As the title would suggest, The Sims 4 Cottage Living is a new expansion pack that aims to bring some of the most recognizable aspects of countryside life to EA's popular life simulator The Sims 4. Thanks to an excellent new location to explore and some solid build mode items, this pack successfully stands out from the crowd but the lackluster new gameplay elements and low level but persistent technical problems mean that this pack falls a little short of greatness.
One of the biggest draws of this pack is undeniably its location, the new playable world of Henford-on-Bagley. A picturesque rural village, it is complete with all the staples you would expect of a typical English town with rows of thatched-roof cottages centered around a cozy village green, boutique shops, a post office, and a bustling pub. There is even a unique farmer’s market with stalls for purchasing food and gardening products and plenty of beautiful wooded groves scattered here and there. The overall effect is striking and the dramatic change in visual style helps this town feel unique. The closest comparison to existing packs has to be the Snowy Escape Expansion, which added the similarly striking and equally excellent Japanese-inspired town of Mt. Komorebi.
Much like Mt Komorebi, Henford-on-Bagley also brings its own unique gameplay mechanics to the table, most notably through the weekly farm festivals which are held by the market in the village green. To help facilitate this focus on weekly events, the calendar system from the Seasons pack has finally been brought into the main game and tweaked for all players to enjoy. It’s a good addition, especially because these weekly fairs are well worth experiencing at least a few times. I enjoyed entering a number of the competitions on offer, particularly the home cooking contest, where Sims must present a lovingly-crafted home-cooked dish to be judged - or in the case of my prize-winning pie, one hastily ordered from the local pub.
The green areas of the town are also populated by animals like foxes and rabbits, which effectively function as a cross between the animals from the Pets Expansion and regular NPCs. You can build relationships by playing games with them, chatting, or even singing to them in the case of birds, and this unlocks special, unique activities or contributes to progress with the new ‘Country Caretaker’ life aspiration which serves as a fun way to reward players for exploring the pack’s new features.
Another major, much-requested, addition is farming, which ties in nicely with the recently overhauled cooking system. Players can purchase new farmable patches of dirt or growing boxes in build mode in which they can plant a variety of different seeds. With some occasional weeding, watering, and fertilizer use, these eventually grow into consumable fruits or vegetables. There are also purchasable barns for cows or llamas and chickens coops which allow you to harvest milk, fur, and eggs respectively. All of your animals have to be kept clean, happy, and well-fed through frequent interactions and a prolonged period of neglect runs the risk of them leaving.
Although it’s undeniably satisfying to create your first meal entirely from scratch, the constant need for maintenance, especially when compared to the ease of just ordering ingredients online, makes returning to this playstyle a pretty unappealing prospect. This is worsened on repeat runs when you have seen a lot of the good, but annoyingly lengthy, animations already. I also found the lack of a farming-oriented career path a little disappointing and while it is still possible to make a bit of money from farming alone, the income never became anywhere near high enough to justify the hands-on effort.
The new build mode items, however, proved far more long-lasting additions. I can see myself continuing to use a number of the new English-inspired architectural elements, like cottage windows, chimney stacks, and wooden ceiling beams in builds for years to come because of their distinct European look. The handful of new appliances and objects included are also well modeled, each with their own clear rustic inspirations, and look consistently fantastic in the new lots. Similarly, the countryside clothing and hairstyles which the pack brings to create-a-sim fill a much-needed niche in the clothing catalog.
Unfortunately, Henford-on-Bagley presents an almost unavoidable and constantly noticeable issue in terms of optimization. Framerates throughout the map are particularly poor, inexplicably dipping to their lowest on seemingly random residential lots. It’s understandable that the scope of some of the map’s larger areas would somewhat affect performance but consistently hitting lows of around 20 frames-per-second in build mode on a modern, high-power machine is disappointing, to say the least. A number of bugs also became apparent throughout my playtime, most annoyingly when all my expensive farms inexplicably packed up and left despite having all of their needs met. A few times these bugs even became game-breaking, with glitched never-ending events or vanishing Sims forcing me to reload saves and lose hours of progress.
The Sims 4 Cottage Living Review - A Decent Detour
As far as Sims expansion packs go, The Sims 4 Cottage Living is a solid addition. Given past updates, I expect the technical issues will be patched very quickly but whilst the new map is excellent and the build mode items are great, the new gameplay elements still don’t quite hold enough long-lasting appeal to justify more than a handful of playthroughs. It’s a fun countryside retreat for a time, but I don't see myself coming back next summer.
A copy of The Sims 4 Cottage Living for PC was provided to TechRaptor by the publisher. The pack is also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
- Unique Village Map
- Good Selection of Build Mode Items
- A Couple New Mechanics
- Farming Loses its Novelty Quickly
- Optimisation Issues and Frequent Bugs