"The Sims 4: Eco Lifestyle" Expansion Pack Review
The Sims 4: Eco Lifestyle
"The Sims 4: Eco Lifestyle" Is Much Better Than I Expected; But It Has Serious Issues
When first announced in May of 2020, The Sims 4: Eco Lifestyle set off a storm of criticism from angry fans. Environmental themes were already incorporated into the 2018 stuff pack Laundry Day, last year's expansion pack Island Living, and the Tiny Living stuff pack that came out in January 2020. Eco Lifestyle felt like they were milking the green concept a bit too much.
Since 2020 had been such a tough year already, fans were looking forward to something new and different. Eco Lifestyle did not look like it would fit the bill. Complaints quieted down, though, after a live stream that presented some of the new content's features.
The pack was released in June, and after trying it, many fans—myself included—thought it turned out better than expected. Unfortunately, it has also come with a lot of frustrating bugs, and not all features were executed as well as they could have been.
Get Your "Eco Lifestyle" Digital Download Now
Love it or hate it, Eco Lifestyle is a game-changer. Some of the features of this expansion pack will spill over into all of your Sims' lives.
For one thing, almost every world is now affected by a green footprint. If your Sims don't take care of their neighborhood, the footprint can become "industrial," which means your Sims will have to deal with smog and trash. If they do take care of their neighborhood, they may work up to a green footprint, making the neighborhood lush and clean.
Sulani (from Island Living) and Strangerville (from Strangerville) are the only worlds your Sims can live in that are not affected by a green footprint because they have their own special environmental conditions. Also, destination worlds your Sim can visit, such as Granite Falls (from Outdoor Retreat) and Selvadorada (from Jungle Adventure), will not be affected. The affected neighborhoods do start neutral, and you can turn off this feature if you don't want your Sims to bother investing time and money into making their home environmentally friendly.
Neighborhood Action Plans
From now on, every neighborhood your Sims can live in will get to vote once per week on Neighborhood Action Plans (N.A.P.s). Your community might vote for green initiatives or neighborhood improvement plans, or for something outlandish like for residents to get "juiced" (the Sim equivalent to drinking a lot). They might vote for activities like getting into the arts, fitness, or gardening.
Not all these plans are what they're cracked up to be, though. Let the voter beware. Sims will do things related to these N.A.P.s obsessively for as long as they're enacted, and some can lead to some seriously undesirable behavior.
If you don't like your current N.A.P, you can try to have it repealed. Social interactions give your Sims influence points so they can convince other Sims to sign repeal petitions or vote for certain changes every weekend.
Taxes and Utilities
Before Eco Lifestyle's release, the bill and utility system was altered in a game patch to accommodate the expansion pack. These changes apply to everyone, even those who don't own the expansion. The new system breaks down rent/lot taxes and utility expenses. The more power or water your Sims consume, the higher their bills will be. Sims can save on power bills and water bills by using greener appliances and plumbing items (which all come with a consumption rating now), or by installing things such as solar panels and dew catchers.
Sims who don't keep on top of taking out the garbage will find their homes infested with flies and roaches. Trash can be taken out, or your Sim can go through it to sort out recyclables and to collect "bits and pieces," which can be used to fabricate new items.
Dumpsters, a new item in the game, offer your Sims a chance to go "dumpster diving" for hidden treasures. Your Sims can find just about any item in the trash, including a free lunch.
Another thing Sims can do in dumpsters is woohoo.
The patch for Eco Lifestyle added ladders to the game for all Simmers to use, which was an exciting addition for builders.
Firefighters have finally found their way to The Sims 4; from now on, when there is a fire, your Sim can call for help.
Your Sims can live off the grid in any world now.
Beware of flies—a swarm can kill your Sim.
Welcome to Evergreen Harbor
Evergreen Harbor is the name of the new world in Eco Lifestyle, and it is one of the more unique worlds in The Sims 4 yet. It is the only world with a more industrial look to it.
It has three neighborhoods and boasts a mix of houses and apartments for your Sims.
Grim's Quarry is the ritzier part of town. It's a suburb that starts with a green footprint. There is a mix of houses and apartments in which your Sims can live.
Conifer Station has the remnants of a now-defunct train station, but if the local Sims put some work into it, the old railway can be transformed into a lovely green walking path. This neighborhood also has apartments and houses from which your Sim can choose, and it starts with a neutral eco-footprint.
Port Promise is on the waterfront and is the most industrial of the three neighborhoods. Starting with an industrial eco-footprint, Sims moving into this neighborhood will find it littered with trash and smog. It takes a lot of effort and cooperation for residents to clean it up, but if they manage to do so, it can be quite lovely.
Some players love the idea of keeping Port Promise in shabby shape to play out storylines of homeless or poverty-stricken Sims.
Each neighborhood in Evergreen Harbor has a community lot, and Sims living in that neighborhood can vote on what to do with that lot. You can vote to turn it into a maker space where Sims can craft items such as furniture, candles, and fizzy juice. You can vote to make it a marketplace where Sims can go to buy and sell wares. Or, you can vote to make it a community garden so Sims will have a pretty space for hanging out, growing plants or raising insects. Insects can be used for food or to create biofuels.
Cool New Furnishings
There are quite a few new lot traits added to Eco Lifestyle, which you can use on lots in any world in The Sims 4.
Eco Lot lots get green more quickly.
Geothermal lots generate power to help lower electric bills; it also naturally warms pools.
Natural Well gives your Sims fresh, clean water for drinking and bathing, and lowers water bills.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is a great lot trait for Sims who like to turn trash to treasures or who want compost for their garden. However, you do have to empty your outdoor trash frequently, so it doesn't overflow.
Landfill is for when you want your lot to be a literal dump.
Off-the-Grid means the lot is not hooked up to utilities. Sims need to generate power, or their electronic items will not function. They also will need to collect their won water, or they will have to use brackish run-off water, which will give them uncomfortable moodlets.
Items for Eco Lifestyle are fun to play with because they have unique designs. The overall aesthetic leans heavily towards the hand-crafted and recycled style, such as the new cardboard dollhouse, the shelving units made of pipes and boards, or the sofa cushions made of old flour sacks. There is also an emphasis on nature with new planters and green artwork.
Not surprisingly, this pack offers a lot of great additions to your garden, including functional vertical planters that allow you to save some space. There are also plenty of items that allow your Sims to learn new skills and make things.
The exterior build mode items, which lean towards the industrial, really allow builders to get more creative overall because they are so different from the usual paint, siding, and paneling.
Create-A-Sim (CAS) Mode
New Personality Traits
Freegan Sims hate participating in consumerism; they hate working conventional jobs or spending money. They'd rather live off the land, search for freebies or negotiate for bargains (and they're good at these things).
Green Fiend Sims love to be eco-friendly and gets happy moodlets from green activities. They get stressed when they live in a place with a low eco-footprint.
Maker Sims are creative sorts who love to fabricate things, build things at the woodworking table, make candles, or create fizzy juices. If they go too long without creating something, they get stressed.
Recycle Disciple Sims are addicted to recycling. They get very happy when they rummage through and sort trash to find useable bits and pieces. Unfortunately, they get highly stressed if they go too long without recycling, or if there is no trash around to recycle. They might even try to recycle things that aren't trash after a while, so you have to watch them.
Master Maker revolves around fabricating, crafting, insect farming, and working as a freelance crafter. Once completed, these Sims can fabricate things at lower costs.
Eco Innovator revolves around making your home eco-friendly and working with the community to improve your neighborhood. Sims who complete the aspiration gain the trait "influential individual," allowing them to have more influence in the community.
Like with build mode, the CAS mode items also have that upcycled/thrift shop vibe. There are a lot of casual clothes with patches or that have been stitched. Some of the new hairstyles are a lot of fun as well, but overall these items will contribute to some very casual-looking or grungy SIms.
One thing that has some fans excited is the addition of some new piercings.
One of the most outstanding accessories is a paper bag (complete with a face drawn on it) for your Sims to wear over their heads. They can do this for fun, or out of shame when their neighborhood has a poor eco-footprint.
And Now for the Bad News...
The Down Side
You could tell the game creators did put a lot of work into this pack, and a lot that will carry over into any storyline or world. However, there are a lot of problems with Eco Lifestyle.
This pack and the patch that proceeded it caused a lot of glitches. A lot of players complained of game crashes and error codes. The fabricator machine would break down and then start making a loud, annoying buzz that could not be fixed—not even by replacing the machine. A lot of odd bugs appeared as well, such as Sims obsessively baking cakes or brewing health potions. Some Sims were peeing fire (though, in all fairness, a lot of Simmers begged for this unintended glitch to be left in the game).
Glitches happen though, and of course, the Sims team says they're on it and are trying to fix them. Keep in mind, though; they also said that about other packs that had a lot of glitches, like Dining Out, and most of those have not yet been resolved.
Some of the bigger problems, however, are the intentional features that were not thought out very well, or that left players disappointed. Here are some examples:
- A lot of items are not exactly new; they're old items with new skin. For example, the insect farms are just a restyling of the bee box from Seasons; the fabricator is a restyling of the robotics workstation from Discover University. Many other items in Eco Lifestyle were "upcycled" from previous packs, and fans felt this was lazy programming.
- Pinecrest Apartment #404 balcony cannot be decorated, despite the fact that many previews showed it could be decorated. The game makers were experiencing some glitching with decorating this outdoor space and opted to disable it before the pack's release date.
- A lot of the items break very, very frequently. This can be very annoying until your Sim gets high enough in the handiness skill to make them unbreakable.
- Toilets can be upgraded to create a flammable compost for your insect farms, but if you don't have an insect farm or empty them frequently, the whole toilet will catch fire. Unfortunately, sometimes handy Sims or even roommates you don't control may upgrade the toilets autonomously without you realizing it until the bathroom has burst into flames, and your Sim is burning to death (I speak from experience).
- Your neighbors can vote in N.A.P.s that you don't want, can be fun for some, while others find them extremely annoying, depending on how you like to play. For example, when the "sharing is caring" N.A.P. is enacted, visitors help themselves to your stuff—kitchen counters, television sets, furniture, etc. When the "free love" N.A.P. is enacted, your Sim's father may come over and start making out with your Sim's wife.
- You're stuck with N.A.P.s for at least a week—longer if you can't repeal them. The repeal process can be time-consuming because your Sims have the weekend to get ten signatures, and if your Sim isn't very charismatic or popular, he may get a lot of rejections.
What do you think of "The Sims 4: Eco Lifestyle?"
Is It Worth It?
There is a lot of gameplay power that extends beyond Evergreen Harbor and seeps into the lives of all of your Sims. Whether that's a good or bad thing depends on whether those features interest you. Frankly, I will probably be shutting off things like neighborhood eco-footprints and N.A.P.s most of the time, and I can't see myself often using the aspirations, personality traits, lot traits, or the career that came with this game. It was fun to try them out once, but it's not my style of playing.
I'm still glad I added Eco Lifestyle to my collection, though. I can see myself using Evergreen Harbor or having Sims who live off the grid once in a while. I love the candle-making table, a lot of the build mode items, and CAS items. If these aesthetics and the idea of an industrial world appeal to you, you may want to add this expansion pack to your collection.
© 2020 Kenzie Cartwright