Upon coming home for the weekend for Thanksgiving break, I thought to pick up The Sims 4 while it was on sale – like a lot of you, I wasn’t really in the mood to drop $60 at release on a game I’ll probably binge on like those holiday meats in the mall. It’s The Sims, right? Something you can let run in the background while you watch Walking Dead reruns and make bets on who’s going to set the house on fire before the commercial break.
My verdict? It’s…..a Sims game, really. Unfortunately, it’s the type of Sims game that embodies the trouble with sequels most game companies have been running into the past few years.
While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a bad game, it feels more like The Sims 1 with slightly better graphics and a greater understanding of multitasking. And yeah, while the first Sims game was one of the best selling games of all time, the purpose of sequels in video games is to continue a story, improve upon its predecessors, and most importantly, have more to play with than said predecessors. Unfortunately, The Sims 4 took a few steps backwards. Actually, make that 89 steps backwards. I only sunk a few hours into the game when I realized that there really isn’t all that much for my Sims to do. EA only recently brought back pools and ghosts – in unexpectedly free DLCs, because I’m sure even the greediest motherfuckers at EA’s headquarters aren’t that stupid.
But here’s my question: As gamers who are willing to pay for what we love, why are we being given less?
Let’s take Alice: Madness Returns for example. The ‘dark Wonderland’ plot horse has been beaten, steamrolled, and turned to glue, but I remember having a shit ton of fun with American McGee’s Alice, and was expecting even more terrifying worlds and classic confusion in the sequel. While the sequel’s story was actually pretty engaging, the “fuck is that” factor had been…well, overplayed. There are only so many times you can fight the same horrifying baby-faced ooze monster before it simply becomes an irritatingly persistent baby-faced ooze monster. Add repetitive combat and a control system that screams “we sort of forgot we were putting this on PC, we hope you forgive our incompetence”, and you’ve got yourself a game with a lovely story but a lot of frustrations involved in finishing it.
The lackluster content in games often isn’t all the devs’ faults, though. For Dragon Age II, EA had Bioware scrambling to produce content, resulting in a reluctant exploration of the same city, the same dungeon, and the same patch of land for several hours. When you’ve got a pretty successful start-of-a-franchise like Dragon Age: Origins, the higher-ups are going to have some trouble seeing past those stacks of money – a sequel needs to go into production so they can start making a profit again, whether or not the devs have the time to develop the content needed to make it as amazing as the first. Money comes first in the game industry these days, despite the fact that you’ve got devs who went into this doing something they loved and don’t want it to become a dollar flailing contest.
Still, something’s a little wrong when we’re still being charged full price for a sequel that has far fewer features and replayability than the first game. While people are still coming back to Origins, Resident Evil 1-4, Duke Nukem, and Mass Effect, there’s still a sequel for each one that will be played just to catch up on the plot and then tossed into the pre-owned bin while their former owners grudgingly look for something else on which to spend that store credit. Attempting to make up for the lack of content in hastily-released DLCs in the hopes that everything will be fine only makes the situation more foolish.
It’s a competitive, cutthroat business – that’s to be expected. But paying for a full bag of chips when we’re getting half a bag of air is more than a little problematic.