sims 4
Living vicariously through your Sim just got even better in the newest expansion pack, "Sims 4: Island Living." (Illustration by Amelia Fins, Montclair State University)

If it’s always been your dream to live off the grid in an island paradise and swim with dolphins all day long, the newest expansion pack to join “The Sims 4” family, “Island Living,” is a must-play.

Longtime lovers of the game always seem to be divided when new content from the franchise comes out, but “Island Living” might be an exception. Even though the new pack has only been out since June 21, the buzz since the initial announcement and first looks at the game have been generally positive.

For the players who enjoy spending hours picking just the right outfits and hairstyles in Create-a-Sim, there’s a multitude of new items to choose from in the new pack. Lots of “The Sims 4” expansions tend to be strong in new apparel items, and “Island Living” is no different.

Many of the new hairstyles branch out from the classic “look” of hair in “The Sims” — lots of them drawing inspiration from more natural and curly types of hair. The new clothing items fall in the same different and stunning vein and are influenced by Polynesian cultures. With a wider variety of clothing and hair types, “The Sims 4” has definitely broadened their Create-a-Sim horizons with “Island Living.”

Unlike other niche packs from “The Sims 4,” a lot of the new clothing and hair options can be worn by Sims that don’t even live on the island. There’s a wide variety of different styles represented in the new clothes, and it’s pretty impressive that so many of them aren’t specifically tropical-looking like you would expect from an expansion like this.

Some players couldn’t care less about the addition of mermaids, but as a lover of weird, occult Sims, I was over the moon when I discovered that they would be included in the pack. The customization of mermaids is pretty impressive. Whatever your mermaid preferences — “Little Mermaid”-inspired Sims, sultry siren Sims or anything in between — “Island Living” gives you a wide variety of options when creating your new supernatural character.

The new island of Sulani is one of the most beautiful worlds in “The Sims 4” universe. Players can even join the new conservationist career to help clean up and beautify the island. Eventually, as you move up through the career path and clean up more, you’ll start to see permanent positive changes to the island’s appearance and its wildlife.

The addition of a swimmable ocean in the new world is also a huge deal for those who love to let their Sims swim in bodies of water other than pools. Your Sims can swim, relax on a pool float, snorkel, ride jet skis and even talk to dolphins in the new ocean. Watching my Sims ride around on boats and befriend dolphins is much more fun than watching them swim laps in their tiny pools back home.

If you’re more of a builder, there’s no shortage of new items to play with that will make your new island home stunning. You can build your Sim’s new beach bungalow right on the water and deck it out with island themed items. The new items are so versatile that, even if beach life isn’t for your Sim, you can use them elsewhere in the game and it won’t look out of place.

The biggest pulls for “Island Living” were things like the new world, careers and mermaids. But a big sell for me was the small details that make gameplay more realistic. One of my favorite new features is the ability for your Sims to sunbathe and get physical sun exposure, whether it’s a gorgeous tan glow or a bright red sunburn. Tiny authentic additions like that make gameplay a lot more fun.

Even the addition of building items like the new chaise lounge chairs is something most would already assume was in the game, but is a small detail that goes a long way to make the game feel real.

Many people who have already reviewed and discussed “Island Living” said they had a hard time coming up with cons for the new addition to “The Sims 4” family. Admittedly, so did I, as most of the issues with it are extremely nitpicky because the overall pack is so strong.

The new swimmable ocean is exclusive to Sulani, so you can’t hop into other bodies of water in other worlds. There’s also not currently an option to opt out of the beautification trait of Sulani. If you’re not as interactive of a player or don’t want to take the time to clean up the island, you’re just kind of stuck with its current state which, granted, is still pretty beautiful.

As stunning as the mermaids are, there doesn’t seem to be much to do with them that normal Sims can’t do. Other than a few fishy quirks like having an occult form and being able to do a few small tricks, mermaids are essentially normal Sims. They’re definitely not as fleshed out as vampires were with specific skills that only their occult type could have. To be fair, vampires were added in a pack that was solely for vampires, and “Island Living” isn’t just about mermaids. It’s still something to consider if you were really excited to have some kind of mermaid lore or skill with their introduction to the game.

The cons of the pack are generally very small and aren’t enough to completely write it off. I spent hours exploring the new world, trying the new clothes on my Sims and making mermaids and I still feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the new content. Even though it’s only been a few days since the general release, “Island Living” might be one of my favorite expansions in “The Sims 4” so far.

Each new expansion usually has at least one aspect for players of all kinds to enjoy, and as expansive as “Island Living” is, you’re bound to find something that appeals to your way of playing the game. Whether it’s the new clothes, mermaids or new careers, your Sims will definitely enjoy their time in Sulani.

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