[Spoiler-free] I’m writing this review after four hours of gameplay and from the perspective of someone who’s been living under a rock for the past decade and has never played a sims game before.

Overall, I’m enjoying it. I was fortunate enough to spend several years in India, and have travelled widely throughout India and Nepal. The attention to detail in the game world is phenomenal. It’s clear the designers have done their homework – it really does feel a lot like the region. I can speak Hindi, and it’s quite nice seeing signs and what not in Hindi in a computer game (though obviously it won’t affect your enjoyment if you don’t).

The gameplay mechanics are fun and, for the most part, intuitive. As I said earlier, I’ve never played a sims game before, so I’m going into this not knowing what’s new and what isn’t. There have been few points where I’ve been unclear on what I’m supposed to do or how I’m supposed to do it. The open world is fun to explore and easy to get around with a variety of vehicles, including a rather awkward microlite, which lends itself to come beautiful mountain views.

Voice acting and dialogue is good. I have found that at the default settings, quite a lot of the dialogue is hard to hear over the music and sound effects, so I’ve manually adjusted this. It is well written, and the villain feels suitably realistic and makes for an effective nemesis. You have two main allies, and they are interesting characters whose goals are the same, but their strategies radically different. You will find yourself helping one more than the other, adding an RPG element.

Guns and other weapons feel weighty, so the action is flows properly and you feel like you’re actually accomplishing something. A criticism is that your weapon inventory is a bit confusing. It took me a while to realise that I could drop a weapon and it would still be safe, turning up in the safehouse.

Crafting is weird. You can craft various potions (called ‘syringes’), and you’ll never use them other than for healing. More useful are crafting various bags and holsters to expand your inventory, and this all requires you use materials you find in in the wild. It doesn’t make any sense. For some reason you require deer skin for one item and monkey skin for another (and other skins for other things). Why? It’s really tedious having to hunt some wolves or monkeys or deer or whatever just to get the right hides for crafting. Realistically, does it really make any difference?

A major criticism is the seemingly simple task of saving. I’ve not figured this out at all. Pausing gives you to the save option, which is easy enough, but I find that I’ll still respawn at a previous checkpoint if I die (i.e. not where I last saved the game). This can cause you to waste a lot of time. You can be running around doing stuff, only to get killed by an unlucky crash or something, and respawn miles away and wasting all your progress. For the life of me I can’t figure out why the designers didn’t incorporate a quick save. Would that have been difficult? I’m hoping there’s a mod for this somewhere out there.

You can’t save in missions. This is a pain, and it wastes time. For example, very early on in the campaign you’re tasked with taking out a wolf den. The checkpoint is a little walk from the den. You have to sneak up on the wolves and kill them, then there’s plenty of looting to be done. You then have to enter the den and destroy it. I killed myself by standing too close to the supports, so I had to redo it and killed myself again, even though I was standing further away. Third time lucky, but it took me a lot longer to complete than it should have done.

Another major criticism is EA – I hate the fact I have it on my computer for sims 4 and Assassins Creed. I already had it because I’ve played AC, but if you don’t it will make you download it and register for an account. It’s invasive and I can’t see that anyone on the planet likes that sort of thing. I just want to buy the game and play it – I don’t want to have to give the company my email address and receive newsletters or anything like that.

Those are my two biggest criticisms: ambiguity around saving and UPlay. My only other real criticism is the subject matter feels – I don’t know – unsavoury. The sorts of insurgencies exist all over the world in real life, and they’re never black and white. The game depicts you fighting for the good guys against the evil despot. In real life, the insurgencies are often as bad as the government, overthrowing one despot and replacing him with another. I don’t need complex geopolitics in my video games, but this feels overly simplistic.

Furthermore, you play an American heading to his parents country (his father starts the insurgency campaign and then buggers off to the States to raise his family – smooth). You’re there on a mission to scatter some ashes before you’re plunged into the civil war, joining the ‘good guys’ immediately with no questions. You’re hailed as a saviour of the people and everyone loves you and it’s all very nice. This is a common theme in a lot of western media – the people can’t help themselves until the American comes along and sides with them, showing them the way and saving the day. It’s a trope that needs to die a death.

The set up of the story is stupid and makes no sense whatsoever. It would have made a whole load more sense if you were actually a national of the country fighting in the war, or perhaps a refugee whose decided to return. This could have lent itself to some powerful social commentary – a missed opportunity.

If you can forget about the ridiculous set up, the story itself is good so far.

Overall, a good game. It’s far from perfect, but it feels like the sort of game that’s fun to kill a bit of time with. I can’t see myself getting super-immersed in it like I did with, say, the Fallout games, but exploring the world is a good way to relax in the evenings. If you are looking at buying it, I would watch this video: How to get sims 4 free !