My dream is to one day move up north and live in a cottage by a freshwater lake in Ontario. It’s a dream that brings me peace and perspective when the frantic speed of everyday life gets to be a bit too much. It’s never far from my mind, but The Sims 4: Cottage Living poured fuel on that burning desire.
Cottage Living is the latest expansion for The Sims 4, bringing players something different without making it feel disconnected. The new location added to the game is Henford-on-Bagley, and that’s where I opted to begin my new Sim life. As is standard, I had 20,000 Simoleons. Luckily, my new home – including furniture – came in just under that, leaving me enough cash to purchase a cow and a pizza and not much else.
It’s right here that Cottage Living got me with its charm. The lot I purchased came with the Simple Living Lot Challenge. This required me to use ingredients for all recipes, meaning I had to either buy them from the store – I’m broke, remember – or produce them myself. In the interest of being fully immersed, I opted to go with the latter, and it was a welcome struggle at first.
You see, I used to be good at making large amounts of Simoleons without using cheats. In the early game, I would run around neighborhoods and harvest plants and dig up critters and treasures to sell. As I played, I would develop my ability to paint, making thousands a day selling my “masterpieces” to art galleries. EA is wise to this, though, as they nerfed the ability to harvest public plants and sell them. My early-game strategy was foiled.
I really didn’t mind as not having a go-to scheme to get rich forced me to test the ability to live off the land. My colleague, Ozzie, struggled with this in his preview of Cottage Living, but it’s gone rather splendidly for me. Immediately, I noticed the option to do some canning, so my first batch of tomatoes turned into sauce. My first batch of milk from my cow was turned into cheese.
Yeah, it was slow going, but before long I was stocked up on carrots, potatoes, onions, and many other ingredients from the garden on my property. I was also harvesting eggs and milk from the chickens and cow I owned. I did have to head into town to buy some odds and ends, or get a grocery delivery now and then, but most of what I cooked came from my animals and my land. When I went to cook the options lit up with new dishes that I could make with mostly homegrown ingredients. It was an immensely satisfying early journey.
It may go without saying, but living off the land doesn’t come easy, even in The Sims 4. My Sim was up at about 5 a.m. each day, giving me an hour to eat and use the bathroom before taking care of the chores. The Chicken Coop and Animal Shed needed to be cleaned daily. All the animals had to be fed. The eggs and milk required harvesting. When all that was done, the garden needed tending to.
Most days, my Sim wasn’t getting back to the house until about 1 p.m., and then it was time to eat and shower. By the time I could even think about going to town to run errands for the locals or to check out the Finchwick Fair, it was close to dinner time. That was probably for the best in any case, as my interest was focused on my land. My lot was small, so saving to buy a larger one quickly became my focus. I wanted to use the new terrain tools to make a custom pond I could fill with fish, and I needed about three or four times the space for my ideal garden. Not to mention the land needed to add another Animal Shed so I could add a llama to my livestock roster. I’m still not there yet, but I’m on the path.
That’s partly why I’m enjoying Cottage Living, though. The dream of escaping the daily grind to a cottage requires that you crave some degree of isolation and personal accountability. There’s something pure about growing your own food and taking care of your own needs with as little input from society as possible. Cottage Living captures that spirit better than I expected it to, and there’s no doubt that I’ll be spending much more time in Henford-on-Bagley, slowly but surely fanning the flames of my cottage dreams.
The Sims 4: Cottage Living impressons were based on a PC Steam digital copy supplied by the publisher. The Sims 4: Cottage Living is available now.