With the hotly anticipated Sims 4 already confirmed and in the pipeline for 2014, fans may be wondering how much mileage is still left in the existing Sims 3 franchise. As a big Sims 3 fan and owner of all of the expansion and stuff packs, I always feel a little surge of excitement at the anticipation of a new release. Step forward, Sims 3 Island Paradise...
Just like World Adventures and University Life, this EP attempts to take the base game into new directions by offering opportunities to change the dynamics of gameplay; the most noticeable feature here being the chance to own and manage your own tropical island resort. If you're unfamiliar with the Sims 3 range of expansions, then there are basically two types. Those that substantially add to the features of the original base game (Ambitions, Pets, Seasons etc.), and those that take the game off on more of a tangent into new directions (World Adventures and University Life). Island Paradise rather cleverly straddles the two; seamlessly integrating water-based gameplay (windsurfing, snorkelling, lifeguarding, houseboats etc.) to the base game, whilst adding the new dimension of resort management. If you fancy yourself as a bit of a "Resort Tycoon", this will probably appeal to you.
* there is a new world, Isla Paradiso - a stunning island archipelago with all of the fully functional facilities you'd expect to find in any Sims world
* there's lots of waterborne activities to try out: why not take to the seas in a sailboat, paddleboat or rowing boat and discover new exotic locations? For the adrenaline junkies, there's aquasleds, waterskiing or windsurfing to be enjoyed. You can also try your hand at fire pit walking (a throwback from Sims 2 Castaway for consoles).
* Sim transport just got revolutionised. Forget the car, you can now sail to work.
* there's a new career option - Lifeguarding. Sign up at the City Hall, and do something good for the community.
* there may only be one new skill (scuba diving), but it's pretty good fun, and perhaps more interesting than some of the other hobbies. If you're willing to follow your Sim underwater, the coral reefs are gorgeous, and there are hidden treasures to collect ranging from common shells to the more mysterious and rare relics of the ocean. Enthusiastic explorers may also enjoy piecing together fragments of ancient maps to discover secret exotic islands. As your Sims levels up on the skill, they will be able to unlock and advance to more dangerous diving locations.
* the water may be more omnipresent than ever, but it's not always your Sim's ally. There are now three new ways to die. Avoid predators in the shark infested waters, and if you stray too far from the shores, you may even get a visit from the sinister sea monster, the Kraken.
* there is a new life-state - the mermaid. Keep them near water to avoid dehydration.
* there are too new nautical traits to choose from: Loves To Swim and Sailor - just stay clear of the Hydrophobic and Hates The Outdoors traits if you choose a life on the high seas.
* there are 6 new lifetime rewards to strive for: Strong stomach and Lungs Of Steel being particularly useful for sea-friendly Sims. Hotel Mogul is for the inner Resort Tycoon in you, whilst Mermadic Kelp, Friend of the Kraken and Permanent Mermaid are for those who wish to make the sea a more permanent supernatural home.
* there are four new lifetime wishes: Deep Sea Diver, Resort Empire, Grand Explorer and Seaside Savior.
* the options for home building have expanded quite a lot. You can now build effortlessly on the beach (especially if you own it!), and you can live on houseboats on the ocean waves, or moored in ports. If you look on the Sims 3 Exchange, some fans have uploaded some really spectacular custom models for you to download. You have the option of building a barge or a curved bow houseboat, and they come in a range of sizes (all quite compact). You can also have an upstairs and a "basement". Once constructed in port, you are free to take your houseboat off wherever you choose.
* the resort management is brilliant - and a huge leap forward from the Holiday / Vacation EP that came with Sims 1. You have a fair bit of control and lots to manage such as: hiring and managing staff, setting pricing and wages, assigning uniforms, determining your employee's shifts, securing a suitable maintenance crew, and closing the resort for refurbishment. You also get to make little management decisions such as: changing the fire pit temperature, dechlorinating the pool, choosing the type and quality of food that is served etc. My favourite bit is getting to "makeover" your employees when you design their uniforms. This is the Sims afterall!
* the guests will give you feedback on their stay at your resort. This means a star rating and comments such as " too much chlorine in the swimming pool" or "not enough child-friendly food on offer". It's up to you what you do with that feedback, but you will need to appease people to get that resort rating up! Some resort amenities will allow you to make business decisions. Choose carefully, as everything has a consequence.
* if you decide to upgrade your resort (or even start from scratch), there are plenty of improvement options. There are blueprint options for those who don't want to design their own resorts. You can choose from ready-made: lobbies, guestrooms, gyms, dining areas, bars and lounges, ballroom and wedding chapels, outdoor party areas and stylish pool areas. The blueprints come in a range of 3 styles (beach, Spanish and eco-modern) and various sizes. You can also design everything yourself in build and buy mode. I filtered my objects and found just over 170 new objects to use (lots, furniture, wall décor, plants, rocks, the usual stuff, etc.).
* there are lots of new style choices. Men can now have new hairstyles such as messy look, dreadlocks and afro, whilst women have a choice of braids and various other beach styles. There are also some cute new tops, and a better selection of bathing suits; not to mention 5 new nautical-themed tattoos.
* if you purchase the Limited Edition, you get an exclusive Island Survival kit, with objects to create that iconic "Lost" look. Is it worth the extra money? You decide...
* finally, not sure if I'd call this a "bonus", but you can now WooHoo in 3 new locations: Underwater cave, All-in-one bathroom and Resort tower. Wohoo!
* You cannot make mermaids in Create A Sim. You have to befriend them into the family and produce offspring if you wish (or use the rewards). This seems silly to me, as they let you create fairies, vampires etc from the Supernatural EP.
* The game is rather lacking in explanations. I'm an experienced Sims 3 player, but it still took me a little while to find out how to sign up for the lifeguard career (city hall) - I naturally went looking at the beach (a minor niggle, but an example of a few things I found that weren't completely self-explanatory). The houseboats in particular are quite complicated to get the knack of, and you may find yourself having to look online for help and references; particularly if you want to construct a new port or build them in a different world to Isla Paradiso. All of the information you need is there online, but it is a little bit irksome.
* the houseboats are pretty cramped, so you need to design for efficient living. They also will only work on oceans, which rules out lake landscapes like Twinbrook.
* your sim will need to depressurise after diving before you can go again. This slows down the pace and enjoyment of levelling up on skills. Fair credit though, this is a "life-like" feature.
* the girls' hairstyles are really samey. Some of them are nearly identical to ones I already have. I'd have liked a bit more imagination for the beach paradise look.
* the build/buy mode is a little bit buggy. I have not really experienced this before. A minor concern though, as EA usually patch significant bugs (assuming this is a common issue and not just me).
* the diving and waterskiing bugged me slightly. The Sim does not return to where they started, and unless you put a speedboat in their inventory, they take ages swimming home after, even if they started at the beach at the end of their garden! A little picky maybe, but such a silly oversight to me.
* the resort management is a little restricted. As resort owner, I would have liked new interaction options to talk to my customers, deal with complaints etc. The interactions are the same as with any usual Sim. It also irritated me that you can upgrade to facilities such as an in-resort spa and salon, but if your Sim wants the stylist career, they must work on a community lot still. It would be nice to manage a whole family and their different career choices from one resort.
* last observation - you get a scuba suit with the Island Paradise EP, but if you want a wetsuit, you'll need Seasons. I personally think the Seasons stuff looks nicer.
Overall though, a lovely addition to the Sims 3 and far more good points than bad. The weather may be a little naff in real life, but there's plenty of sunshine to go around in Simland!
I hope this review helped. I will update if I find anything else useful. :-)