I’m not a fan of describing games as ‘cosy’, a new trend that has popped up in the last couple of years. But when it comes to The Sims 4: Cottage Living, no other word quite does it justice.
This latest expansion, joining The Sims 4 universe later this month, takes your sims away from the hustle and bustle of city life, island life, suburban life or whatever type of life they were living before, and plants them deep in the heart of a rural British village. The entirely fictional Henford-on-Bagley to be precise. Your sims can carry on living their metropolitan life, using the countryside as a base, if they want. But getting the most out of Cottage Living means fully embracing country living.
The Cottage Living expansion introduces a range of animals to The Sims 4. Not only can you raise your own cattle, llamas and chickens, collecting milk, wool and eggs from them on a regular basis, but you can come across wild rabbits, birds and foxes. Visit the woodlands to be sure to see them or, if you’re lucky, they’ll visit you on your property. Your sims can interact with them too; you’ll form relationships with animals just as you do human sims. Talk to them, pet them, give them treats – you’ll soon win them over.
Foxes aren’t always your friend, however. They can sneak into your chicken coop at night, stealing your eggs or, worse, taking your chickens. But such is country life – the circle of life can’t be stopped.
While you can send your sims to work in any one of the game’s existing industries, the joy of Cottage Living is, when the game is played to its full potential, not working at all. You see, you can live off your own land. With a new game system called ‘Simple Living’, your sims can become reliant on their own animal produce and crops to live on. It gets rid of the magic fridge that mysteriously serves up any meal you want; instead, you’ll need to stock it yourself with collected produce – or by shopping from the market stall in the village.
You can make money by selling your livestock and their produce, though Simple Living implies that your sims won’t want for much. Run your homestead properly and you’ll be fully self-sufficient. Although a few extra simoleons for a pint down The Gnome’s Arms won’t go amiss, I suppose…
The introduction of animals coupled with the gorgeous countryside surroundings of Cottage Living make this one of the most appealing expansions to the game yet. Particularly if you’re an animal lover yourself as you’ll get a kick out of interacting with the animals; petting the cow, hugging a chicken, etc. You can even crack a joke or two at them, leaving you feeling like you’re the next incarnation of Doctor Dolittle.
Outside of your own plot of land, there’s the rest of Henford-on-Bagley to explore. There’s a huge, open park complete with ruins to visit – it’s the perfect picnic spot, and a great place to see some wildlife. There’s also the pub, The Gnome’s Arms, and the village square outside of it. Here you’ll be able to mingle with a variety of NPCs, and take part in weekly village fairs. You’ll be able to compete in contests, like biggest grown vegetables, and – though you didn’t hear this from me – you can apparently bribe the mayor into awarding you first prize. But only if she really likes you.
Cottage Living introduces some truly inspiring changes to The Sims 4; raising your own animals and growing your own crops makes the popular life sim feel like it’s stepped into farming simulator territory. But that’s no bad thing; it fits remarkably well within the Sims ecosystem, and provides a very welcome new way of living. After spending some time hands-on with it I’m more excited for Cottage Living than I have been for any previous expansion. And when practically every expansion so far has been a hit, that’s saying something.
The Sims 4: Cottage Living will be available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One on 22nd July.