The Sims Online Review

The Sims, the top-selling line of "life simulator" games, has made the move to the world of online gaming.  A lot of the aspects of the single player games, like motives, skills, and interactive objects, have been transitioned to the online world, but all of the AI-controlled people, or "sims", have been replaced by human players.  The result is a game that is at once familiar and yet fundamentally changed, leaving a gaming experience that some will enjoy but others will not.

A sci-fi themed Sim pad.

You start the game by creating your sim.  This involves selecting a head and body for your sim and choosing the city in which your sim will live.  There are no personality traits to customize your sim's behavior as in the original games, because you have far more control over your sim's behavior in The Sims Online and the game does not have to use the traits as a guide to determining your sim's personality.  There are a fair number of heads and bodies from which to choose, along with three degrees of skin coloration for each, but as of now there is no way to import custom skins for your sim.  With all the possible combinations of heads and bodies it is not very likely that you'll encounter your sim double, but the possibility does exist.  You can further personalize your sim through your choice of his or her name and by adding a bio/description/interests blurb that can be read by other players.  Selecting a city essentially assigns your sim to a server, and once assigned your sim can never move to another city.  The game plays the same no matter which city you select, so your choice only really matters if you are looking to play online with some of your real world friends.

Once your sim is ready to go, you are taken to a map of your city.  Properties that are currently occupied by other players appear as flashing red dots so you can see at a glance where the activity is.  The game also provides a number of filters and lists that let you quickly see the most popular locales in a number of categories, and how many players are currently in each one.  Clicking on a property will transport you there and into the real part of the game.  Although you are in a city, the game really works as a set of disjoint locales.  Leaving a property takes you back to the map screen - there is no way to wander a neighborhood and no "public" destinations such as parks.

The game's interface is essentially the same as that of all the Sims games, so if you've played The Sims you'll be right at home in The Sims Online.  Right-clicking on a location, object, or another sim will display a menu with the available actions that can be performed.  Unlike The Sims, though, you can not queue actions and your sim will never undertake actions on his or her own.  Also, interactions with other sims no longer depend upon moods, interests, and relationships.  All of the sims are human-controlled, so their reactions are determined by the person sitting at the keyboard.  The little cartoon icon speech balloons used to simulate conversations between sims are gone, replaced with the text typed by players.  While these changes can certainly make things more dynamic, it also changes the nature of the game, making it less, well, game-like.  Part of the fun of The Sims is in managing the relationships of your sim with the other sims in the game and this component of the game is missing in the online version.  You can add other players to a friends list known as a friendship web, but this really has no effect on gameplay other than letting you see who are your friends' friends.

The motives which affect your sim's mood - hunger, bladder, social, energy, etc. - are present in The Sims Online, and can be satisfied in much the same way as the original.  Use a toilet to relieve your bladder, take a shower to improve your hygiene, and take a snooze to restore your energy.  In The Sims, it is quite a challenge to satisfy all of your sim's needs as the game clock is merciless.  By the time you shower, eat, sleep, etc. and spend a third of the day at work you are left with little extra time to do other things.  In The Sims Online, however, satisfying your sim's needs is not nearly as big a challenge.  The needs do not decrease as quickly, they are easy to satisfy at most properties that you visit, and you are not forced to send your sim to work.  This frees you from spending so much time satisfying your sims basic needs and allows you to concentrate on socializing and building your sim's skills.