Some expansion packs from The Sims 3 have proved popular enough to return in forms in The Sims 4. One such distinct pack is Island Living. In The Sims 3, we knew the tropical package as Island Paradise. Yet in my heart, Island Paradise blows Island Living out of its graphically enhanced water. For multifarious reasons.
The Sims 3
Island Paradise added an incredible amount of content. You could own and run your own resort. You could build from scratch, improve, and renovate from premade blueprints. The blueprints make improving your resort easy, too. They had pre-made lobbies, gyms, dining areas, rooms, and more. You could choose from a beach, Spanish, or “eco modern” themes. Of course, you could simply build and buy the structures yourself if you wanted to customize your property to your taste. It was fun to read the guests complain in resort reviews and fulfill their every desire. After a while, the simoleons that poured in were just an added bonus.
You also gained hotel perks and a bunch of moods. It’s a completely different sort of Sims gameplay when you run your own business. The economic aspect of running a resort was pretty detailed. You could manage resort staff, set uniforms or customize them, and even set shifts. You then managed a maintenance crew; though these were random NPCs outside of the usual custom characters you work within The Sims. You finally had a resort finances report to keep track of your revenue and expenses. I’m not kidding when I say this was thought out in a way that felt like its own game. It really added to the real estate aspect of the existing Sims 3, as well.
My favorite part of this expansion pack was not only getting a new world (the island) but four underwater maps to scuba dive through as a human or a mermaid. You could explore caves that would uncover new parts of the island and even “woohoo” inside them. In Island Paradise, you got Rocky Reef, Davy Jones’ Locker, Pearl’s Deep, and The Mermaid Grotto. You earned a new skill, the aptly named scuba ability, and had to build upon it in order to access the different zones. You would then have to look out for sharks — because oftentimes they would attack to cause a negative mood. Just like shark attacks in real life.
Some underwater maps had caves that you set your Sim to go exploring, oftentimes with them returning with goodies and memories to put in their scrapbook. Exploring these caves also uncovered more of Isla Paradiso (the world created for Island Paradise). There were a total of eight different hidden islands, rivaling some of the biggest content drops in the series’ history.
Scuba diving was just one of many ways to uncover these hidden gems. As you traveled across various islands, you stumbled upon treasures and bottles with pieces of maps inside. Acquiring all the pieces of the same map assembled them to unlock travel to a certain uncharted island. Not all of the islands could be found by map, though. You could unlock the rest by playing with resorts or getting involved as a local lifeguard and chatting it up with locals (possibly even a mermaid) to learn more and help you out.
The Sims 4
To be frank, I was disappointed in Island Living, despite it reviving one of my favorite concepts from the previous game. The mermaids, island, and graphics are undeniably prettier… but that’s about it. It does expand immensely on island life: more moods, interactions, activities. And you still have boats, at least, but now your Sims can relax on float loungers. Lemme tell you they provide some wonderfully pleasant in-game photos.
As in The Sims 3, there are buoys your Sim can swim out to and snorkel or scuba at, but you don’t travel underwater at all this time, completely skipping out on the undersea experience that defined the exploratory nature of the original expansion. It’s something I wish The Sim team had chosen to focus on instead of the more superficial vacation theme. At least we get dolphins! And it’s admittedly fun to interact with the new critters. As a mermaid or merman, you can even befriend and form bonds with the dolphins.
Through Island Living, you can earn expanding careers, like being able to join the Conservation profession where you help clean up the island of Mua Pel’am (or you can attempt to clean it up by yourself without locking yourself into the profession). And we all get Odd Jobs: quick, one-time tasks with flexible hours that are a great way to socialize your Sim while meeting neighbors. The more you progress with Odd Jobs and build your Sim’s rating, the better the job opportunities that unlock.
It is nice to see the island life of Sulani come together for events, too. The majority of them occur in the town center, but a handful — the more family-oriented ones — are typically by the water. If you’re constantly out and about you’ll see decorations around town indicating that such events are going on. Oh, and of course I can’t forget sunbathing. You gotta do it right and put on sunblock (seriously just like in real life this time), or you’ll just burn. That’s not something you ever want to experience… even in the virtual world of The Sims 4.
I generally stand my ground in defending the earlier Sims games as having more depth and challenge to them. That’s especially clear when comparing two thematically very similar expansions in Island Paradise and Island Living. Now if EA wants to come out with another expansion pack strictly for underwater worlds, I’m all here for it, even if I have to pay for it all over again. If not… Well, that works, too. I’ll just start demanding the return of the matchmaker instead.