One would normally imagine the Sims in a city or a suburban setting. It's not often that players can take their characters to a different sort of backdrop. For The Sims 4's Cottage Living expansion, life is about to get a little more rural. Those who are more suited to being homebodies or whose party days are behind them, this expansion might be more their speed, as it's centered mainly around living off the land.
The Sims 4: Cottage Living will offer the new option to live in Henford-on-Bagley, which includes some empty lots and a furnished farm home up a hill. The option is there to play the game, as normal, but as long as I had a furnished home available with a stable and a chicken coop sitting along the side, it felt like a good time to get to know the animals.
Most of the starting budget was blown on the furnished home, so there wasn't much remaining to purchase farm animals. However, the option is there to purchase different colored spotted cows, chickens, hens, and llamas. Without much in my pocket, I opted for a single cow and a single chicken. Animals can help provide food, whether it be from cows providing milk or chickens providing eggs. They'll be particularly useful in the hands of a Sim who knows how to cook, as these will often be used as ingredients for bigger dishes.
The ability to earn your own ingredients will complement the addition of some new dishes, which is coming as part of a separate free update. Some of those dishes do require a lot of different smaller foods, but if you're missing anything, there's a new delivery feature that can have groceries delivered straight to your door. Yes, the Sims have basically discovered Instacart. If you'd rather just not cook at all, the option is there to just order a ready-made sandwich or pizza.
Animals can also provide companionship. Farm life can be lonely and while your Sim will see neighbors occasionally swing by to say hello, cows and llamas can also provide a listening ear or a friendly hug. This isn't just for show, as your Sim's relationship with their animals will be worth monitoring. If your llama doesn't like you, for example, trying to sheer it for wool will be a fruitless endeavor, since it will bite your arm and knock the shearer away. Cows who live in filthy conditions will be prone to run away, leaving players with only a poop-filled stable. Animals can be beneficial in many ways, but only if there's a strong relationship in place.
The obvious ways to maintain friendly relations with animals is to socialize with them, give them animal feed on a regular basis, and also clean their living areas. Players can also craft different treats, some of which can change a llama or a cow's colors. Some animals can also be dressed up, specifically the llama, which has a variety of different outfits, like the "llama-corn" outfit that makes it look positively majestic.
Part of farm life also means becoming a master of the soil. The garden patch differs slightly from the normal garden, in that it will allow players to grow oversized crops for the first time. Oversized crop seeds can be purchased as part of their own category and can only be planted on oversized plots found specifically in garden patches. The level of care that each crop receives will determine whether players find four small crops, two medium crops, or one giant county fair-sized crop. Larger crops can be used for consumption or can be entered in the nearby Finchwick Fair. Sadly, I didn't have much of a green thumb and wasn't able to enter the competition, but the smaller crops I did grow proved useful in the kitchen.
Farming also segues into one of Cottage Living's other new features: the Lot Challenge. Rather than introduce new lot traits, Maxis is taking some of the more challenging lot traits and turning them into Lot Challenges. Lot Challenges will grant some bonuses in exchange for taking on some more difficult modifiers. For example, the Simple Living challenge will boost a Sim's cooking ability, but that's only if they can collect the necessary ingredients. A peskier challenge is Wild Foxes, which will see these wild animals creep onto your lot and attempt to swipe your crops, chickens, and rabbits. You'll be on your toes chasing off foxes regularly, but successfully warding off these bandits will help build your relationship with your animals. If those Lot Challenges prove to be a little too daunting, they can be disabled at any time.
Henford-on-Bagley feels like a sharp contrast to some of The Sims 4's more extravagant settings, but it fits well within the game's formula. There are a lot more animal communications in place, including the ability to call out to wild rabbits and birds. Given how busy I was with my farm animals, I was barely able to scratch the surface. If you're like me and feel overwhelmed by caring for a single Sim, caring for animals can feel like a lot to handle. However, Sims veterans will have a lot to play with, whether it's their own personal lot, their farm land, or the nearby national park and its snail maze.
This is just scratching the surface of what's available in The Sims 4: Cottage Living. Quiet village life awaits when the expansion releases on Thursday, July 22.
This preview is based on an Origin digital code provided by the publisher. The Sims 4: Cottage Living will be available July 22 on Steam and Origin. The game is rated T.
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