The Sims 4's latest expansion, Seasons, gives the game the rhythms of a passing year. While it might seem like a decorative change, after playing it, Seasons feel essential.
Fans have clamoured for Seasons since The Sims 4's release. Each game has gotten the expansion since The Sims 2, and getting to see spring, summer, autumn and winter in your game of The Sims allows you to imagine your Sims live somewhere other than southern California. Seasons, which releases tomorrow, also gives the game holidays and a new career, gardening.
The seasons themselves can be subtle. I started my new playthrough in summer, and other than Sims occasionally complaining that it was too hot, giving them a debuff to their mood, I didn't notice anything significantly different about the environment. Weather was a pleasant change - I particularly like the way the screen shakes when lightning hits in a storm - but at first it left me underwhelmed.
It was only after playing through autumn and then making it to winter that I appreciated the way that the game transitioned from season to season. Each season lasts seven in-game days, and during this time the environment isn't static. On the first day of autumn, the trees on my lot erupted into a bright red, only to fade to dull browns by the season's end. The temperature got chillier and chillier, and on the first day of winter, it snowed.
Each day feels less like a slog of trying to raise your skills and relationships and more like a real, human day, distinct and different from the rest. You even get a little weather forecast, so you'll know you won't have to water your garden when it rains or to keep your Sims inside and raise the temperature on the thermostat when it snows.
Of all the seasons, winter is the most beautiful and offers the most varied outdoor activities. When the first flakes of snow started drifting down and the ground covered with white, the lot I was playing in completely transformed.
It is true that the snow doesn't have depth, but being greeted each day with fat, wet snowflakes felt as magical as it does in real life. In summer you can have water balloon fights and in autumn you can rake and play in leaf piles, but winter offers snowmen, snow angels, and throwing snowballs at each other. I got so distracted making two of my Sims pelt each other with snow that one of them almost froze to death.
Each season also comes with holidays, which are by far my favourite addition. The game now had a calendar, allowing you to plan parties and events days in advance. The calendar also highlights specific holidays that every Sims celebrates. On Winterfest, the game's version of Christmas, Sims will gather for a large meal and decorate their houses. You can even have a visit from Father Winter, who gives out presents.
Depending on their traits, Sims will ignore or especially like different holiday traditions. My lazy sim didn't like decorating the house, but my self assured sim loved making New Year's resolutions.
These days make the Sims that live in your house together feel like a small community, sharing the changes in the world and their lives as they grow up. You can add your own holidays as well, and I went ahead and added a sort-of-Halloween, so my Sims can all dress in costumes together and dance.
Now that I've played almost a whole year of the game with Seasons, I can't imagine playing without it. My Sims' lives seem more concrete and real now. Now that I can see my Sims' birthdays in advance on the calendar, watching them go through different stages of life feels less arbitrary. The world they live in changes, sometimes day by day. As my Sims go from babies to toddlers to young adults to elders, they experience a world as vibrant as their lives are.