The Sims 4's 10th expansion pack Snowy Escape is available to play now, and promises to whisk players away on a mountain vacation for PC, Mac, PS4 and Xbox One. The new pack introduces Mount Komorebi, a Japanese-inspired destination world for the life simulation game. It arrives on the heels of September's .
Snowy Escape lets you take your Sims on a wild winter adventure with skiing, rock climbing and snowboarding, or on a relaxing mountain retreat with Komorebi's bathhouses, meditation centers and peaceful walks. Mount Komorebi is the first Sims 4 world where Sims can either visit on vacation or live permanently as residents.
CNET got an early look at the game with Graham Nardone, the new expansion pack's producer from Maxis Studios at EA Games, who showed off the new pack's features. We also got to play a bit of the game early.
A carefully constructed cultural world
Snowy Escape adds two new aspirations -- Extreme Sports Enthusiast and Mount Komorebi Sightseer. Players can take advantage of over 130 new Create-a-Sim items when making their Sim, like L.L. Bean-style winter wear and traditional Japanese kimonos and geta (wooden footwear resembling flip-flops).
Build Mode will also have new options for players to build themed creations in or out of the new world. These will include shoji doors, windows and screens; tatami mats; paper lanterns; koi fish for fountains; rock gardens; and Japanese maple trees. Plus there's a new building option to create split-level homes (hallelujah!). The new stackable platform feature opens up floor plan restrictions. Players will also notice homes in Mount Komorebi featuring the sunken genkan entryway, where Sims will remove their shoes.
While developing the concept of Snowy Escape, Nardone's team worked with an EA internal group called Aspire (Asian and Pacific Islanders Represent) to have conversations about aspects of Japanese culture that would better represent Sims players and expand on gameplay.
"One of my favorite things we collaborated on was coming up with a modified version of simlish -- the unique language inherent to The Sims -- to create simlish characters that are evocative of kanji, hiragana and katakana," Nardone said in an email. "It'll stand out in-game to anyone familiar with those characters, but, like basic simlish, there are no direct written translations."
Aspire was also part of the team that developed, which came out last year. Nardone said that diverse representation within the game is a prominent focus for its developers, and players can expect to see more of it going forward. The Sims 4 is also launching a free update in December to add at least 100 more base skin tones and a slider for further modifications.
In addition, when creating new content the studio tries to stay in communication with players, Nardone said. Because of this, he said, he doesn't necessarily consider the 10th expansion pack to be a celebratory milestone, since there are still more wish-list items to deliver to players.
"An exciting milestone for me would be, what does it look like when we've entered uncharted territories for The Sims, and pushed past what any previous installment has achieved?" he said.
More-realistic gameplay and relationships
Snowy Escape also revamps aspects of Sims' personalities and relationships with the Lifestyles and Sentiments feature, which should allow for more-realistic gameplay. Depending on your Sim's actions and habits, up to 16 Lifestyles can manifest. Some examples of Lifestyles your Sim can embody include "energetic," "health food nut," "workaholic" and "frequent traveler."
This changes their behaviors, going beyond the traits players would enter in Create-A-Sim, to reflect the Sim's lived experiences. Lifestyles occur over long periods of time and enhance your Sim's autonomy, Nardone said. And if your Sim doesn't keep up with a certain lifestyle, it'll fade away.
To see what Lifestyles your Sim has achieved, just open the Simology tab and scroll down to Lifestyles. Players can also opt out of Lifestyles in the options menu.
The Sentiments feature affects the relationships between Sims. Two Sims can now feel differently about the outcome of a shared experience, which can have a lasting impact on their relationship and social interactions -- just like in real life.
"Everyone will have a chance to enjoy the increased depth in relationships between Sims, and those who own Snowy Escape will have even more group activities that can lead to new Sentiments forming between Sims," Nardone said.
When a Sentiment populates, you can explore it by opening the Relationships tab. The Sim who you've developed a Sentiment for will have a yellow glow around them. You can then click on the Sim's photo and click Open Sim Profile to dig deeper. When two Sims are talking, you can also keep an eye out for Sentiments by watching the interaction bar at the top of the screen. Sentiments are indicated by a little book icon with a heart on it.
A fun escape, but beware the wildlife
Similar to the community boards in Eco Lifestyle, Snowy Escape has information boards to inform your Sim of upcoming festivals (where you can get collectables and unlock new outfits), the daily wildlife report (there are a few unfavorable creatures you might stumble across on a hike), the weather and how to learn more about the world's activities.
Sims can also interact with vending machines throughout Mount Komorebi. You can stock up on sprays to keep creatures away in the woods, medicine and special skis. Special vending machines, like the little toy machines kids can get trinkets out of at grocery stores, sell Simmi Capsules. Each capsule contains a little doll, or Simmi, to add to your collection. You might even find a rare one or two.
"For many people, I expect, Snowy Escape will be the right experience, at just the right time," Nardone said. "Your Sims can escape to the world of Mount Komorebi on vacation, or make it the place that they call home. It's delivering things you've never seen in The Sims before."
The new expansion pack for the Sims 4 will be available now for $40 (£35, AU$60).
If you're craving even more Sims in your life, the life simulation game was recently turned into a reality game show called Spark'd, which you can find on Buzzfeed Multiplayer's YouTube channel.