There is something uniquely brilliant about The Sims franchise. In creating your Sims and managing their lives, it lets you replay your “life” over and over, or make up one that has nothing to do with you. Even with over 1,000 hours logged in The Sims 4, I still haven’t explored all the avenues it gives you, though most of these hours were spent building houses and setting up scenarios rather than actually playing them. The Sims 4 is more of a doll house for me, reminiscent of my childhood spent setting up the Barbie playhouse without actually having time to start playing.
The Sims 4: Cottage Living pack is finally my time to shine. In fact, I’ve become a little more interested in the game of late due to the style of the packs and sets Maxis were releasing. I could never really make “me” or a house that I would personally live in until they started crafting my style of objects in Paranormal, Nifty Knitting, Courtyard Oasis, and now Cottage Living. This is yet another step toward making the Sims world more modern, despite the “back to basics” veneer.
Introducing a whole bunch of cottage-core clothing during the peak of its popularity was certainly a smart move. The knitted jumpers, adorable leather shoes, and floral designs mean Sims can finally live their ultimate cutesy forest fantasy (alongside me, of course). The housing objects are no less on-trend, with toadstool designs, vintage kitchen supplies, and comfy pinned armchairs. Some of the best textured wall and floor coverings also come with this kit, providing brickwork and wooden panels that are almost believable… and William Morris inspired wallpaper. This last one genuinely made me do a little squeal.
Speaking of squeals, we have bunnies and chicks now. I called my partner into the room with such urgency that he genuinely thought something was wrong when I first saw a chick stumble out of the henhouse. They are just… so… cute! Cuddling and snuggling these cuties is literally an option, and the bunnies even give you gifts for your trouble. There are also cows and llamas – both of which are also cute, in their own fluffy way. You can perform the standard milking and shearing interactions, but also build a relationship with them and give them treats to change the quality of their output.
Food is also a major feature, with the new Lot Challenge that means you can optionally ban your Sim from cooking anything they haven’t bought or grown themselves. The usual veggie fare can be cultivated in new gardening patches, along with Oversized Produce which can be fertilised and entered into village competitions. You can also, and god knows why you would, send your animals to be made into meat. The Sims removes any DIY gory details and instead just hands them back to you in a neatly wrapped package, but it is still a little grim if you’ve been buddying up to said animal beforehand.
The village competitions – and in fact the whole of Henford-on-Bagley – are a wonderful addition to the game, if a little confusing at first. There are opportunities to get to know the locals, do errands for them that earn you prizes, to go to the pub and have a meal, or order food delivery from the Mayor’s son. You can even bribe your way to victory in the competitions, as they do often seem unfairly weighted against you. Some of the residents of this tight-knit community are wonderful, while some are an absolute pain in the arse. Either way, it perfectly encapsulates village life.
But if you thought this pack was going to be relaxing you can absolutely think again. Cottage Living is the single most stressful pack The Sims has ever put out.
You get yourself a cow and a llama and some chickens and all seems well, you go to do some cross stitching or make some jam but then… oh gods, the animals just won’t stop. They need cleaning, milking/shearing, mucking out, feeding, playing with, attending to… multiple times a day sometimes. You can give them treats to change the colour of flavour of their produce, but they just keep producing all the time. If you’re going to do a farm run, don’t set your sights on kids or another job. This is an all-encompassing job in and of itself which, I suppose, is what farming is in the real world.
I had hoped for a farming career or skill, but no such luck, leaving it occasionally feeling futile if the Lot Challenges are not enabled. Eventually the Grim Reaper comes for your animals, swooping down and patting them on the head as they are spirited away. Weirdly, unless that animal is a rabbit, your Sim doesn’t seem to care at all. Dead rabbits cause negative moodlets and mourning, but a dead cow? Meh.
Foxes have also been added into the game – although they really are hideous to behold. I was hoping they would be another addition to the cute-fest, but they look more like startled dogs. Foraging is more trouble than it’s worth, with confusing mushrooms that are not possible to pick up, areas you can’t access that look accessible, and a scarcity of woodland produce that leaves you walking around for hours. It doesn’t help that one of the bugs that seems to have arisen from Cottage Living is perma-rain. Helpful for crops, less so for my Sim’s mood.
And now we discuss the bugs. Yes, Cottage Living is charming and sweet and colourful and engaging, but this may be one of the most buggy and broken packs to come out for years.
My previous save games were also affected, with crashes, random T-posing, career gigs disappearing, and more. My fridge stopped working. My sim got stuck in doors. Country Living has come alongside a regression through a series of bugs that Maxis had previously tried to fix. This is a disappointing part of the new pack, and one that seems unavoidable for the moment. Maxis has notified players that fixes and patches are in the works, so you might want to hold off on playing The Sims 4 for a while until those have been released.