The Sims 3: Supernatural review
Good if you're into the supernatural, but probably could have been better as a standalone.
So it's been firmly established by this point that The Sims is in fact a LIFE simulation game, which should in turn attempt to simulate LIFE and reality. Of course, exaggerations, cartoonish events, and all out unrealistic situations occur all the time in each and every game. But what happens when you theme an entire expansion on things that will never, ever happen in real life? It's a notable observation to make that The Sims 3: Supernatural is the first expansion pack to be introduced to The Sims 3 that is entirely themed on anti-realism. I mean, there's a little bit of it in every EP, for example mummies in World Adventures, but this one strays just a little bit too far off.
To begin with, the game focuses on four new life states (well, there's technically only three new ones, but we'll get to that later), those being werewolf, witch, vampire, and fairy. Three of these are familiar to the series, all having been introduced as additional features of expansions to TS1 and 2, for example, werewolves were a part of Pets, and witches were a part of Apartment Life in The Sims 2. The completely new life state, the fairy, brings some new options to the table, but doesn't seem in theory to be too distant to the witch. In any case, each different life state comes equipped with a variety of new features, abilities, and quirks as well as disadvantages, though it can be said for all supernaturals that life in The Sims is easier when you're not human.
Witches are masters of magic, whether that be good or bad, and have many different options to choose from when it comes to their powers. They utilize magic wands (though there may be other methods, just saying) to perform their tricks (and improve their hidden Magic skill in the process) and can cast three types of magic into the world and upon other beings; spells, charms, and curses. Spells are neutral, any witch can do them at any time with no questions asked, they do not lie within the path of dark or light magic, and have a wide range of effects, for example turning one collectible into another. Charms are typically done by good witches, for example love charms, and good luck charms, focusing on happy themes and the betterment of others. Curses, on the other hand, turn normal situations ugly, and ugly situations horrific. Want to set someone on fire or turn them into a toad? Go ahead. I, myself, have had plenty of good times completely destroying my neighbors' houses with these curses. Witches are better at certain activities than humans or other life states (Alchemy, for example, but we'll get into that later), and they get along better with certain animals. They also typically travel using magic brooms, (though once one has been purchased, anyone, witch or non-witch can travel with it), and can participate in magical stand-offs with other witches. As a final note on witches, they have a magic meter which monitors how much magic they have left in their system to dispense before they need to recuperate and build up their strength again.
Similar to witches, fairies also utilize magic, have a magic meter, raise a hidden Magic skill, and rely on the three main types of magic: good, bad, and neutral. However their powers are much less extreme, more irritating, and they flit around with huge wings that you can select and customize when you create them. Many magical acts that are either good or neutral that can be done by fairies are similar to those of witches, but the bad spells are less... bad. They're more like small pranks, for example booby trapping showers and couches, or pantsing people, you know, things normal humans can do too, just with a few sparkles and magical-sounding titles.
Werewolves are masters of lycanthropy, and the moon. They don't really have any special powers other than the abilities to go out hunting and build their hidden Lycanthropy skill whilst collecting things from around the neighborhood, to form tight-knit packs based on personality with other werewolves around town, and to howl clumsily at the giant yellow-ish circle in the night sky. They come in two forms, human, and werewolf, though their eyes will glow strangely in both states, and they'll just look downright silly when in full-on wolf mode (or scary, depending on how you look at it) and will spend most of their time in their human form, during which time they will act like every other human Sim. They transform autonomously during every full moon (more on that later), and will sometimes be forced to transform if they're not doing so well in taking care of themselves, letting their feral instincts take over.
Finally, vampires. We already had vampires in Late Night, yes, but if you didn't have that EP before installing Supernatural, you have them now. And then some. For the most part, vampires in Supernatural act the same as they did before, but with some additional features and interactions, like hunting, drinking Plasma Orange Juice instead of just drinking human blood, intimidating other Sims, and a tame, vampiric form of seduction powers. They also now have the ability to gain Vampiric Sunscreen, which is a Lifetime reward that stops them from burning up in the sun. Instead, they will sparkle. Yay.
While these four life states may be the main focus of the game, going into each of them only scratches the surface. In fact, this is definitely one of the more content heavy EPs, by far.
Firstly, the new skill that comes with Supernatural is Alchemy, focusing around the mixing of a variety of different ingredients to create elixirs with very... special effects. Want to turn someone into a gold statue? Find the right kind of collectible, whether it be a plant or an insect or a rock, in the right amount, and combine it with the right kind of the right amount of a few other collectibles, and you may well be successful in this endeavor. Spend enough time researching and practicing at your brand new Alchemy table and you may find it's a good idea to sign yourself up as being a self-employed Alchemist, which works in a similar way to being a self-employed gardener. There is a new community lot (among many, most of which are themed to each of the different life states, and all of which are well made and fun to visit) that allows you to consign and purchase different elixirs and other such magical creations to have fun with as well.
If you would like a Supernatural career but don't feel like Alchemy is your thing, you could always stop by the new Gypsy Wagon and sign up for a daily job as a fortune teller. Whether you want to pursue your mystical powers or become the con-artist of the decade, well, that's up to you.
Another major mechanic of the game is the lunar cycle. Easily checkable, the lunar cycle shows which phase the moon in the game is currently at. Most of the time, it won't matter, but some crazy stuff starts happening when you hit full moon. Everything glows slightly, the nights are just a little too quiet, the werewolves transform, and the zombies come out. Yes, zombies. They'll pop up out of the ground and sometimes fail to leave. Oh well, it's not like they do anything more than eat your plants.
Supernatural comes with a brand spankin' new neighborhood for you to enjoy, by the name of Moonlight Falls, where most houses are Victorian themed and there are just a tad bit too many pre-made Supernaturals. It's definitely a nice neighborhood, but it's a very small one, so it won't take long to get bored with it. It's worth adding, though, that it is a rather beautiful neighborhood. From the way the moon shines, to the snowy mountains off in the distance, to the way there's always a certain fog hanging over the land... it's a very nice place to be, and could be a good potential movie set for those of you who are so inclined.
As far as customization options, CAS stuff, and Build/Buy mode stuff, Supernatural is in no way lacking. With a shed load of new CAS items and options, another shed load of build mode stuff, and another shed load of buy mode stuff, the game offers so much new content, and some very awesome items, like a talking mirror, a fairy house, or a gramophone, if that's more your style.
With all of this new stuff in mind as well as the knowledge that I couldn't possibly touch on everything here and this is only a fraction of the stuff that you get out of this EP, I am definitely firmly approving of the gameplay. I personally am into the Supernatural and find these elements of gameplay fun, and the endless stuff is to die for. Even if you're not into the supernatural stuff and prefer your game to simulate real life, the EP is probably still worth getting for everything else. Plus, there are many ways to limit the supernatural occurences in your game. If you want, you can completely turn off the features like the new life states, zombies, and the lunar cycle, which I think is something EA definitely did right. But keep in mind that if you take out the actual supernaturals, the game just feels like a gothic stuff pack. Which would still be pretty sweet.
With all of these new mechanics, it makes it hard not to focus your game if there's even just one Supernatural entirely on the features of that once Sim, which leads me to believe this game could have been better made as a standalone. It's nice for people like me, but I do understand that many people want their game to simulate real life, and while you could just not buy it, perhaps it would have been more successful if it had been a spin off of TS3, sort of like The Sims Medieval, in order to please more fans, but also not completely dump the realism factor of The Sims 3. In any case, it goes without saying that eventually, the novelty of having magical and mystical Sims in your house wears off and dealing with their special abilities becomes more of a hassle, and while, as I mentioned before, I think it's cool to have all this new, paranormal stuff, I can't really imagine myself playing a normal, generation-wide family with just a few Supernaturals thrown in the mix. Such irregularity would bother me, and surely many other Simmers as well. My point is, while Supernatural brings a LOT of new content to the table, most of it is very all-or-nothing, meaning you can't really experience a small part of the game without also experiencing most of the rest of it, which gets irritating, after a time, and you'll usually just end up ignoring the supernaturals or just disabling them.
But wait, there's more! It's probably worth pointing out that if you do choose to follow the path of the supernatural, it gets repetitive over time. Once you've tested all the cool magical objects and seen all the cool animations, it'll eventually just become the tedious task of raising your Sims' skills. And when they've done everything they can possibly do? I don't know, just go and have them settle down with kids like every other Sim in the game. There's not much point to constantly inflicting your supernaturals' abilities on others and the world, because realize that the only reason you did it the first time is because it just looked cool. It's at this point in your gameplay that you see the bigger flaws in the EP.
Being an expansion to a bigger game, there's not really much point in discussing the technical side of things, due to the fact that most of it is tied to the original game engine. I have found Supernatural to be on the light side as far as glitches, though these things do occur, as in any PC game. Many of them are borrowed or adapted from the original game or other EPs, though, so it's not like you'll install it and suddenly everything will crash. There are known to be a few mechanical glitches with the various meters and monitors associated with the EP and sometimes the life states combine unexpectedly and... kind of scarily, but other than that, there's not much to discuss here.
When I think of the Supernatural EP, the first things that come to mind are content, gothic, and dark. Does that say anything about the repetition or gameplay value of the Supernaturals themselves? Because it probably should. They're interesting to play with at first, especially for someone like me who is a fan of this kind of stuff, but they get boring fast once you've experienced it all, and if you never had an interest in the paranormal to begin with, you may not even want to do what everyone does upon first purchasing this EP and have a family full of all of the supernaturals and get all the oohing and aahing out of the way then, and you may just skip to disabling them. But fear not! While Supernatural and it's actual supernaturals may have been better off in a standalone game, depending on how you look at things, it may well be worth it simply for all the rest of the stuff, which, while it's all themed in a similar gothic, Victorian style, most of it's pretty sweet. Because of this fact and my interest in the subject at hand, I would recommend this EP, but the value of that recommendation depends, as I don't think it probably should, on yours.
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