The Sims 4 is officially free to play, but players are encouraged to round the game out with the various kits, stuff packs, game packs, and expansions that are available in the store. It costs hundreds of dollars to grab everything on offer, but it does make a meaningful difference in the quality of gameplay. So what happens if you own everything? I’m lucky enough to have nearly every piece of DLC, with the exception of a few cosmetic packs. When I play the full version of The Sims 4, my stories quickly unfold into a wild rollercoaster of life simulation nonsense.
I have a household with two Sims in it — one werewolf and one vampire. Supernatural Sims have their own wants and needs, and so my characters have become pariahs of the neighborhood. My vampire has been drinking the blood of unsuspecting Sims who wander by, which is a huge faux pas, and she also seduced a married man by accident. (That’s not because of the expansions; that’s on me for jumping the gun.)
A vampire’s life is complicated enough, but adding more supernatural Sims to the mix doesn’t help. My werewolf has a constantly building rage meter that’s bubbling beneath the surface. I started the run by keeping her unemployed; I couldn’t manage her big werewolf emotions and hold down an entry-level gig. On a long enough timeline, that fury inevitably bubbles over, and I have to haplessly watch as she charges out into the street and mauls passersby. Needless to say, we started the playthrough out as the absolute outcasts of our block.
Each pack for The Sims 4 expands on, or adds to, a specific facet of the game. High School Years, for instance, allows Sim teens to stress out about teenage worries like the perfect promposal. Get Famous is about busking on a street corner or taking crappy acting gigs until you finally become a bona fide superstar. Realm of Magic, on the other hand, is about going to magic school and learning how to cast a mean hex. There’s a whole spectrum of experiences to enjoy here, from the mundane to the magical.
The smorgasbord style of gameplay means there are always surprises that can pop up throughout the course of a playthrough. For instance, the Murphy bed in Tiny Living Stuff Pack is more lethal than becoming a vampire or pursuing a career in magical academics. City Living adds festivals for Sims to peruse, like a geek convention full of cosplay and esports tournaments or a comedy show.
That sounds delightful! But these packs can mix with each other to ill effect. The Seasons expansion, for instance, adds changing weather and thunderstorms. So, when my vampire took one of her boyfriends to a comedy festival, she had to watch in horror as a thunderstorm shorted out some exposed wires and killed him dead. It’s kind of a mood killer to have to bargain with the Grim Reaper for your date’s life — especially when you lose the argument. Random death is just the spice that peps up a Sims game.
With all of the expansions installed, my werewolf and vampire Sims found lucrative career paths. My werewolf is a detective who runs a restaurant on the side, whereas my vampire is a famous actress. It took hard work and dedication to get here, but I was bolstered by the Neighborhood Action Plans introduced in Eco Lifestyle. Neighborhood Action Plans change the behavior of Sims in your town — are they frugal, energy-saving environmentalists, or hedonists who guzzle down as many resources as possible?
Neighborhood Action Plans also cover hobbies and behavior. People used to hate my werewolf for picking fights, but starting a local fight club solved that problem. Now everyone is beating everyone’s ass in the streets, and getting social boosts for it! I also used my outsized influence as the protagonist of reality to make free loving a social norm. Overnight, all of the Sims in my town decided that everyone should date everyone. I’ve created a utopia for my Sims to flourish, where everyone in town alternates between flirting and fistfighting.
Much of the chaos of an all-expansions playthrough is mitigated by the fact that players can opt in or out of most features. Many expansions come with a brand-new town or city; if you don’t want to clean up your neighborhood, go on a ski adventure, or uncover the mysteries of StrangerVille, you simply just don’t go to these places. There are more nuanced options as well; if you’re starting a playthrough in Sulani, but you don’t want to deal with mermaids, there’s a toggle for that.
By and large, the wild scenarios that a Sims game spins up are fun and not frustrating. There are times when the expansions bump up against each other, but most people will never obtain all of them. Instead, players can focus on the elements they want to explore — school expansions, sorting laundry and dusting their home, wild supernatural antics. Different selections of DLC make for different experiences; having them all installed simply creates a whirlwind of events and opportunities.
It’s just a shame the barrier to entry is so high; I’m having a blast with my dysfunctional little household, but it’s tough to share that experience with a friend when the associated price tag is so steep.