It's a Magical World
Apartments are all very nice, but besides some objects and allowing you to save some space, they don't directly add a whole lot of new gameplay. In fact, most will remain the same as you know it. Several features from previous expansion packs are carried over again. This includes influence and attraction, as you might have expected, but the lifetime aspiration meter from FreeTime is also carried over. You'll even see how many benefit points your Sim has gathered. You just won't be able to spend those without FreeTime. Yep, EA is almost pretty much advertising other expansions in the UI of the game. Anyway, to provide some more stuff to play with, The Sims Division also introduces a new creature again. After Bigfoot and the Genie it's time for a creature your own Sims can turn into again. This time: witches and warlocks.
It's simple. For those who know about vampires from Nightlife, this may sound familiar. Visit any community lot, preferrably by night. Find one of the grand witches (good or evil), and befriend them. Once you've done that, ask them to teach you the way of darkness or of light. This will immediately determine your starting alignment - evil or good. There's also neutral, which you can study later on. After some fancy graphical effects, you can finally use that broomstick to fly to any lot (other Sims with you to a community lot will walk off the lot as usual, or possibly take the car if that's how you got there).
Back at Home
Once you get home, after becoming a witch or warlock, you'll finally be able to use two new items in your inventory. First there's a spellbook, with which you can study to become good (light), neutral or evil (darkness). This will also improve your magic skill. If you check your magical abilities you can see your alignment, your skill progress, and check out the spells you have learnt so far. Spells require reagents, which you create using your brand new cauldron. Among the reagants are Dragon Scales, Essence of Light, Eye of Newt, Mystic Dust, Crystallized Moonbeams, Viper's Essence and others. You can also create potions for niceness (Magically Spiced Sugar) and Witchbegone-E, which is pretty selfexplanatory.
As you may expect, negative side-effects can occur for any spell you perform, backfiring in case you just don't know your magic well enough yet. There are spells to clean up the place, make Sims (un)fit or (un)happy, teleportation or even to make Sims vanish into thin air. What spells do when they backfire is not mentioned, though for most you can guess it - it'll just be the opposite effect, normally. Oddly enough there's also a spell, Beautificus Locus, which according to its verse will banish rain clouds. This seems useless without Seasons (which wasn't installed), unless it has an alternative effect if Seasons isn't installed. That's somewhat unclear, still. There are previews mentioning other spells, like reviving Sims into zombies and such, which probably are only available with the necessary expansions installed. Thus to get the full experience and all spells and potions available to you, you'll most likely also need other expansions.
As said the spellbook allows you to study a certain path - evil, neutral or good. All three are always available for study, and will change your alignment in the requested direction. This will take some time though, and you'll need to study a while to actually change from evil to neutral to good. Such a change will come together with a change in outfit. The outfits aren't just for witches and warlocks though, they're available for anybody who wants to play they know the magical ways.
Outfits and More
That brings us back to the beginning of life: Create a Sim. This time plenty of stuff has been added to the pack. Not so much for children or toddlers, but all teens and older Sims get several new outfits. Even the elders get several new outfits now. There are also some new hairdos. In a recent chat The Sims Division said there are over 30 new hairdos but this number seems to be overstating it a bit. That's because there are several haircuts which are all the same, except for the color of a little elastic hair band. Nevertheless there are some interesting haircuts in there, as well as the wizardry hats and clothes.
As with any other pack, there are also new interactions. The bookcase now lets you study a few topics like fire prevention, similar to the parenting option that was available in FreeTime. Fire prevention is only one example, which makes Sims less panicky when there's a fire. In fact, they will know how to prevent fires and thus there's a lower chance of the house burning down. Your Sims can also learn about anger management and couple counselling if you want them to. Furthermore parents can swing their children around, toddlers can huggle, and everybody can join in on the classic dance. Other interactions include High Five and the Earthy Hug - but there are plenty more.
Apartment Life is a pack which adds a lot of small features. This makes it somewhat similar to Nightlife. Although from the name you'd think apartments are the central theme in the pack, they aren't as much as for example Pets was all about... well, Pets. Apartment Life combines some of the most wanted features for the Sims 2: apartments and magic.
The apartment gameplay is nice, but besides stuffing more Sims on one lot, it doesn't seem to add all too much new actual gameplay. It does, however, give a great opportunity to change the home your Sims live in to something different than a standalone house. Magic is also nice, but like with other creatures you probably won't use it for all your Sims. Yet it does seem to get much more attention, gameplay wise, than earlier creatures introduced by the packs. They are not an extra addition, but instead a complete feature this time.
When it comes to building or story telling, there are enough new things this time to really improve the Sims 2. The ceilings are definitely a good addition and they seem to be fairly easy to work with. Many new objects can improve your community lots - from the playground to human statues and more. The additions at home seem to be slightly less - apart from remakes of existing objects, mostly for the apartments. There's still enough to keep you entertained though.
Altogether, Apartment Life looks like it's made to wrap up the Sims 2 series. It slaps together some features of Superstar and Makin' Magic (both from The Sims 1), combined with the highly requested apartments and spiral staircases. That makes this pack add small features all over the place, somewhat similar to Nightlife. It definitely adds many new objects, which are probably more important to this pack than some others. There seemed to be a bit of a focus on community parks and streets with vending machines, human statues, playground objects and much more. At home you get the space savers for apartments.
That makes it hard to determine the real central theme of Apartment Life. You get something new everywhere. There is definitely far too much to check out in the few hours we had, which means there is much more to discover than what got mentioned in this preview.
Apartment life will be released between 25 and 29 August, depending on the country you live in. Expect a full review here at The Sims Zone after it's out. Also check out EA's product page.
Thanks to EA Netherlands, especially Anita, for organizing the event. Thanks to SimsNetwork - love you Rosie - for some of the pictures - make sure to read their preview too, they have more videos! Finally thanks to the other attending fansites for making it an enjoyable day as well.
Written at 03:05 on Tuesday 12 August 2008 by