Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Sims 4: Growing Together and Infants update puts family first

The Sims 4 has earned itself multiple reputations, and not all of them good. Despite being a social simulator game, my biggest nit-pick has always been a lack of meaningful interaction within your relationships, particularly when it comes to family. It’s a sentiment that more than a few fans share, and one that The Sims 4: Growing Together Expansion pack looks to address.

First though, let’s address the baby-in-the-elephant-onesie in the room: the free Infant update. Coming 2 days before the release of Growing Together, this new update looks to add a new life state to The Sims 4 and make the baby stage actually mean something instead of being an object that you rock occasionally, and silently plead to grow older faster.

From what we got from the preview, this new update not only adds a new life stage, but shakes up the entire household – for the better. Having a toddler was challenging sure, but infants take it to a whole other level due to their stronger dependence on older Sims. They can crawl and be put down, but they aren’t able to do a lot of the things that toddlers can, so you need to take extra care with them.

Infants also come with brand new traits, such as ‘Sunny’, ‘Wiggly’, ‘Intense’, ‘Cautious’, ‘Sensitive’ and ‘Calm’. Each one will affect how they behave and their personality, making it so each infant is unique. And, of course, you can pick and choose these traits yourself as your baby grows up, or you can do so in the Create-A-Sim (CAS) section. This section also allows you to clothe your infant, and while there isn’t a huge amount of options so far with just the base game, there’s enough to express your infant’s style and make them stand out.

More importantly, the addition of the Infants update also adds changes to the Newborn life stage too. No longer will you give birth to the most generic looking baby alive, but now have a range of different skin tones, and the correct eye colour, which they did not have previously. You’ll also be able to change the newborn’s baby grow too, which doesn’t take you to CAS, but does give you a handful of options to choose from.

But the most exciting change to the Newborn life stage is that it doesn’t last as long as it used to. As someone who hates that life stage and finds it pretty boring, I’m stoked newborns will age up into Infants faster. After all, that’s where the real fun begins.

The Sims 4 Growing Together
Image Source: EA / Maxis

And, if you thought the free Infants update was a great way to make the family unit within The Sims 4 more zestful, then you’ll be pleased to know the Growing Together expansion only adds to it.

The expansion brings a new world, San Sequoia, the new bayfront town, and three brand new neighbourhoods alongside it. Each neighbourhood has an array of different things to do, such as the cinema, parks, as well as a few house lots. It’s pretty to look at, but it isn’t Growing Together’s stand-out feature. No, that award goes to a nifty little feature called Family Dynamics.

Family Dynamics is a new way for players to establish the different boundaries and rapports within your household. For example, the father of the household may have a friendly and supportive relationship with their son, but their connection to their daughter is much more difficult and frayed. This affects how the father interacts with each child, and can effectively change other household dynamics too. It isn’t just parent/child relationships that can be affected either, your Sim can have a strained marriage with their partner, and grandparents may not be all too hot on their grandkids either. These interlinking connections can be established in CAS, making it an effective tool for players who have an idea for a story they want to tell; whether it be about a deadbeat dad trying to reconnect with his children, or a strained couple trying to rekindle the spark that made their relationship so great in the first place. And because you can change these dynamics through gameplay, the story you want to tell feels more organic and evolved.

With these different shifting connections, The Sims 4: Growing Together expansion adds more social orientated interactions between different age groups which previously were not available. For example, Grandma and Grandpa can jokingly tell a Sim that they are their favourite grandchild, or advise them on subjects that they have previously had experience with. The same goes for all age groups, and it helps reinforce the various relationships your Sims have with others.

The Sims 4 Infants Update
Image Source: EA / Maxis

Your positive (and negative) relationships are further reinforced with new events and activities included in the expansion, such as having your older Sims help their younger counterparts in building a treehouse, ride a bike, etc. Some of these new activities and interactions can lead into unlocking Milestones, which act like trophies and memories Sims can reflect back on through different objects. For example, a Sim who graduated University can look back at their diploma, or a Sim who has got married can look at their marriage certificate. Some of these milestones are for specific age groups, such as Infants learning to lift their head, Toddlers learning to talk and Adults falling in love for the first time. There is, apparently, even a milestone for pissing yourself as an adult. Yeah, sure, why not, eh?

Overall, what came across during our preview of the new expansion pack is that The Sims team wants your Sims to feel more authentic and alive than ever. Mid-life crises, unique skin details, more inclusive and diverse skin types and hairstyles… The Growing Together expansion pack seems to have it all for players who just want to see their Sims thrive.

Let’s just hope it can deliver when The Sims 4: Growing Together Expansion pack releases on March 17th for PC and console.

Aimee Hart

[She/They] Aimee Hart specializes in queer fandom, video games and tabletop, having started her career writing for numerous websites like The Verge, Polygon, Input Magazine and more. Her goal now is to boost LGBTQ+ voices in the video games industry.