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Last month, on the 8th of July, EA put me on a plane and took me to Redwood City, near San Fransisco, so I could get a sneak peak of two of their latest games. Both games were never shown to public yet. The Group of Lucky ones who did get to see the games was really small. There were about thirteen journalists from different countries and media, there was someone from the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf and there was someone from insidegamer.nl. Mark from Simsplanet2 was also present. And me, Lex, or better known as Xelles, from Sims3nieuws was there too.
This preview will be about the second game I got to see, called The Sims Medieval!
I was enthusiast about The Sims Medieval from the very first minute and when I saw the first images of it I fell completely in love. The atmosphere of the medieval period EA created was just perfect, I really like the medieval setting. Before I am going to talk about the game itself, I want to tell something about what happened the day before we got to see the game.
Before I went to America I did not know which games to expect. EA was not planning to tell me this until the day itself. As a Sims fansite we already knew that the website address thesimsmedieval.com was reserved, but we weren’t sure if this was one of the games EA would show us.
The evening before we would get to see the preview of The Sims Medieval, EA already gave us some clues on what we could expect. We had dinner at a restaurant with a medieval like theme. The menu was specially made for our group, there were pictures of knights on it. We also got a VIP-card with a knight and a medieval chair printed on it. It was obvious; tomorrow we get to see The Sims Medieval!
The very next day it was indeed confirmed that we would get to see The Sims Medieval. This because when we went in the huge EA office, we crossed a field of grass. There we saw a real medieval knight tournament, we would get to see this later that day. First we had a short tour through the EA office by one of the employees of EA. She took our doubts away, today we definitely would get to see The Sims Medieval. Before we got a presentation about the game, we had a delightful medieval lunch and we got to see the knight tournament we were waiting for.
I was really surprised about all the effort EA put into the introduction of this preview. Because of this, we got into the Medieval atmosphere and all the clues made us really curious and enthusiastic. I really enjoyed it all, especially the tournament. But, this was not the reason why we were here. We came to see the game, of course!
After the knight tournament the presentation finally began. EA immediately started up the game. We were the first ones, except for the EA employees of course, who got to see The Sims Medieval. Now we finally got the chance to see what it was about and how it looked like. The presentation only lasted for 20 minutes or so. Or maybe it felt this short because I was so overwhelmed by the game and the time seemed to fly by. I would have done anything in order to play this game after the presentation. But unfortunately, the game was in such an early developing stage we couldn’t. So this preview will be about the things I saw and heard during the presentation. I want to point out again that during the presentation the game we saw was in a very early developing stage, so nothing is final yet and EA is probably going to change a few things.
The very first thing they told us is that The Sims Medieval is not an expansion pack for the Sims 3. It is a new game with a new gameplay which you cannot compare to the ones of The Sims 1, 2 or 3. This because the situation is very different from the other Sims games. The game is set in a different time period where the medical care is very primitive compared to ours, it was normal to nail someone to a pillory and priest where just as important as the king himself. In short: medieval times.
But not only the setting is different, the whole game differs from The Sims 3. You do not have the control over one household and over the Sims of this household. No, now you have the control of a whole kingdom. At the beginning of the game you select a mission, then you need to complete quests until you have completed your mission and thereby play out the mission. With the quests you get the chance to expand your kingdom. In order to fulfill your quests you get the control over a few sims of your kingdom. You have this temporarily control until you have finished the quest. After finishing the quest you may choose another sim to control.
The mission and quests
When you start up a new kingdom you have to select a mission for your kingdom. These missions variate a lot. For example; having the biggest army and also taking over a random number of other kingdoms or another mission to ban all the deceases from your kingdom. Every mission has its own set of quests you need to complete in order to fulfill your mission. EA told us there is going to be a dozen of them, so there will probably be about twelve missions. It will take an average gamer around ten hours to fulfill one mission following EA.
As soon as you have chosen a mission, you will have to fulfill this mission by doing quests. You can choose which quests you want to do, but there are only a few to choose from. Fortunately, you will unlock new quests while you are playing the game by completing other quests and expanding your Kingdom.
The quest we got to see was about curing the King. If you select an quest you need to choose in what way you want to fulfill this on. We had two options: Either we let the King die, this meant we would have killed him, or we could try to cure him. After this selection you need to choose which sims you want to use. You could select from one up to three sims, this differs per quest. Within this demo the doctor and the priest were selected to cure the beloved King.
Just like The Sims 3, you will also get the full control over the Sim(s) you selected for the chosen quest. You do not only need to do the quest, you also need to deal with the daily activities of this Sim. So, if you are a doctor, you need to cure your patients who are waiting for you. And of course you need to do this Medieval style; like just letting your patient bleed or use leeches. The animations that The Sims Studio made up are really funny and nice to watch, but we are used to having a lot of humor in Sims games nowadays.
According to EA games we should see helping Sims with their daily activities as a kind of minigame and I agree with them. From what I saw of these activities it does indeed look like a minigame. The patients in the waiting room of the doctor will get sicker and sicker and you need to cure them on time. These ‘minigames’ deduce you from doing your quests, in a positive way. If you only needed to complete your quests it would probably be boring at a certain time. I think these daily activities make the game a lot more fun to play.
If you do not fulfill your daily obligations, like curing other sims, you will get a punishment. Your Sim will need to pay more taxes and if this does not do the trick they will nail you to the pillory at the kingdom square.
If we assume you just do your daily obligations of your chosen sim, you will need to complete the quest. I think, or at least hope, every quest is different, but I cannot be sure: we only saw one quest in total. In order to accomplish the quest of curing the King, the doctor needed to create a potion. But this potion could have side affects, which could be the starting point of your next quest. This is how the king did in fact became poisoned, at a prior quest the king got stabbed with a poisoned sword and thus we had to cure him.
During the presentation we saw too little about the quests to give you a lot of information about it. That is a pity, because the whole game is based on completing the quests and fulfilling your mission. But everything we did got to see looked really nice and fun, the medieval setting is a whole new thing. It looked very detailed and you could see they have put a lot of work into it. Like healing the doctors patients with medieval methods, it looks nice and it has the old Sims humor we all know. All the other quests with their medieval style are completely different from what we are used to. These quests EA came up with are probably really nice and fun. Well, they have to, the game is depending on these quests.
Recently, The Sims 3: World Adventures got quests as well. Up until a certain level you can compare them to the quests of The Sims Medieval. But the quests of The Sims 3: World Adventures were really linear and if you went to the same destination with another family you tend to get the same quests. After a while this got annoying and this is also what I am afraid of what will happen with the quests of The Sims Medieval. But The Sims team promised that there will be different ways to play the game and every mission has its own quests. Choosing what kind of quest you want to do is a big plus too, there are a lot of options. This should prevent the game from getting boring and predictable. Now we have to wait on what the Studio is going to do this exactly and how it will work in real live.
The kingdom and the buildings
Personally, I am a very big fan of games and films which take scene at the medieval period. I think it is really interesting to see how the day to day life of people used to look like. But films and games often do not match with the stories of the history books. The Sims Medieval is also a game that does not stay true to history, they changed it a bit into the funny Sims style we all know. EA games found a way to communicate in Medieval style, nowadays we phone each other and chitchat away, but our Medieval Sims will use homing pigeons to send and receive messages. You will receive them in your very own ‘pigeon box’. Although there are a few things that do not match the theme, EA said that overall the rest of the Sims Medieval world does look like what the history books taught you.
The world itself looked very nice and with a lot of details. The landscape looked like a quintessential medieval scenery with all its creeks, rocks and many trees. The graphic aspect of the game is very comparable to the one of The Sims 3, but The Sims Medieval looks a bit nicer, with a lot more details. I have no idea on how big the world is, we only saw a small piece of it. But what I saw, did just look awesome.
A Kingdom is not complete without its buildings and EA does not fall short with this part of The Sims Medieval. Unfortunately you cannot create your own buildings, but there are some already made buildings. You can just simply choose a building and put it in your kingdom. These buildings look how they are supposed to look; with a lot of details and just like the ones of your history books.
It is still a pity you cannot create the buildings yourself, but I do understand this choice. Building medieval premises is a lot different from creating a villa with The Sims 3. There will probably only be a few gamers who will succeed in creating a beautiful an good medieval house, and if that is not hard enough try to create a church! Fortunately, you can adjust the interior of houses. But I do not think you will use this feature a lot, at least I would not. This because you switch between Sims and their houses all the time.
Another thing that is interesting to point out is that you cannot make walls invisible. Unlike The Sims 3, where you could basically lower the walls, now you can only make the half of the walls of your house invisible. Like a dollhouse, you look into the house but you will still see some walls in the background. This way you will not forget the medieval aspect of the game because you will see the medieval themed wallpapers the whole time and to be honest, I really did not mind. The only thing I am not sure of is whether you can rotate your view around the whole house or not, during the presentation we only had one point of view. I think you can change it, but if you cannot it would be a shame. But then again I do not know for sure.
I noticed that the buildings in your kingdom are spread far from each other. Personally I hoped for a real town-living feeling, so that your buildings are close to each other and that there are a few main streets. I would like a little village, and from what I can remember of the presentation, there is one. But this village is outside the area where you are actually playing with your Sims, in the Kingdom center. Unfortunately this village will be a rabbit hole, as we all know from The Sims 3. This is such a waste. There will probably be a fewer Sims on the street because they are in a rabbit hole where you cannot see them.
While playing the game…
When you begin a mission, you only have a small center with a few buildings and only a few Sims who live in your kingdom. You are supposed expand your kingdom. This can be achieved by doing quests, when you complete them you will get Kingdom-Points. With these points you are able to expand your kingdom. You may upgrade already existing buildings, for example giving a castle an extra tower. You can probably also buy new buildings with them. I do also think that you can put different kinds of decorations in your kingdom with these Kingdom-Points
When you expand your kingdom, you will find more Sims living in your grown kingdom. There will also be more quests to choose from. You will find ten different professions in your kingdom. There will also be a few other playable characters such as the King.
Every time you complete an quest you will not only receive Kingdom-points but also experience points. The Sims you controlled while doing this quest will get the experience points. With these points your Sim will reach a higher level, this means they can do new things and become more experienced in these skills. I do not really know how this works exactly, but it sounds interesting and it will definitely gives the game an extra dimension.
Last but certainly not least, the Sims. There are two types of Sims within The Sims Medieval; namely, the ‘Support Sims’ and the ‘Hero Sims’.
These ‘Support Sims’ are the Sims who are there to live in your town. There are probably comparable with the NPC’s of the other Sims games. Without them your town would be empty and dull. If they weren’t there, there would just be around ten Sims living in your kingdom. The Support Sims are just there to populate the kingdom and they are not playable.
These ‘Hero Sims’ on the other hand, are selectable and therefore really important. With these Sims you can complete your quests. There are 10 different professions, and every Hero Sim has his own job, these Hero Sims can be male or female. The doctor and the priest are both Hero Sims, just like the king. But you control just a few of them at any time with a minimum of one and a maximum of three. These Hero Sims will get experience points when they complete an quests and will get better or even get new skills. The Support Sims will obviously not level up.
While playing The Sims Medieval your Sims will not age, just like the Sims of The Sims 1. Babies will age into a child but then they stay child. Your Sims may die, but only because of an illness and not because of old age. I think this is a pity, but then again the aging would probably disturb the gaming experience. It would be a shame if you have a Hero Sim of a high level and then he or she dies.
Because you often switch between different Sims between the many quests, you could say you cannot really control the life of one Sim. But there is a opportunity to still do so. Though not as much as at The Sims 3, but the option is there. There is an option to do quests which only require one certain Sim. This is how you in a way can control the life of one Sim. Your Sims get money when they fulfill an quest, this money is added to his or her household only. In this way, if you control only one Sim, you can buy a lot of items for their houses.
Like I already pointed out at the beginning of this preview, I am a big supporter of the medieval period as a theme. Although the game surprised me, it also made me really happy EA finally did it. The game looks good and sticks to the medieval theme perfectly.
I think the quests will be very interesting and fun to do, these will be much better than the ones of the other Sims games with quests. There will need to be a lot of different quests though, but I think there will be enough of variation because there a lot of missions to complete which will have their own set of quests. Some of the quests disappointed me, though, these were just too easy. For example, if you need to take over land you just click on a special map and wait for the message which will tell you whether you succeeded or not. I would like to have more control over it, but perhaps The Sims Medieval is just not the right game for that, it is not a strategy game.
Overall I am really enthusiastic about what I have seen up till now. I hope I will get to see more soon, and perhaps get to play it for a while. I have seen a real rough version of the game, so we will have to wait and see what the end result will be. But I am pretty confident that it will be a wonderful game.
Of course I would like to thank EA Netherlands and especially Anita, thank you very much for giving us this opportunity to make a preview of The Sims Medieval and Darkspore.
This Preview is written by Xelles and translated into English by Fransor.
As we are not professional translators we cannot guarantee that everything has the same meaning compared to the original Dutch version.