The Sims has seen many different expansion pack themes during its lifetime. From partying at university, visiting the future, or managing a resort, to living that celebrity lifestyle, there’s been no shortage of different ways to play. The latest expansion lets your Sims go green with The Sims 4: Eco Lifestyle. While it might be a friendly reminder to be environmentally conscious, it’s also a reminder of how far The Sims 4 has come.
Originally, The Sims 4 lacked essential gameplay features like pools, seasons, pets, university, and toddlers. More than five years later, not only have those features returned, but there are several gameplay systems that are a first for the franchise. Some of those new additions in Eco Lifestyle allow your Sims to live a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle include solar panels, wind turbines, dew collectors, power generators, and a recycler. The solar panels, wind turbines, dew collectors, and power generators can all be used to help offset your bills, or even make a profit.
These new sources of power and water provide a nifty twist to the usual gameplay loop. If you want to live off-the-grid, you can also do that properly for the first time. The off-the-grid lot trait – free to all players – has been updated with all the electrical and plumbing-based items now displaying a new stat that tells you its power or water requirements. This then helps ensure that you’re generating enough to power the objects.
Generating power and water, or going completely off-the-grid, isn’t the only way to make a positive impact on your sim’s neighborhood. The Sims 4: Eco Lifestyle introduces a cool feature that lets you vote on community space projects and neighbourhood action plans. Community spaces are the most useful of the two, but neighborhood action plans are also a fun gimmick to play around with.
Community spaces are a new lot type – meaning you can customise these lots to your liking or even build them from scratch – and they’re divided into four interchangeable variants: community space, community garden, marketplace, and maker space.
This venue type is actually one of my favourites to build thanks to the sheer number of variants. The default is the standard community space, but when it’s the weekend you and your fellow neighbours can gather around a community voting board to decide what type of space will occupy the community lot the following week. However, if you want to have more control and ignore your fellow neighbours’ wishes altogether, using in-game cheats you can instantly enact the variant of your choosing. This also applies to neighbourhood action plans, which are a new way to enforce rules for your Sims and their neighbours. There’s a good variety to them as well, ranging from residents wearing paper bags, to getting juiced (drunk), or even increasing bills to support modern neighbourhood development efforts.
Of course, you’ll need some new hobbies to wind down after a long day of devoting your efforts towards making a more eco-friendly neighbourhood. Just be careful not to invest in electronics-related hobbies if you want a green neighbourhood because too many high-end electronics can cause pollution. Fortunately, if you don’t want gameplay objects to affect your eco-footprint, there’s a setting to disable this. The new hobby objects included within this expansion pack range from a juice fizzing machine through to a candle-making station.
For those who enjoy raising – or eating – insects, there’s an insect farm. There’s also the return of dumpster diving, a fan-favourite feature from The Sims 3: University Life, for those who want to get dirty. It’s even more in-depth this time around because you can acquire bits and pieces to use with the recycler machine, thrown away meals, or you can even take a nap. If that isn’t dirty enough for you, try WooHooing in a dumpsterk. These leisure activities certainly aren’t a replacement for an inevitable hobbies-themed pack, but it helps fill some of the previous void.
Create-A-Sim is the one thing in The Sims 4 though that has never suffered from being a void, but I can’t say I’m all that impressed with the new clothing assets that Eco Lifestyle brings. That said, despite the occasionally odd piece of attire there are at least some interesting and practical clothing choices. The brand new hairstyles prove much more alluring. Most importantly though, children and toddlers receive proper attention, getting several brand new options. Traits and aspirations are another element of Create-A-Sim that have finally received the consideration they’ve long deserved, with Eco Lifestyle introducing four new traits and two aspirations. They certainly make up for the weird clothing items.
Fortunately, there are no weird build/buy additions, unlike some of the Create-A-Sim assets. This pack actually has some of the best building items to be included in the game so far. However, I do have one criticism with the build/buy in The Sims 4: Eco Lifestyle. Several interesting, worn-down items can be made using the new Fabricator object, but aren’t available in the build/buy catalogue by default. This isn’t the first time the game has done this, but it’s still an annoyance to be forced into using cheats to be able to see the entire build/buy list.
The world you’re building in must be gorgeous too, and the new world included within the pack is exceptional. It’s another coastal-themed world, but unlike some of the others, this one is more modern. The new world, Evergreen Harbor, gives me Portland, Oregon vibes. Although Evergreen Harbor is a charming new map, some of the older worlds were updated too through free patch that could make them worth revisiting.
This wasn’t the only new addition in the free update, with the arrival of firefighters – perfect for those industrial fires – among other features such as the Repo Person NPC and M·A·C Cosmetics. Despite the quality additions as part of this free update, unfortunately Eco Lifestyle has also brought a number of bugs into the game in addition to the plethora of glitches already present.