Also available on: Mac / Wii / PS3 / Xbox 360 / 3DS / DS
Developer: EA Play/The Sims Studio
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Life Simulation
What's not to like about pets? Whether you happen to be a dog lover or a cat person, it goes without saying that these furry companions enrich our lives. The same goes for your Sims in Electronic Arts' long-running franchise. The Sims 2: Pets was one of the better expansions for the second entry in the series, but can the same be said of The Sims 3's animal-themed add-on?
The Sims 3: Pets is the third content pack to be based on this subject matter, following its aforementioned Sims 2 equivalent and the earlier Sims Unleashed. It's well-trodden ground for the series, but fortunately EA's latest offering introduces enough original content, such as new adoptable animals and extra customisation features, to justify its existence.
The Sims 3: Pets allows you to adopt two kinds of animal - low-maintenance creatures such as snakes and rabbits, and high-maintenance beasts that can be trained to perform tasks. The latter has traditionally consisted of cats and dogs in previous add-ons, though this latest pack adds horses to the equation.
Dogs and cats in particular are an important part of your Sims household. They may not be able to get fully-fledged jobs like before, but they can be trained to hunt, and are fully controllable this time around. So, while your bread-winning Sim is away at work, you can stalk other people's low-maintenance animals with your cat (if you want to indulge your evil streak), or locate valuable items with your hound. These are the game-changing benefits of owning pets, but they can just be mere novelties if you prefer the hands-off approach.
Horses are a great addition to the fold. You can train them up and enter them in competitions and races to earn a tidy amount of Simoleons (the in-game currency for those unfamiliar). Similarly, your Sims can acquire horse riding skills and make a lucrative career out of it. Horses can be adopted for free at any time, though you can always take a gamble and attempt to train up a wild one. These may come with pre-loaded traits and skills, yet will be less receptive to your efforts to teach them new tricks.
Pets really are great money-spinners. Not only can you take advantage of their abilities to get rich quick, you can also make a lucrative sum breeding and selling them. You'll be deprived of the ongoing income derived from ownership in favour of large lump sums from customers. It's all about weighing up pros and cons, and the level of freedom is what makes the Pets expansion a great new string to The Sims 3's bow.
It wouldn't be a Sims expansion if there wasn't a volume of customisation options to put your personal stamp on things. Pets come in realistic colours to begin with, though you can give them psychedelic coats with the game's toolset. Breeding these animals will in turn pass their funky coats down to a new generation. It's a fun inclusion that gives the pack that injection of wackiness that all Sims add-ons require.
Rearing horses and other large animals calls for acres of space, more than your average Sims neighbourhood allows if you want to get the most out of the feature. Luckily, the new location of Appaloosa Plains provides the roominess you need. There are also the usual bonus traits, additional lifetime goals and new items to play around with.
Since this is an animal-centric pack, you won't find much new in terms of new clothing for your Sims or anything added to Build mode. As with previous add-ons, there is nothing to convert newcomers to the cause, unless they are animal fanatics. That said, as far as Sims 3 expansions go, it's up there with World Adventures.
In summary, The Sims 3: Pets is proof that EA hasn't run out of ideas for new creative content just yet. There was a very real danger that this expansion could have been a stale offering since it's the third of its kind, but the addition of horses is a game-changer, and the option to take full control of your pets breathes new life into the experience. It's questionable how much mileage we're going to get from The Sims 3 from here on in, but this one will keep the fans happy for some time.
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