Full disclosure, 95% of the reason why I agreed to try out The Sims 4: Island Living is because of the lure of mermaids. The latest expansion pack for the popular game, Island Living released on June 21, 2019. It has a theme of island life and incorporates many themes from previous expansion packs like Island Paradise for the Sims 3 and Vacation for The Sims.
Island Living brings a lot to the table, including the new neighborhood of Sulani – a tropical paradise – and the Mermaid life state finally returns. There’s also gobs of new furniture, hairstyles, clothes and more. So, let’s take a nice relaxing stroll along the beach and see what we have here.
What Do They Got, A Lot of Sand?
Sulani is a nice neighborhood, and in terms of just visual aesthetics, it’s hands down the most gorgeous of any of the Sims 4 neighborhoods thus far. Sun, sand, surf and a volcano, what more could you ask for? Well, some shops and stuff for starters. Other than a couple of beach bars, the whole place is pretty much houses and water. While that works great if you have a Sim on vacation, it got to be a pain when I had to keep neighborhood hopping any time I wanted my Sim to go to a club, a museum or a library, or anywhere that wasn’t a beach bar. With the expanded functionality of the phones and computers compared to previous generations, this wasn’t as much of a hindrance as it could be, but it wasn’t convenient either.
The new items, hairstyles, and clothes added in Island Living are one of the pack’s best features. The island aesthetic is a lot of fun to play around with, and there are some great style choices. It also pairs well with previously released expansion pack content, particularly the Get Famous expansion. The careers added – Conservationist, Lifeguard, Diver, and Fisherman – are fairly standard. What really makes a difference in this pack is the addition of Odd Jobs, one-off things that your Sims can do to earn a little extra cash on the side, much like responding to a less skeevy version of Craigslist. It complements the part-time jobs nicely and helps if you’re trying to save up as much as possible in a short amount of time.
I Think You Swallowed A Bit Too Much Seawater
Conservationism in the game is a major theme and honestly feels very forced. There’s trash in the ocean, trash you can pick up from beaches, and doing this pleases the Sulani elders. This is in addition to the Conservationist career, which offers further perks down the line. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that they're trying to use their platform to speak to thousands of people about an important issue. However, I tired of seeing my Sim swimming in trash after a while. It felt like it was more forced than nicely integrated into the experience.
Mermaids, the new life state re-introduced from Sims 3, are fairly difficult to find in the wild, which was definitely disappointing. However, it’s also fairly easy to turn your Sim into a mermaid/merman/merperson. It expands on the concept from Sims 3 and offers a lot more options and perks, like using a Siren’s Song and calling a special Azure dolphin to befriend. Your Sim can’t go scuba diving anymore, but they can still have a career as a diver. The biggest disappointment, however, is that when your Sim goes scuba diving or free diving, you can’t watch them or direct them to explore. You’re just left on the surface. Staring at a bubbly patch of water. It’s quite boring.
What More Is You Lookin' For?
Island Living places a major focus on the native Sulani culture, based off of real-world Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders culture. It’s an interesting theme to explore that hasn’t been covered by previous island expansion packs, but it feels kind of cheap and touristy. Even so, kava parties (alcoholic island fruit drink) are fun and much like with the conservationism, I appreciate the obvious effort put forth.
Compared to previous beach expansion packs, Island Living pales in comparison. It doesn’t have the in-depth story or quests that were in Island Paradise, nor the expansive world. It also lacks the plethora of new features that the original Vacation expansion pack introduced, and the world is smaller than Sunlit Tides and lacks the thematic charm of Barnacle Bay. That’s not to say it’s a bad expansion, by any means. But if you go into it with high standards, you might want to knock those down a few notches.
There's Something About Her
Island Living, as an expansion pack, is alright. It’s alright by itself and it’s alright as an addition to other packs and the base game. It does add some new aesthetics that I personally love, as well as elements like mermaids, sunbathing and beachcombing. However, it suffers from the same problem the previous add-ons suffer from. It's just that The Sims 4 just isn't that well designed at its core. You can dress up a corpse in hula kit and take it to a luau, it is still a corpse at the end of the day.
TechRaptor covered The Sims 4: Island Living on PC via Origin with a code provided by the publisher.