and we suspect that such immortality may well be hard-earned but, even so, it should make life a little easier for players who want their vamps to prowl the town extensively during the day, not just at night.
The other supernatural Sims are where the more magical side of the expansion starts to kick in. “Fairies are rather mysterious supernaturals who can interact with ordinary Sims and objects in new fun and interesting ways,” the team said. “As a fairy, we give the player the choice to prank, trick or help other Sims around their town.” The puckish mischief doesn’t stop there, however. “Witches are Sims with an innate connection to magic. Using their wands, they can cast spells on themselves, other Sims, and the world around them to either help or harm.” They went on to elaborate that “witches will be able to use spells to do a number of different things, from providing a Sim with a bit of luck to turning a Sim into a toad. ” We also learned that there will be delayed ageing for fairies and vampires – perhaps an odd inclusion given that you can essentially switch off aging in the options menu anyway, but welcome for players who don’t wish to ‘artificially interfere’ with a Sim’s life.
Traditionally, in fiction, supernatural beings aren’t exactly ‘besties’- far from it – and we had to know whether the same would be true in Sims 3: Supernatural. “We haven’t forced any built-in animosities or prejudices between the different supernaturals,” the team admit. “Of course, you can still tell those types of stories, for instance, make a vampire Sim enemies with a werewolf Sim, just as you’ve always been able to do with ordinary Sims.” Fair enough, but we wondered just how well some of the townies might react to supernaturals in their midst. “Other than things like the natural fear caused by witnessing a werewolf transformation, ordinary NPC Sims and supernatural NPC Sims will have neutral feelings towards other supernatural Sims.” The Supernatural team then added that “The exception to this is if they have either the ‘Supernatural Fan’ or the ‘Supernatural Skeptic’ traits. As the names imply, these traits will imbue Sims with either a negative or positive predisposition towards supernaturals.”
How the Sims (and supernaturals) act and react to one another is at the core of the game, and the Supernatural expansion promises more social interactions to be discovered, some of which the team were happy to detail: “There is no shortage of new and interesting social interactions in The Sims 3 Supernatural,” they confirmed. “Each supernatural has unique social interactions they can perform with ordinary Sims and vice-versa. For example, if the werewolf is feeling aggressive, they might growl at another Sim to frighten them.” It isn’t all sinister, however, as the trademark Sims humour comes into play: “On the other hand, if they’re feeling frisky, they might get the urge to sniff another Sim in an inappropriate way. The ordinary Sim could then respond by rubbing the werewolf’s belly.”
Of course, with all this magic in the air, we had to know whether there would be any Harry Potter-esque duelling on the table and put this to the team who confirmed our suspicions before we could yell “Expelliarmus”: “Witches can indeed enter into a spell casting duel, with the stronger witch more likely to be the victor.” We can practically see the machinima videos already and expect that these duels will have some amusing outcomes, especially as frogs and zombies have already been mentioned in the context of spells, but only time will tell – we are just hoping for more than a Sim being tossed out of a magical whirlwind onto their arse.
With duels, backfiring spells, and zombies all making an appearance, we had to know whether there are any additional deaths this time around. Previous expansions (and the base game in general) have been oddly light on deaths. Traditionally there is at least one in every expansion, but some have had none at all, disappointing those evil players who enjoy putting their creations and their unlucky neighbours through the wringer. The Sims Studio is also often cagey about revealing the deaths, but this time, however, the Supernatural team surprised us by revealing that there will be not one, but three Sim deaths this time around: “One death is related to magic, a second death is related to alchemy and the last death is related to a mysterious plant. We don’t want to give away all the fun so we recommend you experience these deaths for yourself!” While the first thought about the plant death is that it will be via the Cow Plant (as seen and feared in Sims 2 University), it is already available for download (at a price, natch) from the Sims Store, so either it is now being included, gratis, here, or there is another sinister something awakening in the greenhouse; we look forward to finding out what… albeit at a distance.
It looks like career minded players will be able to enjoy only one new career track this time out, however, as usual, there will be a branch to add a little diversity. “Sims can now pursue a career as a fortune teller,” the team revealed. “As Sims move up the career ladder, they can choose to harness their otherworldly powers as a true mystic or pursue a more ‘fake it till you make it’ attitude as a scam artist. Fortune tellers will be able to provide private readings to Sims at any time.”
If the career track doesn’t float your play-style boat, then more family-oriented Sims will be pleased to note that in affairs of the heart, all is not natural… “When supernatural Sims mate with other supernatural Sims, the offspring will inherit looks and special abilities from one side of the family, making things around home a bit more mystical!” the team revealed. They didn’t elaborate on whether one gene would be more dominant between two supernaturals, so we are left to assume that it will be fifty fifty between, say, a vampire and a werewolf as to which one a baby ends up developing traits from.
With a mystical expansion, it stands to reason that a suitable town is to be included, and, sure enough, players will be able to sample the magical new town of Moonlight Falls. We imagined that it would be more than just a pretty name, and asked the Sims team just what we could expect. “Moonlight falls is full of interesting (and creepy) places to explore. Sims can research the supernatural world around them at the Vault of Antiquity, or discover hidden surprises in some of the more remote locations. We recommend a trip to Stone Troll Fishing Hole or, for the truly brave, a visit to Hallowed Grounds Cemetery during a full moon.”
Not only that but the town will reveal other secrets with the onset of the lunar cycle, with mysteries that the devs are promising will shake up the entire town. Might be as well imbuing your Sims with the Bravery trait now and have done with it. If the town contains interesting underground locations similar to those found in the World Adventures locations, or even the Sims Store town of Barnacle Bay, we’d be quite pleased. It would add a little more diversity and adventure to an otherwise regular town map and could provide storytellers and machinima fans much ammo if done correctly.
Storytellers and budding filmmakers aren’t the only type of Sim players however, and there are those (including some on the GL team) who do nothing but build and create in The Sims games, while their characters hang in limbo. Every new expansion traditionally comes with new build/buy objects and with the magical theme in mind, we’re expecting some pretty decent additions. While the Sims Store has some truly gorgeous sets – Gothique, Faire Folk, and Happily Ever After, for example – they come at a high cost, so more included gothic themed items would be very welcome, and that looks just like what we’ll end up with, as, according to the Sims Supernatural team “there are a number of new build/buy objects, including both gothic styled pieces and earthier, fairy-themed pieces. Among many other items, there will be a new door hidden within a bookshelf that is perfect for creating hidden rooms in which to hide your Sims’ secrets.” Sounds ideal for creating a hidden lair for our evil Sims – or at least to stash the grave markers of Sims who have ‘met with a little accident’. Other items will include a powerful mirror with magical interactions, broomsticks, and a gypsy caravan.
All in all, Sims 3: Supernatural sounds as if it is shaping up to be an interesting release and one which could well bring disillusioned players back to the Sims 3 fold after the weak Generations expansion and several off-putting branded stuff packs (Diesel is incoming and the less said about Katy Perry the better). Magic is always a fan favourite and the inclusion of ‘build from scratch’ supernatural Sims will undoubtedly be a winner, as long as there are enough socials and interactions to make them more than a fleeting novelty. Fingers crossed that there will be more than enough objects to make the build/buy crowd happy too, but given that EA have shot their mystical load on the Sims Store with these things, we hope for the sake of those who have already bought them that the expansion includes more than just carbon copies (although obtaining the otherwise pricey sets this way would be nice, as long as that isn’t all we get). Overall, the theme of the seventh expansion presents a broad canvas of potential – let’s hope that EA don’t skimp with the paints this time and deliver a solid, comprehensive addition to the Sims universe.
Last five articles by Lorna
- A Letter From Skingrad
- Controller Issues
- Best of 2013: The Game That Ate Christmas
- Best of 2013: Much Obliged
- Best of 2013: I Will Survive: Lost In Blue