The medieval version of The Sims hasn’t simply thrown in some lute music and substituted 2.4 kids in an apartment for 6.5 urchins in a mud-brick shack. While the core mechanics are still here, with a very similar interface and the usual (albeit simplified) need meters, some major alterations have been made to the formula.
The Sims go role-playing
The player now controls the lives of up to ten hero sims through a marathon of quests. Gone is the sandbox management of a single family, replaced by skipping around between your monarch, knight, priest, bard and so on, each of whom can tackle different quests (sometimes together as a party).
As a result, there’s quite a choppy feel to managing relationships between characters, as your attention constantly shifts between them. Sims traditionalists may find this lack of focus irksome, along with the stop-start nature of the world, which is only active when you have a quest underway (and only gives you access to the relevant characters tackling that mission).
The good news is that the scope of Sims Medieval is substantially increased in other directions. Your kingdom can be shaped through policy decisions, so if security levels are low, taking on a quest to train up the fighter’s guild will bolster them, and see off those bandits in the forest. The quests themselves are interestingly scripted, with a number of branching decisions.
Lots to do, from expansion to crafting
Expansion plans have to be considered, placing buildings within the town, and influencing neighbouring provinces. Multiple crafting systems are present, so the blacksmith must mine materials, then use the forge to craft new weapons and armour. Items can be sold and traded, the monarch can hold court and grant or deny the population’s wishes… there’s stacks of stuff to tackle.
Much of this is implemented in fairly basic terms – the crafting mini-games are pretty simple, for instance. Even so, there’s plenty to manage and juggle on an overall level, so that’s a fair enough decision from the standpoint of a casual game.
- The new role-playing approach is genuinely different, refreshingly so.
- Abandoning the open-ended motif for a more structured medieval life might rankle with some fans.
There's a danger that Sims Medieval falls a bit between two ducking stools. On the one hand, it's too RPG-lite for avid role-players; on the other, traditional Sims fans might find the highly structured kingdom building and questing all too alien.
We reckon it'll hit the right note with the majority, however, and we're glad EA has had the guts to try something different with the franchise. By and large, the end result is fresh, reasonably engaging, and keeps that fun Sims sense of humour.