Remember in SimCity, how the addition of a lot of industrial zones and coal power plants can make your city turn all brown and smoggy? Well, that’s now possible in The Sims! The new Eco Lifestyle expansion pack is all about green (or dirty-industrial) living, and a lot of your actions now contribute towards a new Eco Footprint scale that determines what your neighbourhood looks like.
Live green or kill the Earth
The new world of Evergreen Harbor contains three neighbourhoods sitting on various points of the Eco Footprint scale. Port Promise is the most eco-unfriendly of the three, Conifer Station sits in the neutral zone, and Grim’s Quarry is a nice green environment.
But wherever they start, your actions can help change things up, turning the sky brown with smog, or making the clear night sky light up with auroras.
How it works is that certain items in the game now have an Eco footprint score to them. Using environmentally-friendly recycled doors and planting trees will help the neighborhood get greener.
On the flip side, heavy electronics, flammable objects (including torches and rockets) bring your neighbourhood towards the industrial side of things. Bring it down enough, and out come the smog clouds and your Sims will start to cough and experience a whole lot of discomfort.
You can’t talk about going green without talking about sustainable energy, so this expansion pack comes with a range of solar panels, wind turbines and dew collectors to help create your own electricity and water. This can offset your bills, and excess power and water can also be sold for a profit.
A new element of gameplay is recycling and upcycling. Your Sims can now use Fabricators to make furniture to use or sell. All you need to recycle old stuff in a Recycling Machine to crunch it down into usable Bits and Pieces (official terminology for the resources required).
Actually, the best place to get Bits and Pieces is to dumpster dive! You can go through your own trash, but the best place to go is the neighbourhood dumpster and forage for usable crap. Yes, your hygiene level drops substantially when you do this, but imagine the excitement when you dig up a classic old table from The Sims 1! You can use it in your new home, or munch it into Bits and Pieces.
Using Bits and Pieces in the Fabricator, we’ve made bookshelves, chairs, tables – the more you use the machine, the better stuff you can make.
There’s even a new Freelancer career path as a Maker, so that you can make these things for clients to pay the bills.
Speaking of recycling, you can find old food in trash… and eat it.
Living off the grid
We have to admit, we didn’t really feel the difference of the new expansion at first. That’s because we started in a regular house. When we decided to move our family into a new “Off the Grid” house in Port Promise, the game really started to become exciting.
Living off the grid means not being connected to power or water. Not having power or water means the stuff that we all take for granted like working stoves, TVs, baths are all not available. Well, they are, but you will need to find a way to generate the power and water to use them (more about this below).
When you start off, you’ll be using a dinky shower and your Sims will not feel particularly comfortable after using it (which they will often if they go dumpster diving a lot). Want lights at night? You’ll need candles or torches.
Our Sims had to BBQ hot dogs out in the balcony for their meals, and there was no fridge to store leftovers. To make matters worse, there was no sink to wash the dishes with. We had to save up to buy an off-the-grid capable sink before we could get rid of the filthy dishes.
Which isn’t to say you can’t have nice electronic stuff and take baths. As mentioned above, you can create your own electricity and water using wind turbines, solar panels and dew collectors that you build around your lot. All electrical and plumbing-based items have a new stat that tells you their power/water requirements, so you have to generate enough to power them.
Now you’ll remember to switch the TV off when you’re not using it!
This system has a SimCity feel to it, and it’s good. The Sims has always been a good game to highlight concerns about real life, and this is a good way to take an objective look at how we use electricity and water.
Being part of a neighborhood
One other major change to the gameplay is being able to affect your neighbourhood using the Neighbourhood Action Plans (NAPs). Every week, there can be up to four active, and these will decide a range of things like pushing clean energy, eco-friendly appliances, or even wearing paper bags over everyone’s heads. These NAPs also affect how the people in the neighbourhood look, and can help to affect the amount of trash on the streets.
It seems like being a part of the green-living movement also involves educating all your friends and family to do the same, and that’s how the NAPs work. You have to go around gaining Influence (befriending other Sims, donating money), and then you can use this Influence to directly cast a vote on the NAPs or persuading other Sims to vote the way you want them to.
So it makes it worthwhile to walk around the streets chatting up random strangers. The new career paths sometimes require you to do this too – our Civil Designer Sim-G had to go around interviewing people about their housing utilities. It makes the career and the other activities gel together nicely.
Every neighbourhood has a special lot that starts off as an empty abandoned space with a dumpster, but can be changed into a Maker Space, a Marketplace, Community Garden etc. Which one it becomes is decided through votes, but whichever one it becomes you can go in and edit that lot and design it the way you like it.
This mechanic gives your Sims tangible power in influencing the look and feel of the neighbourhood, so it’s something social Sims will want to do. Plus, you can kind of feel like the Godfather in a way, walking around asking people for favours and manipulating the neighbourhood. An eco-Godfather.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
It’s a fun addition to The Sims 4 experience, and especially worthwhile if you’re interested in green living.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story - 7/10
Presentation - 8/10
Value - 8/10