After 11 years, three editions, and a host of expansions, the Sims series has taken a dramatic new direction. The Sims Medieval takes the game out of the modern suburbs and combines life-simulation with an RPG, giving you control of heroes that must find time to do their jobs, eat, sleep, and make friends while pursuing quests to improve and protect their kingdom.
Rather than controlling a household, players take charge of up to 10 heroes with their own professions and homes. You’re constantly on some sort of quest, either undertaking it solo, or with a party of heroes you can move among freely. The clever quest system lets you take different approaches to a mission depending on what hero you want to complete it, so a knight might go out to the forest to slay some marauding dire chinchillas, while the blacksmith will avoid danger and just build some chinchilla traps. Each quest has many steps, and so long as you’re making a little progress each day, you can take as much time as you like to pursue other goals. Doing things that make your Sim happy, such as picking flowers, reading, or taking a bath, provide buffs that improve your quest performance. Quests provide rewards that improve your kingdom and let you build more buildings that can unlock more heroes.
Each Sim also has daily duties they must perform to avoid nasty debuffs. There’s a wide disparity between how well these tasks are developed. A monarch must hear petitions, which is an often-amusing process of listening to the woes of your subjects and choosing how to spend your money in ways that may cause you to gain or lose popularity with your people. Monarchs also have to write laws, which are apparently meaningless, as they just involve Sims working at their writing desks for a bit. Other jobs, such as forging weapons or treating patients, include mini-games where you have to keep a balance between one factor and another, like heat and cold, or pain and anesthesia. Unless you really care about a given outcome, you can largely ignore these by speeding up the game until the task is complete.
While some Sims fans might find the addition of quests and a leveling system makes the game even more addictive, The Sims Medieval does away with some of the series’ classic components, like designing buildings and watching your Sims age. Some of the elements of questing are also weak: While combat characters can choose whether to fight aggressively or conserve their stamina, no real skill is required for the dull battles that involve alternately knocking your opponent to the ground or being knocked down yourself while watching health bars change. Hunting a boar in the forest or sailing around your kingdom just consists of clicking on something and waiting for your Sim to finish. There’s no way to change between active quests without abandoning your current one, so you can’t take a break from a character without losing progress and the valuable quest points required to start new missions. The Sims Studio loves expansions, though, so some of these flaws might be corrected soon to make this ambitious new fantasy game a worthier addition to the series.