Over the years, the downloadable content for EA’s latest entry in The Sims, their long running life simulation franchise, has developed somewhat of a poor reputation. Often associated with high prices, a lack of content, and an over-reliance on what the community terms ‘rabbit holes’, inaccessible portions of the map to which your characters must disappear for lengthy time periods, I expected this latest $19.99 ‘game pack’ to be no different. However, a renewed focus on hands-on gameplay through an abundance of enjoyable activities, which all play to the existing strengths of the base game, elevates The Sims 4 Dream Home Decorator far above the shortcomings of its predecessors.
Right at home
Centered around the addition of a new ‘Interior Decorator’ career path, which can be selected on the find a job screen, Dream Home Decorator has players taking on renovation jobs of their choice from an ever-growing list. Accepting a job transports the player to a new lot, often a family’s home, and opens a UI menu with the specific gig’s requirements. Each client has a set budget and three unique likes or dislikes that can be discovered by talking to them through new dialogue options. These traits often reflect a character’s personalities; for example, when I was tasked with redecorating a bedroom for the extremely wealthy Goth family, I was given a huge budget and told to only include items that matched their characteristic red and black colour theme. Likewise, Sims can now have opinions on specific styles or types of item. For example, a client might hate old-fashioned furniture but harbor a bizarre adoration for musical instruments.
After you have discovered a client’s needs, it's time to take several photos of the property before renovation, which is accomplished through The Sims 4’s existing camera mode, and then send the owners away to build up surprise for the big reveal. Entering build mode, you’re now given pretty much free rein over the NPC’s home. Obviously, completing the job within budget and sticking rigidly to what was asked leads to happier clients and improves your reputation. Helpfully, clicking on a like or dislike in the build menu will automatically filter for objects that meet the desired specifications to prevent any potential ambiguity about an item’s theme.
A higher reputation leads to increasingly better paid jobs and even begins to unlock new types of gigs. Soon my humble living-room decorator was adding entire floors to lavish mansions and even renovating commercial lots. In this regard, players are able to tweak the ‘Interior Designer’ job to something more akin to the ‘Architecture’ career of The Sims 2 or 3 based on what gigs they accept, but without ever being penned into the strict confines of doing solely one or the other.
Conversely, failing to meet requirements or running over budget makes clients angry, thus decreasing your reputation and hampering future job opportunities. A before and after reel, comprised of the photos you have taken complete with painfully upbeat music, creates a cheesy, TV show-like tone with every grand reveal. While seeing your clients elated was incredibly satisfying, getting into fistfights with furious customers after absolutely wrecking their family home was always equally amusing. As with many packs, your enjoyment depends a lot on the player really buying into the theme. Although I discovered quickly that it was perfectly possible to just randomly place items around and still please clients, I never desired to as the most enjoyment can be found in the meticulous creation of unique layouts.
As each job is completed with a separate budget of another household's money, the pack encourages a greater deal of build-mode experimentation than I’m used to. I found myself enjoying rediscovering items that were otherwise untouched in my usual playthroughs and picked up a range of new building techniques I will certainly be applying to my own homes in future.
To that end, the pack also includes a comprehensive array of new toys for you to play with. With 135 unique pieces of furniture and 67 character items, Dream Home Decorator is a pack that absolutely outclasses the comparatively miniscule ‘kits’, ‘stuff packs’ and even a number of the fully fledged, more expensive, expansions in terms of items added. Of course your enjoyment of individual items is purely the result of personal taste, but I found the wide selection of purely cosmetic decorations, like file boxes, towel piles and coat-hangers, to be an excellent addition that helped add a believable degree of verisimilitude to my creations.
The Sims 4 Dream Home Decorator Review - Best in Class
For the many fans of The Sims 4’s building mechanics, I would consider this pack an absolute must-have for the experimentation it encourages and the fantastic set of items it includes. That is not to say that the pack offers little for a more general fan though. While similar degrees of hands-on gameplay can be found in 2015’s popular ‘Get to Work’ expansion, the jobs added their quickly overstayed their welcome due to their focus on completing checklists of painfully repetitive tasks. Here, the freedom offered by build mode rejuvenates that tired old formula by instead actively rewarding pushing the boundaries and trying new things.
The end result is a pack that plays entirely to the strength of existing game mechanics, rather than halfheartedly attempting to add entirely new ones. None of the downloadable content for The Sims 4 has ever been perfect, but, by doubling down on some of the most successful mechanics of previous packs and avoiding their pitfalls, Dream Home Decorator is the closest it’s ever been.
A copy of The Sims 4 Dream Home Decorator for PC was provided to TechRaptor by the publisher. The pack is also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
- Heaps of engaging hands-on gameplay
- Encourages experimentation with build-mode
- Includes an impressive selection of furniture
- Client AI can be easily outsmarted