The Sims 4 Island Living Review

All About the Gameplay Features in The Latest Expansion Pack

A beautiful screenshot of Sulani in The Sims 4 Island Living Expansion that I chose for my review of the pack
Sulani is beautiful. Much of what is here is well-made, though not deep enough for my taste. In my review focused on gameplay, I'll explain how I came to feel this way.

First I will state I did get a copy of this game free from EA thanks to its Game Changers program. I don't normally review DLC, but let's talk about the latest Expansion. First, realize this is coming from someone who values gameplay above all else. I enjoy exploring new things and I'm never turned on by clothing or decorations. The Sims 4 Island Living has some things going for it, but in a big area it has a flaw and I feel I'm not the only one noticing this. Gameplay, it needed more gameplay - a larger amount of it, and deeper for what's there. I mean skills, activities that are not just fun, and things of that nature. Not transportation, not random things that give moodlets. Good old fashioned gameplay that keeps people returning and doing different things.

The problem is present in many packs but it's pretty damning here. If you start a Sim, make a mermaid - which requires only 500 satisfaction - and play in the Conservationist career while fishing on the side, you've completely done this pack in one sitting.

Everything else that exists in the pack is scenery, they did fantastic with world building and some neighborly Sim behaviors. What's here is not bad per se, it just needed more work to truly become what it could've become.

An Azure Dolphin, summoned by a mermaid
There are 3 kinds of Dolphin in Island Living, but they're not particularly interesting and you get done with them quickly. They cannot impact your gameplay, it's like Bertie's Bee Box with the interactions and stationary nature.

More time invested into making a fleshed out mermaid system is a big one. Players like to level up in new things in Sims and unlock abilities, gradually grow more powerful. With mermaid, you're given everything up front and there are only a couple of interesting abilities depending who you are. Yes, I didn't say this in my upcoming mermaids guides but it is important to me that if someone seeks a guide they get a guide and don't have to read or hear my opinion for 5 minutes.

Another thing is the water transportation. Changing clothes all the time is annoying, but my big gripe is that without gameplay, the transportation doesn't exist for a reason. It's literally taking me nowhere. Transportation in a game should take me to more gameplay. Sims 4 has had a problem in that there isn't much reason to go anywhere so a bigger neighborhood like we have doesn't NEED explored. We need outdoor activities that make sense to use, to get us to check. I guess the collections are too bland or there aren't enough uses of them, but I see no reason to head to the islands in Sulani.

The world of Sulani is beautiful - Island Living Expansion Pack for The Sims 4
The world really can be stunning, but the world needs to be your primary point of excitement.

It's hard to be critical of a team you respect and a franchise you love, while also knowing some fans will feel I'm criticizing on something they love. Truly I don't want to do that, I just feel some responsibility to be completely silent and it's a status quo I'd like to see change. I wish that whatever caused me to feel this way wasn't this way. It just feels like tough decisions were made or something, because it comes across as rushed and I'd never put that on the average developer. If they needed more time to realize the vision that is what they should've had. I know they want us fans to be happy with what we're given.

That said the team did some things in good faith this week like releasing improvements to the lackluster RNG fishing skill and giving us the ability to better tailor our catches with bait, and they made sure you can fish off the canoes in Island Living. One of the Mermaid's more interesting abilities can also boost this.

Ecology of one island is changeable in The Sims 4 Island Living
The Ecology of one island changes, but it changes fairly quickly and there's not a big impact, just scenery.

Sims is best when things work together and they've managed that on many packs, making sure things like clubs from Get Together always work with new features, and it must be a lot to manage. The fact you can make a Conservation club is awesome. How about we could fix the Ecosystem on all three islands? Why only 1 - time of course.

The only real gripe about Island Living is so much of its content will only make sense when used in that world. A mermaid should not be walking around Oasis Springs. The content is super self contained this time, but there's not much reason to stick around in Sulani, so it's a side attraction - a vacation world you can't actually vacation in. I know some of you return to places but lemme guess how many have returned to granite falls in the last 6 months. Yet, you can at least say a lot of the content there can be used for things in other worlds.

A jet ski in The sims 4
Jet Skis and boats exist to get from A to B, but there's not much reason to ever go to B.

You could get excited for scuba as a few of us did, until we realized it's a rabbit hole. The only major cosmetic failure is purely technical - I wish I could go underwater and snorkel or scuba dive with my Sims. I say let players take pictures of exotic fish and feel like they're exploring this world. One more way to get us to leave the home lot.

Anyway if I'm going to share an opinion I promise to keep it contained rather than complain extensively in other places. I put my gripes in my text and video fairly often but never do deter the focus and it should stay that way. I'd love to see Sims 4 be upgraded to have deeper and more interesting gameplay rather than always adding more and more stuff. We're drowning in options but interesting choices are not being made. Give me good reasons to go to different places, add some depth to things like traits, and make sure new skills, traits, aspirations and things to do that take more than a few hours are always included in the big packs.

The Sims 4 Island Living: Butterflies on the island.
Butterflies will appear on the one island that changes, once you've cleaned it up. However, when you've done that you've exhausted most of the gameplay from IL. If you feel the atmosphere is a must-have, you're probably going to be on the happier end of the list of people who've purchased it.

Perhaps to some extent, players who demand deeper gameplay have already gone and their opinion is no longer heard as there's no reason to follow a game that you can't get into. Otherwise I feel voices crying for deeper gameplay would be more prevalent. We are four years in, after all.

The Sims 4 really could be fantastic even without an Open World. Others were, they relied more on their gameplay. I shared with a couple friends an idea I had - I'd love to have to pay for clothes. Other things like traits not being deep enough really annoy me - I'd like more behaviors centered around them, abilities that do things, and maybe hidden bonuses. In order for one Sims to be extremely different from another on any level but a cosmetic one.

Our next gameplay pack is centered around magic, and I really hope I don't see +2 inspired, flirty, or happy for 4 hours spread out on 6 spells with 14 spells total. I'd like to see interesting spells that do things nothing else in the game does. Give me a reason to pick up magic when I'm playing and make sure I can be a powerful vampire wizard who moonlights as a line cook.

That's all I really have to say, this just doesn't add up to $40 of gameplay. The eye candy and world building is right in this pack, there's just not much to do with it. I won't assign it an arbitrary number - most of this is my opinion and each person should decide how much my complaints matter to them.

Other Island Living Guides

The Sims 4 Island Living Expansion Pack
Mermaids in Island Living New
Mermaids Video New
Island Living Gameplay Review
Island Living Cheats
Features to Know About in The Sims 4 Island Living
Features in Island Living (Video Format) NEW
Conservationist Career Guide
Conservationist Video Guide
Cleaning Up The Island - How it Works and What's Best
Child of the Islands Trait New
Child of the Ocean Trait New
Using New Foundations, Clear Floors, and Other Build Mode Items

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Comments (15)

I completely agree with you. I was very excited about purchasing this game however, there isn’t much to it. I thought that I’d be able to go diving with my sims. There’s not enough interesting game play for my tastes. I bought that game and I won’t return it but I’m deeply disappointed. This has to be one of the more pointless expansion packs.
It's a tough one to swallow for me as this is the very first time I have ever had anything from my part of the world (I'm in New Zealand), so the patterns and culture are very familiar to me and a delight to see in my sims game. Sadly though, I agree with Carl's comments and we've talked about it a lot. Everything is beautifully made but the deeper game play features are just not there.
This was the first honest review I've seen for this pack. I had absolutely no expectations for this pack, and they still managed not just to disappoint me. I got really angry. And this need to be compared to Island Paradise or the Vacation Add-Ons, and what we have here is 15 % of the content for twice the price. It is lazy and cheap to point were it's almost surreal, e.g. you clean up toxic waste with a fire extinguisher, are you kidding me? You "survey" stuff by using the tablet animations from Retail and Strangeville? And to add insult to the injury pretty much every new feature is bugged or glitches out at some point.

This is a borderline scam. Or, as EA would call it now, SURPRISE VOID.
Agree. I actually went back to Sims 3. The gameplay is just missing from 4.
I completely agree with you. Tbh I enjoy this pack and I'm pretty happy with it cosmetically, but I really wish that sims 4 as a whole was a lot more in depth. I've played sims since sims 1, and although I don't love sims 3 as much as other people (I have a decent gaming pc and yet it's still super buggy for me), and I love the cartoon graphics of sims 4, there's something missing. I feel like a fair amount of players must feel the same way though, as when given the choice laundry days was chosen, which I feel represents the need for challenge and a deeper, in depth game, even if it is just through washing clothes. I just really hope whoever is in charge of sims at ea starts making some changes, because obviously I don't blame the developers, but the game is getting disappointing.
If you use NRaas mods the stability and bugginess really improve. Error Trap and MasterContoller would be the two NRaas mods I just don't play TS3 without. NRaas Mod link Smile
Yes! That's it!
I am that player, who almost dropped sims4 because there is no gameplay. I was disappointed when i bought vanilla game. But I hoped for Expansion Pack. In sims3 World of Adventures were must have. But the only one ep I ever bought is aliens (not Get to Work, professions there were much more boring that in Ambitions, but aliens were beautiful). Sometimes I install game. Install a ton of mods. Play for a week. And uninstall it. Still I keep monitoring news, but with small hope on changes.
Charlene Adamssays...
I have to agree, there’s. It much to do, everything I feel that should be more interactive is a rabbit hole. I loved sims 3 open world - there was more to do and to collect, secret doors etc.
I liked that StrangerVille added a mission to play and I thought Island living was going to be similar but so far there are no real clues or nothing obvious, other than the treasure chest I found behind a wall down in shipwreck cove. There is no access to the room it’s in (no door) which makes me wonder if there is a mission somewhere that I’m missing? But so far I’m rather disappointed with sims 4 all together
This review is spot on. It is a beautiful game, however, there is t much to do. I miss the sims 3 as far as content.
I agree. Been a fan of The Sims since it came out and although I LOVE the Sims 4 moodlets and character traits and aspirations I get bored a lot. I think they cater more to the story telling crowd, but I just can't get into a family I really like because there is no depth to the characters. Challenges can be fun sometimes, but too many rules to remember.
I agree with you. Playing through it felt lacking and felt like it should've been more of a game pack rather than a full expansion. I was under the impression that a full expansion incorporates new features to the game that applies globally rather than a nice-type experience like game packs do. But Island Living didn't strike me as something expansive to the game.
I have to say I agree with you 100%. I've been a Sims fan since the 80s & Sims City came out. I've followed and supported the Sims since the very first Sims game. I already knew and accepted it wouldn't be worth the $40 price tag. I bought the game late last night. Even after less than an hour of gameplay I could see there wasn't too much to it. I shouldn't say I wasn't disappointed because this was expected but I am disappointed. I'm starting to agree with those who say it seems EA has given up on the series completely. That's just really sad to me.
Boots Guysays...
I agree with you. There should be more gameplay than just objects and outfits. We want more game play actions, effects and activities more than the object we see.
*sigh* I didn't even get to enjoy Island Paradise in Sims 3 because it would freeze up. I tried all of the fixes and nothing ever worked. I was hoping this expansion would allow me to at least have some pleasure of what I missed out on from IP. I may still get it because I'd like to have all of the games. I do agree that Sims 4 as a whole, lacks deep gameplay. Though, I do enjoy Get to Work. Strangerville was fun, but after I did it, I had no need to go back.

Thank you for such an honest review. People respect your opinion, and I felt like I must be overly picky before I read this. However, I don't think this pack justified the $40 price tag in the slightest. I also hoped for more gameplay, especially with diving, and was very disappointed. I look forward to reading your review of the next pack BEFORE I purchase it.


I have to agree in unfortunately. I was able to play sims 3 for days and days with just gameplay. Now I get on sims 4 to download a new pack, build a house and try to find some game play and get disappointed every time. I go months and months without touching it before I decide to give it another try.

Myst Leissasays...

In my personal Opinion, Sims 4 actually cut back on a lot of this on game design from Sims 3. If you recall Sims 3 had an open world, but it /really/ had going for it was that the world was interesting and had plenty of things to do, reasons to get out of the house. They only even remotely improved on that aspect in the Dine Out Pack, but at what cost? Personally, looking at Sims 3: Island Paradise (which is the equivelent pack from Sims 3 to Island Living in Sims 4), That pack explicitly tanked many high-end machines at the time for Frame rate, and continues to do so if you boot it up today. I think the reason they cut so much open world and gameplay was an intentional decision to not "overreach" but by that point your really better off just scrapping the design. I think Island Living was in fact a dumbed down Island Paradise because many of the better things they advertised from IP were laggy and hard on computers, I wager we'll never see the likes of Houseboats (Mobile Homes?) in Sims ever again, and scuba diving was really hard on the games frames because it was constantly doing that "Hidden Area" check.

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