The Sims 4 Eco Lifestyle is the latest Expansion Pack to add to your ever-growing list of optional add-ons for your Sims. Eco Lifestyle promises to deliver the joy of green living into your neighbourhoods and into your gameplay, but does it deliver what it promises?
Booting up Eco Lifestyle will introduce you to the brand-new world of Evergreen Harbour. Usually my biggest issue with new Sims worlds is how small and constricted they usually are, but Evergreen Harbour definitely isn’t the worst we’ve had. It offers three different sections for you to explore, and each is in a different state of eco flux. Similar to the trash-cleaning-up in Island Living, you can help turn these areas from filthy smog-filled zones to lush and green eco-friendly paradises through the gameplay.
Just like in Sulani though, there’s not actually too much you need to do here to achieve that. “Transforming” your new neighbourhood is as simple as sticking a few energy-saving gadgets into one of your playable lots and voila. You’ve done it. It took a matter of moments for me to achieve this, and it didn’t really offer as much new gameplay as I’d been expecting.
Hands-down my favourite thing about the new world of Evergreen Harbour is that two of its residential lots are actually apartments, something which we desperately need more of in The Sims 4.
Sure, keeping an eye on the eco footprint of your neighbourhood might get a little old, but there’s a lot more to it than you might think. Once you’ve cleaned up your area and you’re settled into your eco-friendly home, you’ll notice a lot of new gameplay tweaks and additions.
The way that household bills are managed has now changed, with discounts available to you if you live off your own energy supply. Collecting rainwater, creating bio-fuel from the new bug houses, and placing windmills for electricity will all help to keep your bills low and affordable. Off-the-grid gameplay has never been this fun, as you’ll need to manage just how much energy and water you’re creating if you want to avoid the TV set cutting out mid-show.
It’s not all up to you though, as community makes up a huge part of Eco Lifestyle. You’ll be introduced to N.A.Ps, or Neighbourhood Action Plans, which work in a similar way to the clubs of Get Together. N.A.P.s are neighbourhood initiatives which require votes if you want them to be successful. There’s a lot of fun options that you can apply to your neighbourhood here, including everything from all your Sims being forced to wear paper bags on their heads, to being a lot more open when it comes to WooHooing with friends and strangers. You can vote for the N.A.P.s you want to see go live in your area, and you’ll have to collect signatures to repeal any initiatives you’re not a fan of. N.A.P.s are fun to play around with, but they’re time-sensitive, so if you want to repeal or gather votes for something, you’ll need to act quickly to get the right number of Sims on your side.
You’ll also need to use community voting to choose which of the pre-made new builds will take over the empty buildings which appear in each of the three zones. You can opt to turn these into places where your Sims can go and craft things using new items like the Fabricator or candle maker, or you can choose to turn them into garden spaces and more. You’ll need to convince other Sims to side with you, and once you have enough votes, you’ll see these lots transformed into useful little areas for your Sim to utilise.
The pack introduces some new traits and career options too. The “Freegan trait” is a fun addition, and will see your Sim get frustrated and upset when they buy items instead of salvaging them (which kind of got annoying after a while). Similarly, the “Maker trait” will want to see your Sims get crafty over purchasing items. There’s also the new Civil Design and Freelance Crafting careers, which are definitely a welcome thing to see for those tired of the Sims 4’s current career options.
Speaking of being “Freegan,” one of the biggest – and best – parts of Eco Lifestyle comes from recycling. The Dumpster is a new way for you to find everything from food (of various quality) to furniture, all of which can be recycled into parts which you can then use to create new items. (Dumpsters are also a new public WooHoo location, because why the heck not?)
Of all of the new additions to the game, Dumpsters are my firm favourite, as they add a lot of value to your home-brewed challenges. Rags to Riches is infinitely improved by the addition of Dumpsters and crafting, as they add a whole new level. Can you feed your whole Sim family on just Dumpster scraps? Can you make a living simply from recycling? These make-your-own challenges were my favourite new part of Eco Lifestyle, though you can’t ignore that these are designed by the player, and not by the game itself…
The Sims 4 Eco Lifestyle is an Expansion Pack, meaning it should be supplying a nice range of Create-A-Sim content (like clothing and hair pieces) alongside a range of new Build items (like furniture and wallpaper). Here the pack undeniably delivers. I have to say that Eco Lifestyle introduces some of my favourite new items, with a seriously impressive range of clothing for all ages, and Build items with a really chic aesthetic.
The pack aims to introduce the themes of recycling and upcycling, meaning the items you’re getting have a really wonderful look to them, coming across both fashionable but also well-loved. There’s lots of bright colours, lots of nice swatches and even some nifty new gameplay items.
The Fabricator (which creates items from salvaged scrap called Bits and Pieces) and the candle maker are two really nice examples of these, offering up a chance for your Sim to learn new skills and make money on the side.
So should you buy The Sims 4 Eco Lifestyle? As with most Sims packs, that’s a really tough question to answer. If you like the idea of having more of a crafting element to the Sims, and if you’re keen to pad-out your CAS and Build mode items, this is is a sure-fire hit. If you’re also a big fan of your own Rags to Riches challenges, or if you favour Off The Grid living, there’s also going to be a lot of life in this pack for you.
However, the gameplay can get pretty old, pretty fast, and if you’re not really too thrilled about the idea of greener living, there’s not too much else this pack introduces.
I can’t help but feel that Eco Lifestyle would have been better suited to being a Game Pack rather than an Expansion. Though it does offer a lot of items, a new world, and some new gameplay mechanics, putting so much emphasis on the one idea of “greener living” seems like it’s only going to appeal to a very specific type of player.
I tend to stick to “family play” in The Sims 4, so for me personally, there wasn’t too much here for me that helped add to that. However, if you’re more into “community play,” and you like to interweave your Sims’ stories with the world around them, you’re likely to feel more connected to this pack than I am.
Eco Lifestyle provides some much-needed new gameplay, but sadly it doesn’t appeal to every type of Simmer out there.
The Sims 4 Eco Lifestyle was reviewed on PC/Mac.
Featured Image Credit: EA