PC Review - 'The Sims: Life Stories'

by Steven Mills on July 21, 2007 @ 4:23 a.m. PDT

The Sims Life Stories introduces an all-new Story Mode with two stories that follow the lives of Riley Harlow and Vincent Moore, two very different characters who have reached similar crossroads in their love lives.

Genre: Simulation
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Maxis
Release Date: February 6, 2007

Since the release of the original The Sims for the PC in 2000, it seems as if a new Sims title — standalone or expansion — is constantly popping onto store shelves. This time, The Sims: Life Stories offers you the ability to focus on your character's career, dating life, marriage, kids, and the building of a legacy. Probably the coolest thing about Life Stories is the fact that it was designed to run well on laptops. In terms of gameplay and items, it seems to be the same old Sims that we've been playing for the past seven years, but if it sells, why not?

For those who have never played a Sims game (or have been living under a rock), you create a character or family and help them go about their daily lives. You build them a house, choose their furniture, get them a job, and help them live. As you play, you earn money to buy new furniture or move into bigger and better houses.

The normal gameplay mode in the Sims titles (and in Life Stories) is that you can have total control over what your character(s) do, and how they live their lives. Life Stories introduces the "new" story mode, which is where the title's "life stories" come into play. There are two stories: Vincent Moore, a high-tech whiz who has been very unlucky in love, and Riley Harlow, a young woman who returns home for a fresh start. You must help Vince find that special someone who loves him for something other than his money, while you help Riley with her new friends and new love interests.

The story gameplay mode is almost exactly the same as the normal one, except you focus on one character, and you have goals to complete. Unfortunately, the "life stories" portion turned out to be a tedious feature rather than an entertaining one. As if the two stories weren't clichéd, they were just really menacing. You have to follow specific goals, so it doesn't feel like you're actually affecting the character, as it does in the regular Sims titles, and the goals take a fair amount of time to complete.

To truly review Life Stories, I had to play it on my laptop, since the entire box is marked with, "PC laptop friendly." I'm running a somewhat older Acer laptop, which is neither a top-brand gaming one nor a piece of junk, and the game ran quite smoothly. Maxis designed Life Stories to run exceptionally well on laptops and sub-par PCs, since the Sims titles have been known to use up a large chunk of system resources. The game initially launches in the default windowed mode to allow for multitasking (i.e., instant messaging), and this worked well on both my laptop and PC.

It doesn't seem like a lot of content was added to help the game stand out from the franchise's mainstays, The Sims and The Sims 2. If anything, it almost seems like there's less content. You are only given one neighborhood, "The Four Corners," in which to create homes and move in families. The neighborhood is very small, and the lots are smaller than in the regular Sims titles. The biggest lot in the game is about one-third the size of the biggest lot in The Sims 2. In the previous Sims, you could create shops and stores, and even in the original when they weren't actually "implemented," you could create your own makeshift stores and shops using certain objects in the build and buy modes. This is very difficult to accomplish in Life Stories because there isn't much variety in the furniture that's available for purchase.

The original Sims featured 3D characters, but everything else you saw on the screen — house, furniture, etc. — was a 2D sprite. Graphics are improved and 3D in Life Stories; the mirrors show actual reflections, lights emit illumination from focal points; and the "free will" artificial intelligence seems a lot more ... well, intelligent. Visually, Life Stories looks quite superb for a title that was intended to run on laptops and older PCs.

The Sims games have always played cheesy, yet relaxing, tunes when you build houses, buy furniture, or create your family, and this holds true for Life Stories. The characters also speak the "Sim Gibberish" (Simlish) that they do in all Sims titles, and you can play MP3s that on your computer through the game, which has become somewhat inevitable nowadays.

The Sims: Life Stories was a bit too watered down from the other Sims games. I realize that Maxis was aiming for gaming efficiency on laptops and older PCs, but in terms of content, there is almost too little here to consider the game an upgrade from, or even on the same level as, the other Sims offerings. While it certainly lives up to the promise of being "PC laptop friendly," the story mode and lack of content truly make this a game to have only if your PC or laptop is so feeble that it isn't capable of playing The Sims or The Sims 2.

Score: 7.0/10

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