Maxis are back with yet another jam-packed expansion for The Sims 4, aptly named Cottage Living. Your Sims can now settle down in the quaint village of Henford-On-Bagley – a charming rendition of rural Britain – and live the simple life. Being the first farming expansion in the entire history of The Sims franchise, is it Best of Show – or perhaps only good for pig feed?
Henford-On-Bagley is a beautiful addition to The Sims universe, consisting of Finchwick – the central village with a bustling market and weekly fair where you can enter your prize vegetables in exchange for bragging rights. Old New Henford – a nearby small hamlet which boasts rolling hills and lush green vegetation, and finally The Bramblewood – a lush green wooded town nestled at the base of a waterfall. Each area also contains their own residential and community lots, such as the The Gnome’s Arms pub – a quintessential part of every British village! (ED: And every town, city, and field with more than one person living on it).
Raising animals is as arduous as it is rewarding. Wool, milk, and eggs can all be collected from your animals to use by themselves as gifts for other animals or as ingredients in recipes or crafts. Happier animals yield better quality produce – so be sure to keep their food topped up, clean them and their surroundings, and give them attention as much as possible. You can also run errands for your neighbours in order to gain livestock upgrade parts which can be used to automate some of the caring process. Never will you have to remember to feed your livestock again, the auto feeder will take care of it all.
As if you didn’t already have enough on your plate, farming your crops adds a whole new laundry list of daily errands. It’s not so bad in the late game, where you’ve upped your friendship with your neighbourhood birds and bunnies enough that they gladly help you with your weed or bug problem. Before this point though, it’s a bit of a chore. As a result, two of this expansions major additions don’t really come to life until you’ve put a lot of time and energy into it.
Your Sims can use their freshly harvested crops to make canned goods, although this doesn’t really add anything besides having a variety of new products to consume. It works in exactly the same way as cooking a meal. On the whole though, Cottage Living does introduce enough actual substance to justify a few “just for flavour” things like canning, so we can let it off on that one.
Along with these new activities come new lot challenges – these are specific traits which alter gameplay to make it all the more demanding. The Simple Living challenge makes all cooking ingredients only available through foraging, fishing, gardening or by traipsing to the local supermarket. “It’s just like real life!” I hear you exclaim. Yes, it sounds great on paper but the unfortunate reality is that along with all of the other micromanaging of your sims social and toilet needs -not to mention going to work and paying the bills- half the time you’re dying of starvation whilst you wait for your god-forsaken pumpkins to grow.
Despite its flaws, I haven’t had this much fun actually playing a character on The Sims in years. I’ve played hundreds of hours of The Sims 4 more or less purely in build mode, creating dream houses and playing around with whatever new stuff the expansions bring. Cottage Living was actually my first time reviewing an expansion, though, so I actually had to play the game again- and it was great!
Starting a new life in Finchwick, my character Jilly decided that she was after a new man. And who better than Father Winter himself? He had the best sack in town. Nine months later Jilly gave birth to Father Winter’s illegimate heir, who I decided to name ‘Santa Baby’ much to my infantile amusement. Father Winter was also nowhere to be seen. I guess winter went by as quickly as it came this year.
Cottage Living overall thoughts
At this point there is so much content in The Sims 4 that it almost feels overwhelming. Despite this, Cottage Living has truly reawoken what it is that makes The Sims so fun to play. I haven’t had this much fun with an expansion for a while. It is mired with a ton of glitches that aren’t really excusable considering the amount of time The Sims 4 has been creaking along for, and a lot of the new mechanics aren’t fun until you’ve upgraded them. But when you get there, you’ll be desperate for a break in the countryside yourself.