Since the early 2000s, people have been playing The Sims to escape the real world; at the beginning of the millennium, players took the opportunity to dive into a simulation game that allows them to be creative and vicariously live out their wildest fantasies. Twenty-one years and four Sims games later, the creators are still producing content and faster than they ever have before. The Sims 4 is the most recent and most popular game of The Sims franchise, with a fanbase surpassing over 33 million players.
The creators of The Sims 4 (“SimGurus”) do not shy away from reaching out to players for inspiration, frequently allowing them opportunities to build their own expansions to the game and vote on new game features. This time, the Gurus have surprised players with an expansion pack unlike anything they’ve ever produced. In response to the popularity of “cottagecore” aesthetics, The Sims 4 introduced Cottage Living to their growing list of expansion packs.
The Cottage Living experience allows players to immerse themselves in the new countryside world of Henford-on-Bagley. In this world, Sims can raise and befriend new animals including cows, chickens, rabbits, birds and llamas. From these barnyard animals, Sims can gather resources such as milk, eggs and wool and use them to cook meals and knit clothes. For Sims looking to expand their hobby horizons, jam-making and cross-stitching have been added to The Sims 4; there are 16 variants of jams and custards to be made along with several patterns for cross-stitching and a variety of new cooking recipes.
The new expansion puts a heavy emphasis on gardening. Gardening is part of the base game and can be experienced without buying the expansion; however, Cottage Living provides players the alluring new ability to live off of their land, grow their own food and compete in contests at the Finchwick Fair. Sims can also participate in picnics thanks to the new expansion, a feature that has been long overdue for the game.
Arguably, one of the best features in The Sims 4 is the Create-a-Sim system. There are plenty of options for customizing Sims, including an infinite number of body types, skin colors, hairstyles and hair colors. When making a Sim, there are masculine and feminine body types and clothing preferences; however, these are interchangeable and many players are beginning to experiment with these options to include other genders.
Fifteen brand new hairstyles come with Cottage Living, including braided or curly styles, as well as others that align closely with cottagecore aesthetics. Players who once criticized The Sims 4 for their lack of Afro and curly hair options will be happy to see their inclusion in the recent update. Along with the new hairstyles, there are plenty of new clothing options to be excited about. For teen Sims and older, there are 24 new tops, 10 stylish bottoms, 21 fashionable outfits and 10 brand-new pairs of shoes. Children and toddlers also get a variety of new clothing options including overalls, cozy sweaters and corduroy trousers. The Sims team has provided many cute patterns and color options for these new clothing items as well as a few plain ones. Both masculine and feminine tagged clothing are baggier and more modest, something that would be more appropriate for Sims to farm in.
Another key part of The Sims 4 is the build mode. Here, players sometimes spend days building and decorating houses to their liking before uploading them to the online gallery for others to download and play with. With the new expansion pack, there are plenty of new additions to create the perfect countryside cottage. Cottage Living comes with seven new options for wallpaper, two wooden flooring designs, six doors and an overwhelming 21 new windows to customize barns and houses with. The Sims team has recently added several new ways to make houses look more lived-in, including the addition of mossy fences and plants that players can place on walls.
But what will the Sims do with all of the money they’re making on the farm? Buy the new Cottage Living items, of course! There are plenty of new furniture options to decorate with. Players can decorate their cottage kitchens with two new fridges, two new counters and a new stove. There is also a selection of new lights, tables, chairs and fireplaces.
And what would be a farm without animals? The new chicken coop allows players to purchase up to eight chickens to feed and interact with. Players can also buy an animal shed that can hold either one cow or one llama. A few woodland creatures can also be spotted trotting around Henford-on-Bagley, including rabbits, birds and foxes. Singing and befriending these animals will entice them to help with gardening.
For those who get their hands on the Cottage Living expansion before Sept. 2, there are three limited-time bonus gifts that come with the game for free. Sims can ride around Henford-on-Bagley on the new Scenic Commuting Bicycle with a flower basket pinned to the handlebars. There are several different color options for this bike available in build and buy mode. Another bonus item is Bramblewood’s DeLIGHTful Tree, which can light up any backyard. And what would a new expansion pack be without the addition of a new garden gnome? Onward, the adventurous new gnome riding a chicken, can be placed on any lot.
While there are many things to be excited about, there is a significant detail that has been left out of Cottage Living. Horses! The exclusion of horses is a bit suspicious to fans, especially since they were a staple of The Sims 3: Pets. Producer and SimGuru Antonio Romeo addressed this topic in a tweet, explaining that “Making horses with the quality and depth of gameplay that they deserve is a substantial undertaking.” However, fans are not losing hope that an equestrian expansion will be released in the near future.
If Cottage Living does not sound appealing or is too expensive for players, several new additions have been added to the base game. SimGurus Russkiii, Romeo and JoAnna wrote the patch notes for the update and bug fixes on July 20 revealing the details. Three artists by the names of Ashley Lukashepsky, Mohammed Iman Fayaz and Jupiter Stevens-Hill have created new artwork for The Sims. Their work is featured in paintings and posters as well as several new Afro hairstyles included in the base game.
The calendar, a feature of The Sims 4: Seasons, is now available with the base game as well. Sims can now plan and book events and parties for the future without having to buy any expansion packs.
Sims can also cook and garden together with the new update. Up to five Sims can cook together, including children. Children can also participate in gardening by planting seeds, watering plants and picking weeds. For Sims who don’t live on a farm or enjoy gardening and cooking, there is also a new food delivery option called Zoomers. Orders can be placed over the phone or in the refrigerator and a delivery person will arrive at the Sim’s house with the food.
Another exciting new addition is pond tools and effects. When building, players can now make natural bodies of water on their lots. Several new critters can be added to ponds including ducks, swans, mosquitos, alligators, turtles and frogs. The team has created decorative pond objects such as logs and lily pads. Players can even change the color and appearance of the water.
The new Cottage Living expansion and free update allow players to experience life to the fullest as they live vicariously through their Sims. The Sims team has designed amazing features and fashion choices that allow everyone to feel seen and validated, even those who do not purchase add-on expansions. While Cottage Living was not the expansion pack that fans were asking for, it has caused a lot of buzz in The Sims community. Players cannot wait to play with all of the adorable animals and new gameplay that the team has created and are anxious to see what’s next for The Sims 4.