I am God, and my kingdom is haven of peace and prosperity. Almost to idyllic, if I may say so myself. Well, if it wasn't for the fact that I just sacrificed my wizard to the local pit monster. Let's not think too much about the ways in which my king gains to favours of neighbouring kingdoms. Or his tendency to send his subordinates to the stocks for some egging. Alright, so my king may not adhere to high moral standards, but apart from that "Steintopia" is a rather nice place to spend your dark ages in.
The Sims Medieval is not, and let's be clear about that, The Sims 3 in a medieval setting. The user interface and the way you interact with your Sims is mostly the same. They eat and sleep. They socialise, fight and fall in love. Get partners and kids. But where The Sims 3 gave you an open ended sandbox to play in, The Sims Medieval is more structured. Great emphasis is put on completing missions, gaining experience and levels. Less of a dollhouse and more of a roleplaying game in other words.
In The Sims Medieval you cannot control more than one Sim at a time. You have a gang of heroes to choose from, but you can only directly control one Sim at a time. This is different from other Sims titles, and at first it feels a bit limiting, but you quickly learn how to best handle these new circumstances. And if the transition would prove to much for you there is an extensive tutorial to help you out.
Before you start out controlling your Sims you have to pick an ambition for you kingdom. Each ambition contain a specific set of quests to complete. With time you unlock new buildings to place in your kingdom, new heroes to control, new missions, and in the end new ambitions. This actually means that you can finish the game! Who would have thought...
The quests range from hunting bears in the forest, inviting other regents to your castle, to brewing your special beer, entering fishing competitions and get rid off pesky goblins. There is usually a funny twist to the quest, and the story is quaint and inventive. There is a cosy sense of humour that runs throughout the game and at times I find myself laughing out loud at the antics of my Sims. This is largely thanks to the wonderfully exaggerated body language and how they interact with eachother.
Visually it's brilliant. They have really captured the stereotypical, romanticised image of the medieval times and packaged it in a fitting Sims setting. The level of details in everything from furniture to clothes is tremendous, and while the environments are a bit simple, it's probably an effect of trying to keep the system requirements low. The Simlish is a pleasant as it's ever been to listen to and the music is suitably pompous, adventures and lively.
I'm one of the Sims player who almost enjoys the creation part of the experience more than the actual simulation that follows it. I can spend hours on end building my dream house, and then just move on ans start on a new one. But this isn't your typical Sims game, and that whole part of the experience is sadly missing from The Sims Medieval. Your buildings come is a pre-fabricated state, and while you can still decorate the interiors and customise your Sims, I can't help but feel a bit cheated as I'm not able to design my very own castle.
EA are keen to keep things casual friendly and the difficulty level is not very high. Most quests can be completed without much trouble, even if it's actually possible to fail. But it usually just comes down to a bit of patience. Sadly my patience is wearing thin as I experience a bit too much repetition in the mission design. At those times it would have been nice to have been able to relax with some architectural work.
While we're listing negatives I also have to mention the camera that at times is a bit troublesome as it opts to place itself behind objects that obscure your view. I also get the feeling that EA have left out some areas to make room for future expansions. But despite this the game offers many long hours of gaming and lots to explore and occupy yourself with.
The Sims Medieval is a life affirming experience spiced up with large doses of humour. There is something special about the presentation that just makes me genuinely happy. The middle ages may not offer your Sims as many options as modern times, but instead of worrying about the bubonic plague and starvation the Sims dance like Monty Python knights on tables, sing and make fools of themselves. And that goes pretty far to satisfy my expectations.