Strangerville is the latest game pack for The Sims 4. Released almost exactly a year after the previous expansion, it brings with it a new world and a brand new story, told in a way unique to The Sims 4 franchise. Strangerville focuses on the titular new town and its quirky inhabitants, and the mystery surrounding them all.
The spotlight is turned on the brand new world of Strangerville, a residential town where weird things are happening to some of its inhabitants. There is a large military presence, an abundance of scientists, and secretive agents in black suits and dark glasses. As your sims begin to explore the town and talk to its population, you'll be drawn into the mystery and led on an adventure to help cure the town of a mysterious infection.
Previously, story-heavy Sims games have been stand-alone spin-offs, such as The Sims Stories. This time around, Strangerville combines storytelling elements and a linear narrative with the expected game pack features: new items for building and buying, and more 'Create A Sim' options. There is also a new career, the military career, as well as the new world, which was inspired by The Sims 2's Strangetown. It feels like an experiment, merging previously unrelated types of Sims content, but does it work?
A mystery awaits
In terms of the story, the narrative is quite unobtrusive at first, being mostly just a few of those quirky inhabitants we saw in the trailer. However, it ramps up quickly once you engage with it. Completing different stages will change the world around you and increase the amount of crazy things you’ll encounter.
The best way to solve the mystery is by choosing the new aspiration, Strangerville Mystery. This aspiration will guide you through the story, offering goals which help you progress to each new stage of the plot.
The best advice for completing the story is to read everything, including item descriptions.
Once you’ve played through the story to its completion, the town will return to normal and become just an everyday desert town - just ignore the strange building inside the giant crater. If you wish to replay the story at any point the game offers a way to “reset” the town and play through again.
The story itself is interesting and engaging. Playing at a relaxed pace, I completed the story in an evening, but I could easily have spent much more time with it. It offers several different ways to complete each stage, although I can’t see it having a huge amount of re-playability. I would compare it to the temples in Selvadorada; it’s nice to play through occasionally, but not something I’d do frequently.
It does fit nicely into the game though. It feels like a natural addition, rather than something forced. I suspect some players may be frustrated by it but I enjoyed the depth it added to the pack. It makes you feel more connected to the town and encourages you to explore and poke around the new areas in ways you wouldn't normally, and has you make connections with townsfolk you might have otherwise ignored.
Once I’d completed the story I restarted it to see how quickly it could be done. Second time around, I had the advantage of knowing what to do and I completed it from start to finish in 10 sim days, around an hour of real time. That's a nice quick playthrough if you wanted to complete it to enable the town to be totally free of those quirky neighbors.
A whole new world
While the story is an important part of this pack, the content does stand alone without it. The new world especially is a nice change from the greenery of most other Sims 4 worlds.
Strangerville itself is split into two neighbourhoods, one atop a cliff and the other down in the valley. It has eleven editable lots and one secret lot, which cannot be edited or demolished. One of these lots is a trailer park, although the trailers sadly aren’t playable. The idea works though and some creative use of foundations mean simmers have made some stunning trailer lots which look perfectly at home here.
The other unique lot is the crashed plane lot, which is mostly editable.
In terms of Build/Buy items, the most immediately useful are the new doors and windows. There are several of these and the swatches match with some existing base game items. There are also laboratory- and bunker-themed items, some military-inspired objects, and a few quirky surprises.
For Create A Sim, there are new items which are heavily Western-themed, as well as some military-inspired outfits. There are also some new hairstyles, including dreadlocks and a "short back and sides" military shave.
Exploring the pack as a whole, there is a lot of content for the price, even if you discount the story element. The Build/Buy catalog has a few decent staples in, as well as some more random items. The Create A Sim clothing matches nicely with existing outfits and the new hairstyles compliment them well. There is also a new career, the military career, which functions as a rabbit hole or work from home job, similar to the social media and critic careers from City Living. On top of this, you also have the new world.
Unfortunately, there is one aspect of the pack which falls very short. The world contains several pre-built lots, but these are incredibly lacking. The large houses on top of the cliffs are virtually empty, with rooms containing just a small smattering of odd mismatching furniture, or even no furniture at all. The smaller lots don’t fare much better, with one being almost identical to a terrible base game house in Willow Creek. The only lot which truly shines is the crashed plane lot.
Personally, I often remove the prebuilt lots and rebuild or replace but many players don’t, especially console players who have limited gallery options. I understand some of the sparse furnishings may be due to performance issues but realistically it just gives the impression that the developers don’t care anymore. It’s such a shame when the rest of the pack is so well thought out.
Overall Strangerville feels like an experiment, and for me at least, it’s been a success. The storyline is engaging and interesting, the world is beautiful and the Build/Buy and Create A Sim items fit well into the catalog. For players who aren’t interested in the storyline there is still quite a lot to the pack, with the new world being a highlight.
The only place this pack falls down is in the laziness of the pre-built lots and the fact that the storyline is likely to get old quickly and is a more niche element than we usually see which will frustrate some players.
4 out of 5 stars
A copy of Strangerville was purchased by TheGamer for this review. The game is available now for Microsoft Windows and MacOS.