Hey, remember when there was that community vote going on for the next Sims 4 pack, and “Eco Living” won the vote? Only to have to have its gameplay whittled down to the point that it became Laundry Stuff? Yeah that happened. However, it seems that the core idea lives on, as we now have The Sims 4 Eco Lifestyle three years later. It’s the ninth proper expansion pack to the game, meaning that it costs 40 US dollars or your regional equivalent.
And I gotta say, I’ve greeted this one with a fair bit of skepticism ever since it was announced, if only because dedicating an entire expansion to sims’ hitherto non-existent eco footprint seemed like it might be stretching the concept a bit thin.
A stuff pack or a game pack, sure. But a $40 expansion? Eh, let’s give it the benefit of the doubt for the moment and see what we’ve got. Beginning with what the HECK is this?
! Look, I’m the last person to dole out fashion advice, but at this point, it feels like they’re actively trying to make townies look absurd. Ah well, at least there’s no shortage of quality new hairstyles, facial piercings, and even a nice bushy beard, finally. There’s even a decent little selection for kids this time around, so in terms of quantity it’s not too shabby here with lots of stuff for lots of different sims.
Of course, new aspirations and traits pertinent to your ecologically conscious existence are also found here.
Eco Innovator in the Nature category and Master Maker in Creativity being the new aspirations. And making up the new traits are Maker, Green Fiend, Recycle Disciple, and Freegan, each tying into some specific gameplay feature in the pack. Like the new eco-friendly cars that–oh wait, nope! Yeah, despite a greater number of fake vehicles roaming the streets, The Sims 4 still doesn’t have usable cars, eliminating a rather popular component of the whole ‘greener living’ mindset. Don’t need to make low-emission cars if there are no cars, right?
Instead, Eco Lifestyle introduces other forms of in-game pollution that previously didn’t exist.
That’s right, now each individual neighborhood in The Sims 4 can be affected by varying levels of environmental contamination. Most notably in Evergreen Harbor: a new conifer-laden coastal town with an active industrial sector, rock quarry, and sea port. It’s one of the larger worlds in terms of set dressing, with multiple meandering alleyways and alcoves to admire from afar. Just don’t look too close, because then it starts getting into Sega Dreamcast territory and oh.
Oh no. That’s a mood right there. Anyway, it’s a prosperous industrial town! But prosperity comes at a cost, you see, and in this pack that cost comes in the form of smog, breathing problems, and acid rain. So it’s up to you to actively embrace green living and make things better!
Or don’t, because it’s The Sims.
Either way, the environment is now in a constant state of flux with this pack installed, with each of the old neighborhoods starting off in a neutral state and evolving from there depending on your actions. You can turn this off entirely in the options menu should you so desire, but eh, considering it’s half the point of the pack? Yeah it’s prolly worth leavin’ on for just a bit to see what it’s like.
And what it’s like is a balancing act of your sims’ Eco Footprint going between “green” and “industrial.
” The two main things to pay attention to are the separate neighborhood ratings on the map screen, and this meter popping up down here that measures the local Eco Footprint. And in The Sims 4, this means that you have an idyllic green wonderland on the far left, polluted industrial dystopia on the far right, and a neutral state in the middle of the meter. These affect the overall visuals of each neighborhood, as well as the prevailing mood, health, and smugness of resident sims. There’s no dedicated storyline or set of quests to follow in order to induce change, but rather an environmental system that lets players alter a neighborhood’s ecological status. The two main methods of affecting this change are by utilizing certain household objects and by casting votes using influence points.
First up are the new object stats, with just about everything in the game being retooled with new traits that affect the local eco footprint.
Placing these items will now make things either more green or more industrial, along with influencing power and water consumption. So different electronics and appliances, and even doors, windows, and floor and wall tiles, can all influence your local eco footprint, as well as your household’s weekly power and water usage. It’s easy to go overboard too, like, say you wanna go hardcore green but already have a roof full of solar panels? Build a hundred bushes in your basement and watch the eco meter swing left.
Wanna cover a neutral neighborhood in pollution? Construct a ton of fuel-burning industrial generators and let the smog roll in. Item stats also tie into the new billing system, where you get a breakdown of individual bills and taxes instead of only receiving one lump sum.
And if you have objects that generate water or power, such as dew collectors and wind turbines, any excess can be stored for later use or sold back to the city for extra cash. Or hey, why not join the city itself with one of the new careers, Civil Designer.
It’s a traditional Sims 4 job with two branching paths, and in this case you’ll end up as either a Civic Planner or a Green Technician. Along the way sims will be doing things like interviewing home owners about utility usage, drafting municipal concept proposals, and generally being outwardly enthusiastic about city planning and green technology. On the topic of green tech, you can also offset the negative effects of not-so-green objects by installing new upgrades. Items that use power or water can use H2O filters and optimized electronics so that they’re more efficient, or you can even replace their source of energy entirely with biofuel. Some of which can be harvested from the new insect farms.
Grow your own little hexapod army of grubs, beetles, and crickets, feed them juicy compost, and enjoy the squishy fruits of your labor in the form of grub fuel, beetle nuggets, and cricket flour. You can also grow a smorgasbord of fruits, veggies, and herbs in the new vertical gardens. A handy thing to have for smaller rooms, tiny homes, and cramped apartments. Sims can even grow plant-based meat if they’ve taken on the job of Green Technician. A somewhat unsettling visual to be sure, but nonetheless amusing and useful for vegetarian sims.
They can either eat it on its own or cook it into different dishes for a beyond impossible meatless meal. The other main method of changing things is by weekly voting. Voting takes place either at your home’s mailbox or at community bulletin boards found around town, with ballots enacting Neighborhood Action Plans. Each adult sim is able to vote as many times as they like, so long as they have enough influence points.
And these influence points are easily earned by doing anything from greeting your neighbors to performing tasks at work.
In a way, it’s like forcing the entire neighborhood to join one of your clubs from the Get Together pack. But instead of a club, it’s a set of rules everyone has to follow, enforced not only by social pressure but by visits from neighborhood action enforcers. The rules aren’t just environmental stuff either, you can make it so sims constantly get wasted on juice, or so everyone has to wear bags on their head, so no one gets jealous and sims are woohooing everywhere, all kinds of silliness.
[trashy woohoo commences] So uh, anyone else find this voting system a little strange? Cuz effectively, the more popular, wealthy, and powerful you are, the more votes you can buy. It’s incredibly easy to game the system here. Just do an online charity stream and all of a sudden the entire world forgives anything bad you’ve ever done and bends to your will. Oh well, it’s not like you’ll be seeing much in the way of difficult choices or moral quandaries anyway.
Going green or going industrial provides their own minor advantages to things like sims’ mood, creativity, and profit-making abilities, but when it comes down to it, it’s still largely an aesthetic choice. Green neighborhoods will have bright rays of sunshine and glowing auroras at night, and industrial areas are filled with smog and green acid rain with Seasons installed. Regardless of which is currently active, Sims carry on with their simlives more or less as usual.
It’s also possible to have a neighborhood packed with litter while being rated green, I was surprised to see. Something that only shows up in Evergreen Harbor, nowhere else, no matter how smoggy and polluted your other worlds become.
Trash and graffiti are totally unrelated to the Eco Footprint rating, it’s just a non-interactive visual for Evergreen Harbor that exists until you choose to get rid of it. Which is accomplished by passing the Modern Development or Green Initiatives Neighborhood Action Plans, but again, this is only going to affect the visuals in one area. That’s it. And personally? I think that’s a shame since I find litter kinda refreshing, in a twisted Sims game kinda way.
Rarely do you see anything in-game but squeaky clean cities, so a few trash bags, old tires, takeout boxes, and wooden palettes arguably help give a place personality. And if there’s one thing that Evergreen Harbor and this pack provides, it’s personality, in the form of ever-evolving neighborhoods and a different look than anything else in the game.
Not only the town itself, with its 20th century sea town vibe filled with corrugated steel and concrete, but the new shipping container themed items that allow for some seriously unique housing possibilities. Combined with the now freely-placed windows and doors, and the welcome addition of ladders after years of requesting it? Yeah, it allows for even better tiny homes than we got in Tiny Living, while retroactively making those items make more sense as well.
Another nifty, if under-utilized, feature in Eco Lifestyle, are the community shared lots, only found in Evergreen Harbor by default. They start off as abandoned structures, completely empty and surrounded by garbage. But by making use of the NAP system, you can vote on what the lot should become next. So you can vote on it becoming a community garden, a marketplace, or a creative makerspace, with each one attracting sims from all over to actively participate in growing fruits and vegetables, selling crafts and ingredients, and creating all kinds of crafty craftwork. Speaking of which, there’s a couple new craftacular skills on offer now: Juice Fizzing and Fabrication.
Juice Fizzing is about what it sounds like really. Instead of only being able to craft cocktails at the bar, sims can now craft carbonated beverages. Using all sorts of ingredients too, from berries and fruits to fish and bugs, just go wild and see what happens. Often the results are nasty but that’s part of the fun. Then there’s Fabrication, having nothing to do with active falsification and everything to do with creating new items.
The Fabricator is a giant 3D printer/Star Trek Replicator that can generate anything from spare parts, to electric lights, to food, to full-sized furniture. This is fueled by recycled parts, which are themselves accumulated in the new recycling machine. Toss basically anything from your sim’s inventory inside and watch it come out as a generic trash cube ready for repurposing, signified in-game by screws and bananas representing parts and fuel. Finally — a practical use for all those creepy fan letters and urns of dead sims’ ashes. Another way to grab resources is by dumpster diving and rummaging through trash cans.
Not only can you sort for recyclable and compostable materials, but with the right lot and sim traits you can repeatedly dive for all sorts of random goodies.
Food, ingredients, buy mode objects like beds and refrigerators. And if you’re tired of that why not take a nap inside. If it’s good enough for woohoo it’s good enough for sleep I suppose. Then there’s candle-making, which falls under the same fabulous Fabrication skill as the Fabricator.
Take a block of wax, melt it down, and dip a string into it repeatedly until it turns into something ready to set on fire. Or sell, you can do that too.
A process that’s streamlined by the new freelance Crafter career, one that acts the same as other gig-based jobs. Aw yeah, run your own business fulfilling orders for unseen online clients by making your own rugs, lamps, candles, and furniture. On that note, there are five new ecologically lifestylic chairs on offer in this pack.
Or really eight, if you count the trio of chairs you can make through the Fabricator. And of course we count those, because all chairs are precious in the eyes of Maxis. And that’s about it for The Sims 4 Eco Lifestyle expansion pack! Is it worth forty dollars? Nah.
Is it worth your time though? Yeah, if you’re into the whole evolving environment thing, it’s got a lotta new stuff to play with. Speaking for myself, I like the overarching idea of an ever-changing sims world quite a bit! And I especially appreciate the possibilities for off-the-grid gameplay with generating your own water, power, and retrofitting old appliances.
It’s way better than what was introduced in Island Living in that respect.
But I also wish they’d gone a step further, because when it comes down to it, the environmental changes are minimal and the simulation tends to drift towards a neutral, clean environment no matter what. Plus, the lack of drivable automobiles is felt more than ever, then there’s all the stuff that doesn’t affect sims’ eco footprint. Recycling, composting, plant-based diets, planting shrubs, none of those things affect their footprint. But using eco-friendly wall patterns, now that reduces smog! Right.
Either way, despite its arbitrary choices and odd limitations on what does and doesn’t ecologically affect the in-game world, Eco Lifestyle as a Sims 4 pack judged on its own merits is rather enjoyable. In that it has so many gameplay tweaks and interacting features that come together to change the simulation, no matter how you choose to play. $40 is still a beefy price though, so I’d recommend waiting for some kind of sale, especially if you’re on the fence about whether or not you’ll actively use what it offers.[jazzy outro tunes] And if found this review useful or entertaining, then do check out my previous Sims game coverage. Or any of the other stuff I post each week right here on LGR both new and old.
And as always, thank you very much for watching!.
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