We're not sure why, but back in the days of The Sims 2, we always saw the Seasons expansion pack as the red-headed step child of the family. After all, adding some weather effects seemed like the lamest add-on going, marginally above IKEA furniture or H&M clothes. But then it turned up in our stocking one Christmas morning, and boy, were we proved wrong. Almost overnight, we turned into a gardening addict, fished up a storm, and definitely got our Simoleons worth out of the new careers (Gamer and Musician in particular), while our toddlers got their money's worth by eating through ALL the snow. It's surprising how much a little change in the weather can make a town feel much more alive, compared to the eerie perma-sun of your normal Sim city. So, when we heard our much-loved Seasons expansion was coming to The Sims 4, we were pretty darn stoked to see how it mixes things up this time round.
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The Sims 4: Seasons, then, is pretty much everything you'd expect from a game that opens your Sims lives up to the ups and downs of yearly life. Perhaps the most obvious change for your Sims on a day to day basis is the addition of weather, swapping the forever sunny weather for something a bit more variable, as the seasons change from spring to summer, and from autumn (aka 'fall' *shudder*) to winter. It's hardly a new feature for the Seasons expansion packs, having been added to both The Sims 2 and The Sims 3, but it's one that always makes a huge difference to the game. In terms of the weather effects themselves, The Sims 4: Seasons adds all the usual suspects - snow, rain and scorching sun - along with all the associated fun that comes with them. There's making snow angels, jumping in puddles, and water balloon fights; not to mention the snowmen, thunderstorms and heat-induced grumpiness to deal with, all of which help liven up your Sims' daily lives. New fashions mean you can wrap your Sims' up for a wintery stroll, grab an umbrella to shield you from a rainstorm, or bare it all on a sweltering hot day. Few things can put a damper on your Sims' mood like catching a cold, getting soaked to the skin or overheating, so for your Sims' sanity, wardrobe management is fairly essential.
But arguably the biggest and best addition is Seasons' new holidays. An actual in-game calendar sees your Sims' lives broken down into four different seasons, each of which lasts a week (although you can change this in the settings to be 14 or 28 days if you want something a bit longer), and each season comes with its own unique holidays to ring in. There's plenty of them to keep you occupied, too, from the expected ones like Christmas, New Years and a Valentine's-esque 'Love Day', to a handful of more unexpected ones that are worth looking forward to too - Talk Like A Pirate Day for example, or 'Neighbourhood Brawl', a whole day dedicated to getting into fist fights with your neighbours (put 'em up, Mortimer! - Ed). And if that's not enough, you can even create your own celebrations, and choose your own "traditions" to go alongside it. Perhaps making your own 'Creator Day', where Sims travel to a shrine to give thanks to a merciful player who hasn't starved them to death this year - they could even have to fast the whole day, to reflect on what less fortuitous Sims went through before their untimely demise. Maybe even throwing caution to the wind with a bit of celebratory streaking for good measure.
Each holiday comes with its own set of objectives to complete during the day, before your Sim will class it as having been suitably celebrated, whether it's having a 'Grand Meal' for "Winter Fest" (eurgh) and opening a present, watching the Countdown to Midnight on TV for New Years' Eve, or donning ye best pirate outfit and spouting ye best buccaneering lingo for Talk Like A Pirate Day. Each objective you tick off will give you a chunk of Satisfaction and a feel-good moodlet for your Sim, giving you warm, fuzzy seasonal feelings, along with helping break up the daily grind of work, skill-learning, and house expansions. However, it's also totally optional - and sometimes, depending on your Sims' unique personalities and age bracket, they may choose not to observe the holiday at all. For example, our Elder really couldn't care less about the Free Food and Drinks festival, seeing as she's obviously long done with nights out on the town, instead preferring to stay home with her cats and rose bushes.
And let's not forget all the glorious new NPC characters The Sims 4: Seasons brings. Our created gardening pro granny, Doris Gardener, has been steadily WooHoo-ing her way through new arrivals Father Winter (that's Father Christmas to you and me), and Patchy the Straw Man, a helpful, sometimes-sentient scarecrow that helps with your gardening chores. When she's not romancing scarecrows, Doris can mostly be found bonding with the bees in her brand new beehive - which, if you befriend them enough, can be used to attack other Sims.... Just the thing for getting those young whipper-snappers off her perfectly-manicured lawns. And if you're thinking an overly friendly scarecrow, and an angry bee army sounds pretty out there, just wait until Harvestfest rolls around, and out come the gnomesÖ
If Harvestfest teaches you one thing, it's that hell hath no fury like a gnome scorned. No, this isn't your average harvest festival with tables of produce and everyone singing kumbaya - it's the holiday from hell. Basically, overnight, a whole army of gnomes appear on your lot, demanding appeasement. You can choose to give them coffee, pie or toys - all manner of things really - but heaven help you if your gift isn't up to snuff, because these gnomes mean business. Give them the wrong present, and they'll take their anger out on your household appliances, breaking your TVs, wrecking your toilets and generally causing thousands of Simoleans-worth of damage. You can choose to 'Plead for Forgiveness' from an angered gnome, but they're not exactly merciful creatures, and the odds are you'll just get struck by a bolt of lightning. Not impressed with their antics, Doris gave one a swift kick to the gnome-nuts (it's his own fault really, for being a naked gnome with nothing covering his modesty but a pixelated box) - but it turns out, her outburst was a bit of a mistake. After lashing out, an evil looking circle of gnomes basically followed her wherever she went for the rest of the day, repeatedly wrecking every appliance in the immediate vicinity. It wasn't long before Doris broke down in a puddle of tears and her own urine, because what else can you do when your toilet's out of action? But at least Patchy came to mop it all up, obviously trying to get in her good books for later...
Really, the only genuine complaint we have with The Sims 4: Seasons is that it doesn't come with a new neighbourhood to explore. You know, one filled with themed buildings and seasonal activities, etc. Your Sims can go ice skating and roller blading thanks to the new expansion, but with no dedicated lots for them, it's something you'd probably have to rearrange your neighbourhood to include. That being said, EA have made it so that the seasons, and associated weather effects, do work properly across all the preset neighbourhoods, so snow covers the whole map and such, which is pretty cool.
As an expansion pack, The Sims 4: Seasons really does bring a whole host of new features to the table, and is a great way to refresh your Sims experience. We're particularly fond of the new holidays it adds, but the whole gamut of weather effects are pretty darn fun too, especially playing in the snow, and all the associated winter festivities. The more out-there holiday moments, such as Harvestfest's somewhat sinister gnome squadron, and the silliness of Talk Like A Pirate Day (and many more) are easily the highlight of the pack too, helping to mix up your Sims' day-to-day lives with some much-needed seasonal stupidity. The Sims 4: Seasons does everything and more to live up to our expectations, cementing it's place up at the top of our favourite expansions list, alongside Cats & Dogs.
Format Reviewed: PC