The Sims 4 has overtaken the majority of my free time for years, from the moment I got my grubby little teenage hands on the base game back in 2014 to now, when I’m sitting here as a young adult who writes about video games for a living. I haven’t always loved every stuff pack, kit, and expansion pack from EA, but once in a while, the developer announces a new one that instantly catches my eye. Much like Horse Ranch, For Rent did just that.
The Sims 4 is a life game through and through. The series’ tagline speaks for itself, ‘play with life.’ For Rent had me hooked with its reveal trailer because it lets you do just that. It lets you truly experience life through your Sims, including some of its most human moments. You can struggle as a tenant against an unfair landlord, but you can also find comfort in your home and the community within it.
Host a potluck together with a few of your lot’s families, or dance with one another in a common room. Senior Sims 4 designer Jessica Croft agreed that the game is about life, and For Rent exemplifies this. “I think it’s important for us to be able to approach topics that are a little raw,” the developer tells me in our exclusive interview. She stresses that this isn’t “to be edgy,” but rather because it draws on reality.
“These are relatable experiences for a lot of folks,” Croft says. The tight-knit shared living spaces, rising housing prices, and all. I couldn’t help but smile here, as I got it. As someone renting, I understand both the good and the bad that come with a tenancy. As a Simmer, I understand that I want to relate to my Sims while playing. So, I decided to ask about the inclusion of a realistic tenant-landlord relationship in For Rent.
Croft explains how the team aimed to “navigate that with caution and respect.” She says that the game is ultimately about life, “but life has hard moments.” The big challenge for the For Rent team was “finding an optimistic lens through which we can portray that story,” while also giving players “a storytelling tool to allow them to tell whatever story they want to tell.” Lead producer Rebecca Doyle steps in here to agree that there are “always ups and downs in real life” as in-game, and that “being able to tell that story” is important.
One of the keys to balancing those positive community vibes with the more gritty, real-life topic of rent is in-game consequences, Croft states. While your Sims can become property owners and not just tenants in For Rent, they can’t just take on the role of an evil, unforgiving landlord without facing repercussions. This doubly applies to tenants, who have the power to work together and protest such unfair treatment and also must take good care of their living space.
With all of this mind-boggling implementation of real-world elements, I find myself asking the two developers if they feel that For Rent is The Sims 4’s biggest feat yet. Croft laughs, admitting that while she may have a bias, the expansion “was certainly a lot of work to put together.” She says that the new pack is indeed the biggest, as in the “most impactful.” While recalling her pitch to EA, Croft explains that she wanted to break out of the “gameplay loop” we Simmers often find ourselves stuck in.
“You put yourself through their life, you build a career, you build wealth, and then you just buy bigger and better things forever.” I nod furiously, as I know all too well what she means. For me, the game eventually does become “about acquiring better things.” My Sims climb their corporate ladders, perhaps with a motherlode stuck in here and there, and then I build a massive mansion of sorts with gadgets galore.
Croft thinks that “the thing that For Rent really adds is a new layer to that and your end goal.” You can invest your hard-earned Simoleons into something that lasts, like a property. In a way, For Rent adds some real endgame content to an experience that never really had any. That isn’t the only thing that sets the expansion apart, though. The fact that you can apply For Rent’s features to every world in-game does, too.
The team worked hard to make the pack’s gameplay “available in every world.” Croft explains how it was “a big, a big technical hurdle” to do so, but consequently For Rent now “adds a new layer of gameplay that is applicable to almost every single story.” Doyle chimes in to agree and says that “the building system gives you a lot of opportunity to tell new stories and to play in a completely different way.”
As the interview wraps up, I can’t help but agree with both of the devs on this. I’ve spent a good amount of time with For Rent thus far, and it’s my favorite expansion hands-down. While Steam reviews remain mixed, it’s important to note that many of these cite launch bugs or performance-related issues rather than the gameplay added itself. In my opinion, For Rent is undoubtedly the most human content to come to The Sims 4, or The Sims series as a whole yet.
Both Croft and Doyle let me know that the expansion draws on some of the Sims’ greats like the second game’s Apartment Life pack, but it’s very different. It’s no City Living either. When I play For Rent, I walk away feeling less like I’m controlling virtual dolls and more like I’m a part of something in-game. My Sims aren’t Sims anymore, they’re lively people with big feelings, and I made sure to let the two devs know just how impactful the pack has been for me and my Simming experience.
If you’re a fellow Sims stan too, then you should check out a few of these game-changing Sims 4 mods for content to spice your game up with for free. Alternatively, browse around our in-depth look at the most useful Sims 4 cheats and codes. While I’d recommend playing For Rent from the ground up, so to speak, a little motherlode never hurt anybody.
This story originally appeared on PC Gamesn