For those of you unfamiliar with The Sims Medieval, imagine an RPG in which you’re stuck in a purgatorial loop in the starter town, or a sort of linear medieval life sim lacking the depth and flexibility we’ve come to expect from The Sims Studio. The quests your sims undertake have fun story lines, but the climaxes of almost of them all occur off-screen. Your sims can marry and reproduce, but their children will have identical facial features to all the others in town until they age up, which won’t happen unless their parents die. A colorful tactical map shows multiple territories, but you cannot make any of them them your new base kingdom, govern the specific terms of your relationships with them in any detail, or even follow your sims when they visit them. You can spend ‘resource points’ to build structures that unlock the different professions and increase the quality of life in your kingdom, but you cannot use your points to, say, increase your steel production or make new books available.
Instead, you progress through a series of kingdom ‘ambitions’ – such as to get a certain number of heroes to the tops of their professions or earn a certain amount of money – but (without the workaround that I will be using) each takes place in a fresh copy of the same kingdom, with the same buildings to build, NPCs to meet, and, eventually, same quests to complete. I know, I’m not exactly selling it. But this game is also in individual moments so full of charm, beauty, and, humour that I can’t resist returning to it every now and then. This time round, I thought I’d document my experiences of delight and frustration. As always, questions and tips are very welcome.
I embarked upon the first ambition, ‘New Beginnings’, which requires you to place thirteen (out of fourteen available) buildings to complete at platinum level. I set up my kingdom, Arcadia, opting for the already furnished throne room because I couldn’t really remember how to play this game or what objects a new king might require.
Before you can start questing, you need to choose a monarch – or make one yourself. The character creator resembles that of The Sims 3, but with slightly different sliders and a more limited Create-a-Style (you do get patterns in build mode, but here just a colour wheel). This is the monarch I made, Lord Halfred. I randomized his traits, resulting in friendly and earthy, and I gave him the hubris fatal flaw.
I really like the way the sims in this game look, so I usually don’t feel the need to prettify and standardize too much whatever features I roll; I’m perfectly happy just making characters who look kind of like people you’d meet on the street (or, I guess, at some kind of medieval cos play event).
The clothes are all amazing too. It was really difficult to choose what to dress Halfred in, but I eventually settled on this.
And then, on into the game! I did the tutorial quest because I couldn’t remember how anything worked.
The first stages of the quest were all about ‘decorating’ the throne room. I wasn’t required to spend any time actually in buy mode, but Halfred did have to fetch some resources and speak to the master builder. I figured out I could use the c key to capture screenshots, but I decided just to keep using FRAPS so I can show you the UI when I want to without having the manage two different folders of images.
Other sims would often bow whenever Halfred walked past. This stopped after a while, but it was a nice welcome the the game.
I do not trust this guy.
As I was following Halfred around his new kingdom, the camera was bouncing around all over the place, making me feel pretty sick. I can tell this is going to drive me nuts. Still, the world is really pretty, and will look even nicer once I’ve placed some more buildings.
Halfred’s fatal flaw was playing up a bit. Hubris basically generates a negative moodlet whenever things are going especially well for your sim, but it’s not too bad if you make sure not to give it to any sims who have lots of little tasks to go well. (Spies, physicians, and wizards, for example, have to gather a lot of flowers, which, since the value of the ‘blinded by hubris’ moodlet gets even worse every time a sim encounters success, could cause real problems.)
The remainder of the quest teaches you some basic game mechanics, instructing you to gather flowers, and have a man who had attacked one of Halfred’s subjects put in the stocks, as well as navigate through various basic choose-your-own-adventure-style rabbit hole segments.
Halfred had to fight a bandit too. I do quite enjoy the combat in this game. The system’s rather straightforward, but the animations are great.
I caught a glimpse of the kingdom’s ‘pit monster’, getting his daily feeding.
Choices of pet aside, Halfred’s not a bad guy. His friendly trait makes it very easy to get along with people and unlocks two unique interactions, ‘compliment garments’ and ‘say kind words’. That last one’s a kind of cheer up interaction; here he is using it on one of the traders who hangs around his court (but who doesn’t have any actual goods to sell).
All my sims will have to balance quest tasks with ‘daily responsibilities’ related to their profession. See those little pictures with the timers under them? Those are telling me that today Halfred needs to write a couple of laws and hear some petitions from his subjects.
As time passes, and provided you keep your ‘focus’ (mood) high, your quest performance meter will rise from silver to gold to platinum. You need perform at least a couple of quest-related tasks each day to avoid a performance penalty, but it’s beyond that it’s best to pace yourself to allow the meter time to rise to platinum. This first quest finished rather abruptly, and I ended up only getting the gold level on it.
But by completing the tutorial, I’d earned enough resource points to add some barracks to my castle and to create a knight to live there. So here is Dame Kienna. She rolled the chivalrous and fun-loving traits, and I chose the ‘cursed’ fatal flaw, which will give her random negative moodlets and generally make her a bit unlucky. It’s maybe not a great one for a knight with battles to win, but this isn’t exactly a game you have to min-max.
I was keen to play with my new sim, but I also wanted to raise my kingdom’s security rating to stop random muggings and the best quest for doing that required Halfred again.
The quest called for him to take care of a bandit who had been terrorizing the townsfolk. But first, he had other affairs of state to consider, like writing peace treaties and proposing.
The results of these don’t have any kind of complicated, really tangible impact on the way the game actually plays, but which edicts end up getting passed does affect the crown’s approval ratings with the various guilds and territories whose representatives are involved in the voting process. You can monitor the support for different edicts and add amendments to make them more attractive, but it’s quite difficult to get anything passed if you try to do anything other than vote for the one that’s already the most popular.
Strolling through the forest clearing on quest business a few hours later, Halfred came across a very beat up looking Kienna dueling with a bandit. Those bandages mean she was already badly hurt before the fight began, and the dark cloud above her head means her cursed fatal flaw was giving her trouble.
I was preparing to have Halfred step in a fight the bandit himself, but Kienna actually ended up winning.
Still, I sent the guy to the stocks.
Back in the throne room, a fight broke out between the ambassadors of the two territories we currently have annexed, Tredony and Crafthole. I think it was just a friendly sparring match, though. Lots of courtiers gathered round to watch. One thing I really appreciate about The Sims Medieval is that the NPCs are always doing things that make the world of the game feel really fully of life.
Halfred called the Tredonian ambassador away to practice military strategy with him. Again, they had an audience. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for this sim; she’s always got such a stern look on her face. Have I mentioned I love all the facial expressions? None of that eyebrow clipping nonsense from The Sims 3.
After a hard day’s work, Halfred had his servant Dorothy prepare some food for him. I think this is a the same woman who came to us about the man who had assaulted her in the last quest.
The next day, the same bandit made the mistake of accosting Halfred himself.
The climax of the quest (one of the rare on-screen ones) required Halfred to battle the bandit to the death, but he was already in such bad shape from their previous fight that Halfred’s victory came very easily. Dorothy was there for some reason, looking very sad; I hope the bandit wasn’t her friend.
Completing this quest at platinum level earned the kingdom enough renown to have a reception hall automatically added to Halfred’s castle. That’s the barracks to left, throne room and living quarters in the middle, and new reception hall to the right. I’ll show you inside once I have a bit of money to redecorate.
Next, I chose to take Kienna on a quest. I saw that among those available was ‘the fountain of legend’, a special quest that allows you to swap your hero’s fatal flaw for an entirely positive ‘legendary’ trait.
Her cursed flaw certainly makes an impact. On my first day with her, she was attacked by a pig, mauled by a bear, and, due to the resulting injuries and low mood, failed to perform one of her daily responsibilities of hunting successfully in the forest.
You can buy health salves from the village shop to help heal wounds, but Kienna was already exhausted and I didn’t want to risk her running into even more trouble on the journey there, so I just had her cook herself a nice dinner. I do enjoy all the recipes available in this game.
The next day went much better, with Kienna winning a duel against a challenger (albeit only just!), and making steady progress with her quest tasks.
She spoke to a very creepy-looking ‘blessed monk’, and was able to learn from him the location of the legendary fountain.
I took the ‘strong constitution’ legendary trait, which will keep her safe from minor illnesses and make her stamina drain much more slowly during combat – a really useful one for fighter classes.