Ok, so I’ve been on a medieval-themed kick lately. It started when I found Esmeralda’s medieval music mods. That was all I needed to get myself off on a 14th or 15th century tangent. Actually, to be precise, the medieval period — sometimes called the Middle Ages — is considered to begin in the 5th century AD and extend through the 15th century.
I love medieval music, as you’ve probably already noticed, and like many other history lovers, I’m fascinated by the art, architecture, fashion, and politics of those long-ago times. It’s understandable that fans of The Sims franchise would clamor for medieval-themed content, and consequently logical that game producer Electronic Arts would attempt to capitalize on the idea. It probably could have been a real money-maker for them…had they listened to what the players wanted.
Instead, as EA has done so often in recent years, they told us what we wanted. Or, at least, that is, what they thought we wanted. The result was The Sims Medieval. Was I excited when they announced it? Oh, yes, of course. Although I had never added medieval elements to my existing game, I would have gladly plunked down the money for a chance to have a separate “Middle Age” world. Yes, EA, I would have bought this new game and enjoyed it had you stayed with what “simming” is meant to be. But, no, you had to step in and take away the elements that we love our sims.
Earlier today I looked at the “features” included with The Sims Medieval, and there, in black and white, I saw it. The medieval mistake. The reason why the game did not succeed was clearly spelled out.
The Sims Medieval is an epic new game from the makers of The Sims. It combines the life simulation of The Sims, takes it to a dramatic new setting, and adds features that change the way you play.
Did you catch those last five words? EA was going to change the way we play. But…why, EA, why? We simmers loved playing our game in our way. We had asked for a medieval concept for The Sims — not for a half-baked role-playing game designed to look like The Sims.
Limited CAS, children who aged to adults only if a parent died, an emphasis on achievements and quests, and an ultimate “win or lose” status took this game far afield from what “The Sims” has always been. And like a slap in the face to players, EA tried to sell us this game and tell us how much we were going to like it.
The game’s senior producer promoted the game as being “more dangerous for Sims” and listed an intriguing number of interesting possibilities: plague, peasant revolts, wildlife, poisons, duels, and more. But then, we learned that — unlike any other sim game — The Sims Medieval had a definite beginning and an ending. Players would be “scored” on their game performance.
What? Keeping score in a life simulator? Oh, wait! The Sims Medieval isn’t a life simulator. That’s not how we’re supposed to be playing our game now according to EA, and they should know, right? Seriously, we’re just the players. We obviously don’t know what we want.
The game was first released in March, 2011, and one expansion pack — Pirates and Nobles — was later produced. Today, The Sims Medieval is available as a download from Origin as Electronic Arts has discontinued the DVD version. It can, however, still be purchased through third-party sellers. You’ll find it listed at Amazon. There are problems, though, running it on operating systems other than Vista or the no-longer-supported Windows XP. Work-arounds for the problems do exist.
Some players praised the game when it came out, but others soon lost interest in it. A reviewer at Amazon said it had “very little play value,” and explained:
If you’re the type who likes to check off tasks one by one, you might like the questing aspects. There is no creativity involved here. The quests are a series of tasks like “Go to the town marketplace and get water from the well.” Very boring to actually play. I would have liked to back-burner the quests to do a little free play, but you are punished for that with a severe drop in mood. You are also punished if you skip your daily chores. Seriously, chores! Others have addressed the lack of ability to actually build your town. Talk about no outlet for creativity or imagination.
Creativity and imagination are the foundations upon which “The Sims” was built. Creativity and imagination are the hallmarks of the typical sims player. These are the essential elements that EA took away from the game. In doing so, they turned a great concept into a huge disappointment — for the fans and for them as well. The Sims Medieval never became the big money-maker they’d expected but simply turned into one more big mistake.