Review for The Sims: Medieval on iPhone
Ah everybody loves The Sims don't they? One of the best selling PC games of all time, although it was never a game in the conventional sense of the word. If you've never played it, in any incarnation, a quick resume of the Sims 1 series, since the iPhone app we shall soon look at is heavily rooted in its origins.
Unlike most games, where characters are people you shoot, jump on or run over, The Sims is about actual characters. You don't directly control them, but indirectly like some sort of voice in their head. You can get them to make food, exercise, dance, play, chat with people about subjects, fool around, go on dates, raise kids, look after pets, and so on. Oh and you get to spend their money on furniture, choose their careers, and so on.
There is no real measure of success or failure, if you want to you can starve them to death, indulge in same sex relationships, move your lover in, move two lovers in, have a flatmate, kick them all out, invite the Smiths over for dinner, generally that kind of thing. For your Sim or Sims to get very far in life, they need to improve their skills and relationships to better their career which gets them more money, which you can then spend on their house.
The Point of the Game
And after this basic premise, we move onto the EA iPhone app, The Sims: Medieval, a sort of cut down version of the original classic, moved to medieval times and given RPG elements and quests. Gone are the voices in the head, you now pretty much completely control your one and only Sim, with the only exception being if they are too tired or unhappy, they might refuse to do what you ask. Oh and they can still starve to death.
Instead of the self imposed direction of the wider PC games, here you have much more focused goals. Once you have created your Sim, you have to run around doing quests for various characters in the village. To accept a quest you have to spend focus points, and to get those you need to make sure your Sim is fed, rested, socialised and pleasured.
In the earliest stages of the game, you'll find that often you are one or two focus points short, but after a few hours playtime you'll end up in the reverse situation, but more of that later.
Doing quests improves various attributes, effectively levelling up your character over time, and allowing you access to various "job titles", and I quote that because I'm using the term rather loosely. I've yet to find out what the point in changing them is yet.
Like the original, you get money to spend which you'll need to use for some of the quests, spending it on things from a fishing rod and some bait, to an armoury for training at home. Most quests are of the go-here-talk-to-person ilk, others demand you fetch or steal an item for someone, and some even want you to pick a fight.
Moving around is easy enough, tap somewhere to send your Sim off there, if they can find a route anyway. Sometimes another Sim will be in the way and you'll have to wait for them to bog off, other times they'll refuse to move and you'll have to leave and re-enter the area to get past them.
Interacting with objects is done by, yes you guessed it, tapping them, then using the pop-up menu of options to select one. Things you can't do yet are greyed out, so if a plant isn't ripe for the picking you'll have to wait for that option to appear by coming back another time.
People have the widest range of options, since you can chat about various things, perform a number of actions on them such as fighting, stealing, buying and selling. Many options don't appear as anything but question marks until later in the game when you've grown your character up enough to use them.
Scrolling the play area is done with one finger dragging, rotating is done with two fingers twisting. Zooming is via a slider on the right hand side of the screen the bottom of which can often result in you accidentally clicking the money button.
Talking of buttons, there are a few, one to toggle the game speed between normal, fast and paused, another for the menu options. A further hard to tap one that lets you see your Sims most basic needs and how good (green) or bad (red) they are at present. The book icon brings up an, er, book, where you can see all sorts of stats, information on quests, your inventory, and two buttons that take you to the village view and home to your house.
Everything is pretty easy to control, however some things are annoyingly fiddly and smack of being designed for an iPad with no car at all for the size of an iPhone screen.
After twenty quests, you will come across two mini-games a few times. The first is fishing in which you flip the phone to cast and flip it back to hook your fish. In between you tilt to direct the fishing bobber, and it's a nice diversion from the usual parts of the game.
The other mini-game is a side on Street Fighter style... okay it's not that at all. Every few seconds you get to press a button, if you have recruited members to your guild they'll help you out, and sometimes you can use a special ability. Other than that, it's nothing like a beat-em-up at all, so don't get excited, this is after all The Sims.
If you like The Sims and you fancy a bit more structure to your playing, then The Sims: Medieval could be a good way to go. On the iPad you'll love the controls but iPhone users will find some of them fiddly and hard to deal with at times.
It definitely isn't for RPGers, there just isn't the depth here for them, most of the quests are the same, there isn't much of a story and nowhere near enough stats to get excited about.
Youngsters should find it a nice safe way to spend some time, providing their parents don't mind the odd sword fight, cartoon punch in the face and options of rude free romance.
Casual gamers might also find a lot of appeal in the progress of levelling a Sim, the only thing that holds me back from a strong recommendation on this front is what could be a major game breaking bug. I've completed the first 20 quests and now I find myself with nothing to do, there are 43 quests in total to complete but nobody seems to want to offer me them.
So currently my game play consists of Sim wakes up, Sim makes food, Sim rolls a few dice for entertainment, Sim has a chat with someone, Sim waves Sim's sword around a bit, Focus Points climb up (27 and counting), no quests appearing anywhere. I'm not quite sure how much more of this I can really stomach, it feels a lot like the original Sims game for the PC but without any of the progress.
I'll let you know if any yellow exclamation marks ever appear.
UPDATE: It turns out that no more quests were appearing because I had to choose one of two story lines. Once I selected that, a quest instantly appeared, so all is after all, well in Simland. ;)
- Pleasant graphics and sound
- Quite a lot of playtime
- Supports instant switching (multi-tasking)
- Some UI features are fiddly