The Sims 3: Pets review
Pretty much what you'd expect and then some, but with too many glitches.
So, The Sims 3: Pets. The fifth expansion pack released for The Sims 3, and also the first to feature a variety of editions, from regular to limited to console to handheld (these are all, however, quite different, and this review will be focusing on the PC expansion). It’s no surprise that these features were brought in with Pets. The expansion of the same name and similar themes for The Sims 2 was the most popular of that era, why shouldn’t it be once again? Honestly, I’ve always loved animals and I don’t feel complete without my dog somewhere nearby. And I suspect pets would become an important part of any complete Sims family as well, after some time with the EP. Key word, suspect.
I know it’s irregular to skip the gameplay and go right for the technicalities, but I’m just going to dive right in here and say that this EP, while very enjoyable in theory, is a technological mess. Fair enough, it won’t be this way on everyone’s computer, but many of the problems seem to be random and don’t have much to do with the individual’s computer or graphics card, so you’ve got people with integrated, lower end cards and dedicated, upper end cards having exactly the same issues. Let me give you some examples. There are many texturing issues, it appears, on the pets. Dogs and cats don’t seem to have any real fur, fluff, or realistic texture in both CAS and the real world in many cases, and I didn’t even realize I was having this problem until I saw an image from someone else’s game and automatically went, “they’re supposed to look like that?” Additionally, many pets will end up with black, or oddly colored eyes, and I can’t even play with my favorite large dogs because apparently most Pets discs have problems with that. It has been repeatedly reported by many (myself included), that large dog breeds crash the game within the first ten minutes of playing. And that’s only one of the many reasons why the game continually seems to be on a race with the other expansions to see who can crash the game first and screw everything up. Let me tell you, Pets tends to win.
And the audio. Oh, the audio. Pretty standard as far as the basic stuff and new varieties of things from the base game and older EPs, but considering you’ll probably always have at least a few animals wandering around, whether wild or domestic, you’ll likely be hearing their special animal sounds frequently, and this is like a curse upon the ears. None of the animals sound even remotely realistic. It makes a lot more sense when you discover that the animal sounds aren’t even authentic, that EA actually combined human sounds with the designated animal sounds to make these audial abominations. Why, EA, why? Out of all of the stupid, pointless things EA has done, which is a very long list, let me tell you, this is something I’ll remember for a while.
But enough with the endless grilling. While it’s ridden with bugs and crashes that EA for some reason never patched (or never successfully patched, anyway) and has the most awful animal sound effects a game could have, Pets does have some redeeming qualities.
The game focuses on the three new life states… yes, you can call them life states, because they technically count as Sims. They have wants and needs that need to be tended to, met, and taken care of and can be played and directed with their own special interactions just like your human Sims, a new and well done feature to the series. If you fail to take care of your pets or even just fail to keep them well socialized and entertained, the Social Worker might just pay you a visit to confiscate the pet, or, if the situation is dire enough, such as being in a fire or simply being old, the pet may die, later coming back as a ghost. On the flip side of the spectrum, pets may have relationships with any other animals and may also have romantic relationships with other animals of the same species and eventually breed, producing kittens, puppies, or foals, that will eventually grow into adulthood. The three different main types of pets are cats, dogs, and horses, horses being the only species of these completely new to The Sims.
Cats are… well, this is the internet. Everybody knows what cats are and why they are here. But in The Sims 3: Pets, cats don’t typically do much. They will wander around looking for attention to avoid, and like to scratch things. Yes, they even have a new Scratch need that replaces the humans’ Environment need, so it’s a good idea to invest in a scratching post or something so that you don’t find all of your expensive furniture ruined by the end of your first day with kitty. Cats enjoy playing with their little yarn balls and fake mice and those weird toys on the end of sticks that jut out of the wall, and they like climbing on top of things, and will always manage to work their way into the background of any major event, eyeing everyone suspiciously as two Sims get it on for the first time or a child is born. Finally, cats have the ability to hunt, and it’s a new skill for them too. With this skill, they can crawl through the grass inconspicuously and pounce on any other small animals (more on them later) and fight them. The higher their hunting skill, the more likely they are to emerge with their opponents’ life in their hands. While the small creatures won’t be dead, they will be added to the cat’s inventory, and any Sim can come along and snatch them up and plant them in a bird cage, or perhaps a terrarium.
Dogs are pretty much the polar opposite of cats. They just want to be loved, and they’ll follow you around until they are suitably convinced that they are, in fact, loved to an acceptable degree. They like playing with their balls (whether bouncy or anatomical) and will always enjoy a good game of fetch. They’ll frequently go out into the yard and dig holes, mostly just leaving messes, but occasionally finding something useful and bringing it back to you. Due to the fact that, you know, they’re dogs, they have a plethora of teachable tricks. Whether you just want your dog to bring you the paper, or to do snazzy dances, they’ll get it down after some repetition and praise. But perhaps their best ability is their own variant of the hunting ability. Similar to the cats’ hunting skill, dogs will run around and search for things to claim as their own, only they won’t look for many live things. Instead they’ll look for collectibles like special items, stones, plants, insects, etc, and bring them back to you in their inventory when they’re done. Also similarly to cats, dogs have their own special need replacing the Environment need, as well, only theirs is straight up Destruction. Give your dog something like a chew toy to rip apart, shred, and chew through soon, or else you may return from work one day only to find all of your furniture in a crumpled mess on the floor. Sounds like a good time, right? Well, I wouldn’t know. *AHEM*
Horses are the final main domestic animals in The Sims 3: Pets, and are also the only completely new ones. Yup, fully controllable and highly majestic, horses will really just gallop around and graze and sleep unless you tell them to do otherwise. They are, however, capable of quite a bit. Should you want to have either a racing horse or a show horse, you can ride them around obstacle courses and train them, install your own obstacle course right in your back yard and use it, and even enter them into competitions at the equestrian center down the street. If you just want to be able to ride them around town as a more eco-friendly version of a car, you can do that too, by frequently riding them and raising both yours and the horse’s hidden riding skill. Horses are large animals, as we all know, though, so even if you’re not going to enter them into any hardcore shows or anything like that, they still require plenty of space to run around, Exercise (their replacement need), slurp at salt licks, eat hay, and other horsey activities. They can sleep free-standing as well, but benefit from stalls that come pre-equipped with food and water trays that you can simply buy from buy mode and place anywhere. As a final note on horses, depending on how much room they have to move around and the type or terrain they’re traversing, you may or may not experience some routing glitches and get to see some very robotic looking movements, but that should probably go without saying considering how large their models are.
It goes without saying that not every animal in this world has a home and a family of humans that love it, and the same is true in The Sims 3: Pets. You may frequently come across strays either wandering around or settling down for a nap on your porch, and if you wish, you can befriend and eventually adopt them, or shoe them away if you’re cold hearted. Mostly, stray cats and dogs will travel solo, but you may frequently see packs of wild horses galloping around freely… and noisily.
But wait! The horse experience doesn’t end there. Occasionally you may run into a mystical creature commonly referred to as a unicorn in modern society. They are indicated on the map by some kind Aurora Borealis looking thing above their location and, once found, can be befriended and eventually adopted, though this takes some time as they only tend to exist in the night hours between dusk and dawn, and don’t come every night. Once you have figured out how to harness their powers, however, you may discover that they can do some pretty cool things, from blessing Sims to setting fire to the world. I guess whether or not your special unicorn friend is a nice, friendly, kind spirit or an evil demon from hell is just kind of luck of the draw.
Beyond your standard domestic pets like cats, dogs, horses, and unicorns, though, you’ve also got your minor animals, that can’t be treated as real pets or Sims, but tend to act more like collectibles, things that you can find, keep, put on display, sell, or steal from your cat. In any case, these come in a variety of varieties, from turtles to snakes to rats to birds and can be stored in their appropriate home (e.g., terrariums or bird cages). On the off chance they escape from either your inventory or their artificial home, though, any other dogs or cats might just wander by and eat them, so be careful with those little critters.
And beyond the beyond, you now have the completely pointless animals, the ones that really don’t do much other than flit around and destroy things, like deer and raccoons. At least they’re cute.
With all of that said, Pets definitely adds a lot, just with the main themes and new life states. But what about everything else? Most of the stuff in Pets is kind of country themed, very western and laid back, and what isn’t stereotypically country, is pretty much all pet related stuff that can only really be used by pets or with pets. In any case, there’s a lot of stuff.
As in many EPs, Pets comes with a brand spanking new neighborhood to enjoy by the name of Appaloosa Plains. It’s a large, open area that always seems to look autumn-ish, full of laid back, spacious houses and community lots specially made for your pets, like dog parks and cat jungles. The Plains are also rich in all those little minor animals and pointless deer and raccoons, more so than any other town, which could be good or bad depending on how you view things.
One last thing I would like to touch on is the CAS for Pets, a surprisingly in depth, detailed, and fitting new system that allows you to create any of the main three domestic pets with ease, choosing from a variety of different breeds and physical /emotional aspects. And before anyone asks, yes, there are fantastical coat markings and yes, you can have neon orange pets should you so choose.
Overall, The Sims 3: Pets comes with a lot of stuff. Not much more than you would expect, and it’s obviously just a slightly expanded rehash of the TS2 version, buy hey, what where you expecting? In all honesty, Pets has the potential to be a very enjoyable EP… if it weren’t plagued with so many damned glitches.
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