An expansion pack that expands the definition
In the world of PC Games, expansion packs are ubiquitous. It’s unsaid policy that if a PC game succeeds, the possibility of an expansion pack is at least explored. And it makes sense; in the simplest terms, it’s truly an excuse to reuse a successful game engine and body of code with more content without officially calling it a sequel. It’s, for lack of a better description, an opportunity to release multiple marginal updates to the product at often high profit margins. Expansion pack—not improvement pack.
But The Sims 3: World Adventures turns this conventional definition of an expansion pack on its head. Of course, it absolutely features an expansion of the original game content—you’re able to continue playing with your previous Sims, gaining new skills, acquiring new furniture, and meeting new characters, as usual—but it’s much more than just that. In many ways, it’s an entirely different experience altogether, featuring a significantly altered segment of explorative and puzzling-solving gameplay not unlike a game you might find in the Zelda series. While its fusion of the two very different forms of gameplay isn’t flawless, it’s indisputably intriguing and more appealing than nearly every other form of vanilla PC game expansion we’ve seen over the years.
Simulated fireworks are so much better than real ones
Get your travel on
As previously mentioned, World Adventures begins in the usual Sims 3 environment, complete with all of the stuff you’re already used to. As you play, however, you’ll discover a plethora of added elements which provide a heavy dose of diversity to an otherwise (by now) predictable formula. These elements are rooted in the newfound ability to send your Sims traveling to far-off lands—in particular, Shang Simla in China, Champs Les Sims in France, and Al Simhara in Egypt.
In order to travel, you’ve first got to have the necessary funds, which are not insubstantial (namely, §1,300 – §1,900 per Sim), as well as a visa. As you play, you can “upgrade” your visa’s level, which allows you to travel on longer trips (at first, you’re limited to just three days before you must return home). While you’re away, it’s important to note that time is effectively frozen, both in your hometown and with regard to your traveling Sims. That means not only that you won’t miss any important events (or have to worry about paying bills, for instance), but also that your Sims will not age (if you happen to still keep the Aging option enabled, which I do not, as I cannot bear loss, however digital).
What do you do on these trips to these new towns? Well, first, you’ll explore and meet new people, encounter new shops with exotic new items, and so forth (you’re provided lodging while you’re away, too, of course). But beyond that, each town features its own unique adventure board, which enumerates specific mission-based “adventures” that request your help with everything from mild interpersonal town matters to exciting treasure-hunting treks through perilous ancient tombs. In other words, though you can take your entire family along, you’re much more likely to simply send a single Sim; that way, you can focus on making the most of your time abroad and not stress about having to babysit the needs of multiple Sims.
The new towns introduce other elements unique to each of them as well. China, for instance, provides the opportunity to learn the Martial Arts skill, while France boasts the so-called “nectary” (which is the source of a new “nectar” making skill where you collect fruits to add to a drinkable concoction that happens to get better as it ages—sound familiar?). Egypt, on the other hand, features snake-charming and mummies, which are frightful and dangerous adversaries that populate its expansive (and lucrative) selection of tombs.
"I bought this piece of crap last week and you EXPLICITLY GUARANTEED me it came with NO CURSES."
Speaking of which, while these towns are interesting, by far the most exhilarating addition to this expansion is the tomb exploration. That’s mostly because it’s so drastically different from everything else ever known to the franchise; rather than focusing on mundane everyday needs in a way which is rewarding only as you move up the societal and cultural ladder, you’re instead put in positions of very real danger and wonder, hunting for priceless artifacts and a variety of exotic riches.
Though it’s hardly as involved as, say, Zelda or Tomb Raider, World Adventures introduces a variety of “traps” and other puzzle elements to challenge your exploration of these new tombs (mousing over their locations typically reveals their existence, making forward progress relatively simple in most cases). These include block-pushing and switch-tripping puzzles, secret passages, and, of course, the traps, which come in four flavors: electrical, steam, darts, and fire. There are even holes in the wall that either house a crucial switch or a mass of terrible bugs. Contrary to what you might expect, however, there are in fact no heart-ripping tribe rituals to behold in this package.
Should you run into one of the previously-referenced mummies, by the way, you’ll need to flee with haste. These terrible undead beings have the ability to knock you out or even curse you, which is a hazardous moodlet that, if not corrected via special means, will eventually kill your Sim. Of course, you can always invest in Mummy Snacks, which will keep the awful creatures at bay while you explore their surroundings (realistic, yes?).
Apart from the wide range of valuable relics you can find in these tombs (the rarest of which are generally a part of a number of collectible sets, each of which, when completed, reward you with special moodlets), you’ll also collect Ancient Coins, which can be traded in each town to a special merchant in exchange for adventure rewards. Each adventure you complete also contributes toward the leveling up of your visa, meaning you’ll be able to stay longer on subsequent trips.
The mixture of these two entirely different forms of gameplay works, for the most part, in a complementary sort of way. While you’re exploring tombs, World Adventures almost feels like a wholly separate game; the material rewards that you’ll take back home with you are, predictably, the strongest connection between the trials you’ll face and the ordinary daily routine you balance in the usual game. Well, that, and the fact that you actually do still have to pay attention to your basic needs—a fact which, quite frankly, is a little bit annoying while you’re hunting for switches and collecting treasure.
You will need to purchase everything from food, to tents, and even mythical “showers in a can” to ensure your Sim’s needs are met while traversing the tombs. Sure, it’s not all bad if you end up forgetting to use the restroom while all alone in an ancient crypt, but it’s still a frequent reminder that this isn’t your average happy-go-lucky exploration title. I have to admit, while I appreciate this logical extension of the creative Sims gameplay into the new exploration branch of World Adventures, it admittedly does feel a bit tiring (and distracting) having to pay attention to such matters in an environment where time is frozen and everything else essentially constitutes a “break” from the norm of Sims maintenance.
And that’s not all
There are countless other elements that I’ve not covered in this review, too, such as the new Photography skill (which is accompanied by a catalog of target subjects; as you begin to fill it out, you simultaneously develop your skill) and Pangu’s Axe (which is a special item used to smash obstructive boulders throughout the lands). You can even purchase the usual vacation homes and spend some quality time with your family, mummiless (though not necessarily so, as you can develop skills to summon them at will).