Releasing July 22, Cottage Living will be the newest expansion pack for the popular life simulation game The Sims 4. As its name suggests, the DLC embraces everything about farming, gardening, and living off the land as your Sims live nestled away in a cute cottage in the English-inspired countryside. I’ve been really excited about the expansion, and so far, I love what I’ve played.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the best parts of Cottage Living — including the ability to befriend wild animals, new ways to cook, and what the upcoming three-neighborhood world has to offer. The early access build I got to play includes only the base game of The Sims 4 alongside Cottage Living. This means I didn’t get to see how this new pack interacts with other add-ons (I’m curious, for example, if there’s any crossover between the new animal interactions and what’s already offered in Cats & Dogs). Yet, I still got a pretty good sense of how this new pack plays.
Building a fairytale getaway
How I play The Sims has changed over the years. These days, I almost exclusively build homes and community lots in the game, and Cottage Living adds a slew of cottage-themed decor, furniture, and build mode items — enough to keep me busy for quite some time. My favorite additions include a front door with a super cute fox knocker, animal roof decorations, thatched roofs, and a good chunk of kitschy as well as rustic furniture like fireplaces and flowery wallpaper. Everything just feels so cozy, especially as my Sims settled into their new home and cuddled by the fireplace.
But what I’m most excited about is that you can (finally!) build ponds and freshwater sources. This might not sound like a big deal, especially if you don’t play The Sims. But prior to Cottage Living, there were no pond-making tools in The Sims 4. That was a huge bummer, because it was possible in previous games. In The Sims 4, you have to build a pool and painstakingly cover it with greenery to disguise it as a pond, which was a pain. Cottage Living thankfully changes that with a new water tool: You dig a hole with terrain tools and then fill it with water to a desired height. Then you can place fish, bugs, ducks, and more to bring your idyllic pond to teeming life. The pond tool will be available to everyone as a free update when Cottage Living launches later this month. It’s an addition I would have expected back in 2014 — when The Sims 4 first released — but hey… It’s better late than never!
Farming, and a new take on cooking
Cottage Living, as you may expect, comes with the ability to farm and become financially self-sufficient by living off the land. You can plant an assortment of crops, berries, fruits, and vegetables. These can include pumpkins, mushrooms, watermelons, and more. All those harvested ingredients can then be used to cook specific meals depending on your skill level, sold for simoleons (the central currency of The Sims), shown off at town fairs, or traded for rewards by completing errands the townsfolk assign to you. Farm animals offer resources, too, like shearing a llama for its wool, which can then be used for embroidery via the new cross-stitching kit.
Cottage Living changes up cooking significantly, too. While ingredients-based cooking existed previously, your “grocery purchases” would just happen instantaneously by deducting household funds as Sims prepare their food. If you had those ingredients on hand already, the meal would be free. But Cottage Living doubles down on ingredients-based cooking, where, if you so choose, all meals will require specific items. You can either grow them yourself (or otherwise gather them from animals, like eggs from chickens and milk from cows) or buy them outright from a grocery store in town. A neat little addition is being able to deliver groceries straight to your door, like an in-game Uber Eats.
In addition to growing crops, you can also raise farm animals, including the aforementioned cows and chickens, or even llamas (which are the whimsical, unofficial mascots throughout The Sims series). Each animal has a life cycle similar to your human Sims. Chickens, for example, can grow from chicks into roosters or hens. Cottage Living also introduces several new socializing interactions with animals that are unique to the game pack, including showing off your dance moves, telling them jokes, and, at least with wild animals, giving gifts.
Relationships with wild animals in Cottage Living can be cultivated across several different species (foxes, rabbits, a flock of birds, etc.). Each animal can then be given its own name. You can give them gifts to boost that relationship further, until you can eventually tell foxes not to steal from your farm or teach rabbits to help with gardening. Although these animals have differing tastes when it comes to gifts and interactions, their personalities aren’t all that distinct. Still, it’s satisfying to build up relationships for the rewards they bring. Eventually, you can dress them up in adorable outfits bought from an NPC named the creature keeper, so you may have a chicken roaming around with a top hat and a rabbit wearing a button-up sweater with shorts. It’s ridiculous in the whimsical ways The Sims is known for. Not to mention it’s super cute.
But relationship building isn’t always easy. Your own chickens might peck you for instance. That scares your Sim for a duration of in-game time, or if you’re really unlucky, fiendish animals like angry chickens or vicious rabbits can even outright kill you. I really like the unpredictability — even as I tried to bond with a chicken, it still became angered and pecked my Sim. Pesky foxes, meanwhile, evoke the same fear I felt about robbers that would break into my Sims’ homes in previous games.
Embracing queerness through cottage life and nature
Electronic Arts and Maxis have continuously paid close attention to both real-world and internet trends, often incorporating those into The Sims 4. Shortly after The Mandalorian debuted on Disney Plus, for example, Sims players found a baby Yoda replica within the game. Following cultural fads continues with Cottage Living — particularly as social media platforms like TikTok embrace the “cottagecore” aesthetic. This includes anything vaguely fairytale-like and rustic. And oftentimes cottagecore directly intersects with queer culture.
Intentionally or not, there’s something particularly queer about the Cottage Living pack, too. The Sims has long embraced queer culture, empowering players to create with few boundaries, including the big gender overhaul in 2016 that introduced genderfluid customization options. In Cottage Living, queerness is mostly apparent through its cottagecore aesthetic.
I created my own lesbian couple nestled away deep in the woods. They spent time farming, fishing, and occasionally sneaking out into the dead of night to do the deed inside an animal shed. I also dressed them in an assortment of what I’d call very gay clothing: oversized jackets, sweaters, and overalls (all of which were new with Cottage Living). Even the smaller updates, like being able to cook together (previously, Sims could only cook alone), or having them sneak into an animal shed to do the deed allows the couple I created to bond in new ways. In the little narrative I baked within my own brain, I imagined that these two were able to live their lives free of bigotry as they thrive off the land in a fairytale cottage. That’s the fantasy often at the heart of the cottagecore aesthetic. Peeling all those worries away and being at peace with a partner in nature can make queerness feel like the most natural thing in the world. As a gay woman, I’ve been absolutely adoring this side of Cottage Living.
A bustling community
The Sims 4: Cottage Living lastly introduces a new world, Henford-on-Bagley, which has three distinct neighborhoods. These include the deep forests of Bramblewood, the old mill village Finchwick, and the prosperous Old New Henford that houses large estates. Like most previous expansions in The Sims 4, however, there’s just not a whole lot of room to custom build. In fact, there’s only one free lot… All the others are occupied by prebuilt homes. You can delete these, of course, but it’s still a frustratingly small amount of space to make your own.
Still, there’s a lot to love about the new area, at least from a narrative and lore perspective. A number of townsfolk have bolded red names, identifying them as prominent personalities within the world that you can help with errands. Everyone has a story — even the grocery store owner who has a crush on the creature keeper and subsequently misunderstands the “signals” he’s sending her. And even a fan favorite, the elderly Agnes Crumplebottom, returns — and now she has a cousin as well. The two co-run a garden shop stall in the town. Like previous games, Agnes is still a grumpy old lady who detests anything mildly romantic, so flirting with her is a fun way to push her buttons.
The Sims series has always felt like comfort food to me, and Cottage Living capitalizes on that feeling in a world that feels peaceful and cozy. I’m already planning out some fun builds, like re-creating Ellie and Dina’s farmhouse from The Last of Us Part II. I can’t wait, especially since I’ve only scrapped the surface of this big expansion so far. Thankfully, I don’t have to wait long for the full release. The Sims 4 Cottage Living arrives on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Mac on July 22.