We’ve been keeping tabs on EA and Maxis’ The Sims Mobile (Free), with the game being in soft launch for almost a year. Well, for iOS gamers in NA, the game has finally exited soft launch and is available for purchase. But, like all freemium games based on popular IPs, there are probably a lot of you out there with one simple question: Is it worth it? Well, we’ve had the opportunity to check out Sims prior to its NA release and while I’ve had a great time so far, that enjoyment is caveated by one’s toleration of freemium systems in general.
Looking to offer a far closer experience to its PC brethren, The Sims Mobile is a title that focuses on the stories that your Sims tell through the day-to-day activities that they partake in. There are stories told through the jobs worked, the relationships forged, and the hobbies mastered. For example, working through the Barista career has your Sim starting out as a low level coffee preparer, but as you work through the career and level it up, you unlock new cutscenes that tell the tale of your Sim advancing in their career. Another example is within the relationship mechanic: as you build relationships with your Sim and their friends, you get to decide what kind of relationship you want your Sim to engage in. Should it be a secret love? A friends with benefits tale? Each relationship has its own story to work through, with higher levels telling more of the narrative.
These story levels also unlock new furniture for their house as well as additional activities to engage in during the jobs themselves. While the “stories" themselves are pretty basic in the great scheme of gaming narrative, I appreciate them nonetheless as a necessary and welcoming force to encourage replayability. I easily found myself wanting to advance to that next job level, or put forth energy into that relationship in order to see what happens next. It’s an element that I believe a lot of folks felt was sorely missing from The Sims Freeplay and I’m glad that the developers for The Sims Mobile have taken to heart some good lessons from that previous mobile outing.
There’s been a lot of talk so far about the stories that can drive and reward your Sims, but how exactly do you level up all these possible narratives? Well, that’s where the freemium systems come in. Each Sim has its own energy meter, and participating in activities take energy. Every story activity has a timer to completion (for example, doing a short shift at a job takes about an hour). During that activity there are a variety of actions that your Sim can take to earn near instant experience that counts towards shortening that timer. Each one of those activities takes that aforementioned energy to complete. So, you can either use your Sim’s energy to shorten the timer for the activities being done, or you can just let the timer complete and return to the game later. Traits that your Sims can earn via experience include some that can cut down on the timers depending on the activity being performed.
Energy slowly regenerates over time, and there are activities within your home that can instantly replenish energy (each with their own timers to reactivate of course). While the timer and energy systems themselves is a necessary evil for these types of freemium games, I think they actually work fairly well together. The energy system acts as a nice little “busy work" game that at least works towards cutting down timers. As you perform activities the game offers some “high risk" actions that cost more energy but can potentially reward a lot more timer-reducing experience. Still, if you’re thinking that you’ll be able to play The Sims Mobile indefinitely, well you’ll be hitting that timer wall fairly quickly.
I’m pretty impressed with the sheer customizability of your Sims’ house. There are tons of things to purchase, ways to expand and build rooms, and sets to collect which offer benefits. Even cooler these all offer new contextual activities that can be done during the various missions at the home. The Sims Mobile does fall into a trap that I see a lot these days in freemium games: an excessive need to show every single possible thing you can buy regardless if you can even unlock it at that point. While this is great from the standpoint of the game bragging about all the content it can potentially offer, it does seem a bit overwhelming at first for the new player. Still, I’m in the camp where I think that it simply adds to the desire to keep playing. One significant concern I’ve noted throughout my time is the fact that everything is just so expensive once you get past the low level furniture and clothes. I understand that these types of freemium games need to stretch out content as much as possible for the long haul, but I think the current balance may turn off some players.
Another area that can stand to use some improvement at this point is with the customization controls. In this regard, I’m hoping that they work on some of the actual controls involved customizing your house. As it is, the game doesn’t exactly do the best job of implementing its fairly involved controls for putting items wherever you want them. To a certain extent this is a byproduct of trying to offer as much control to the player as possible, but the implementation is a bit lacking regardless.
From a content standpoint, I’ve been playing for quite a bit and there are still a lot of things I haven’t touched yet, such as the advanced job stories, unlocking all the different hobbies that can be mastered, or even the fashion. With daily quests, tons of continually rotating missions, and levels to aspire to for jobs, hobbies, romance, and multiplayer-oriented parties, there’s just a ton of content to do.
Getting back to my original query, I would imagine it’s pretty obvious to readers at this point that have a quite a bit tolerance for freemium systems and thus I would most certainly recommend The Sims Mobile for other like-minded players. At least for me, the freemium systems are well worth wading through to enjoy what I think is the most complete Sims experience yet that we have on mobile.