The Sims Medieval Preview
I'm one of those people for whom The Sims long ago wore out its welcome. Because of that, I went into a demo for The Sims Medieval at this month's Game Developer's Conference very skeptically and somewhat reluctantly. I mean, there's only so much time you can spend watching your Sims hook up or read books or die in horribly sadistic ways and then it all becomes old hat. I was pleasantly surprised by The Sims Medieval, however, and can say that because of it my interest in the franchise has been renewed.
I started with the tutorial and was told that the point of the game was to build a kingdom. I began by creating a hero to govern it, selecting various options from the game's “ambition” screen. I was then asked to choose two main traits and one fatal flaw and selected “adventurous, evil” and “drunkard”. These things all effect how the game plays and I was warned that by choosing drunkard, I'd have quite a time keeping my Sim hero constantly supplied with ale. The tutorial was quite extensive which is good for players like me, but was occasionally confusing due to elements that looked like buttons but were non-interactive. Even so, I moved past character creation and started questing.
Questing is new to The Sims and in the The Sims Medieval, it's used to collect resources with which you build your kingdom. You start by placing a castle, and move on from there, placing other structures and creating other characters to help you run them. We saw several examples of the characters, the first of which was the king who writes laws, negotiates treaties, declares war and (my personal favorite) sends people to the stocks. We also saw the sorcerer who has at his disposal a full magic system with runes that can be combined to help him skill up. During the demo we used his skills to set the king on fire, leaving him looking like an overdone tater-tot, which resulted in the king sending him to—dum dum DUM! The pit.
We followed the sorcerer’s fate, watching as the executioner tossed him struggling into the pit which incidentally, housed a nasty, tentacled monster. Funny thing though; sorcerers aren't easily killed and rather than dying quietly, weird sounds, waving tentacles and flashes of light clued us in that the sorcerer wasn't going down without a fight. He actually survived the pit, whereupon we happily threw him right back in and killed him. Hey, don’t judge. This is my world and I can do what I want with it.
Other characters I saw after that were the spy, who could pickpocket, poison people and craft his own poisons (I poisoned the king, poor bastard), the knight, who could challenge people to duels and access a full combat system, the physician, who could craft meds, treat people for injuries and shudder...leech people. That sounded like a lot of characters to manage already but it didn't stop there. We also saw the Blacksmith (a drunken blacksmith) who could make armor and weapons and mine ore, the Merchant who could sail on ships to trade goods, the Bard who could make people happy by playing music and writing plays, and clerics, who came in two varieties--the fire-and-brimstone Jacobans and the kinder, gentler, hippie-commune-like Peterans--both types of which could give sermons and make proclamations.
We were told that in addition to progressing these individual characters and building your kingdom, you'll also have to contend now and then with other kingdoms declaring war on you. If this happens you have the choice to negotiate or fight, although we weren't given too many particulars regarding that mechanic.
The GDC demo showed that Maxis and EA are doing their damnedest to keep The Sims franchise fresh and prevent it from petering out. Knowing that there are only so many ways you can repackage everyday life, they've chosen an entirely new setting and added new gameplay elements like questing and kingdom management, not to mention a sort of RPG-ish element that could bring old players back and get new players interested. The game is already in the can and is set for PC only release on March 22, 2011. It'll be interesting to see if The Sims Medieval really plays differently and if the Sims gaming community willingly embraces it.