The Sims Medieval brings some irony to this popular series of life simulations. Whereas the proper Sims games make the mundane aspects of everyday life interesting, this Renaissance faire spin-off takes interesting concepts and makes them mundane. It’s initially entertaining, fueled by the peculiar charms that have always made these games so delightful. But eventually, the pleasures of calling the local bard a lack-witted cur are undercut by the sensation that you’re just treading water and never really getting anywhere. Of course, you could say this about those previous Sims games, but their joy came from your ability to make a life as worthy as you liked. Just as your little digital people built relationships with each other, so you built relationships with them, and the stories you played out in the game were born of your own imagination. In The Sims Medieval, you don’t play out your own stories–you play out someone else’s. And you do so over and over again in a weird computer-game version of Groundhog Day. The first 10 hours or so are pleasant ones, and some worthwhile ideas work out rather well. But in the end, The Sims Medieval lacks imagination–and it lacks the tools to let you flex your own.
The game begins by letting you create a sim called a hero; in this case, your hero is a monarch in charge of a kingdom. Your king (or queen) doesn’t have an enormous selection of outfits to choose from, but this is more like Ye Olde Sims, so you wouldn’t expect a plethora of sunglasses and tank tops. Luckily, the create-a-style feature from The Sims 3 returns, which lets you customize those garments using various patterns and colors. So, at least initially, you get a taste of that dollhouse appeal you expect coming into the game. You gussy up your monarch, give him or her a couple of traits (fun loving, vain, and so forth) and a fatal flaw (perhaps gluttony or hubris). Then you head to your castle, where you might expect to find raucous adventures or, at least, a chance to exercise your decorating skills.