The Sims 3: Generations [mac] full review
In many ways, The Sims 3: Generations is the perfect expansion pack, in that it integrates so beautifully into the existing game that you barely notice it's there. Unfortunately, this also works against Generations - unlike past expansions World Adventures, Ambitions and Late Night, it's difficult to know exactly what the expansion has improved.
The Sims 3: Generations is designed to bring a greater level of depth to typically under-explored life stages in Sims' lives - particularly childhood and adolescence. The base game is also updated with the ability to automatically capture "memories" - photographs of significant moments in Sims' lives which can be shared on TheSims3.com and/or Facebook - and the option to customise the length of individual sections of Sims' lives, rather than just their overall life expectancy. Interestingly, these new mechanics have been patched in for all The Sims 3 players, not just those who purchase Generations.
Child and Teen Sims get the biggest overhauls with the expansion installed, with children having the opportunity to embark on a quest to acquire an imaginary friend and make them real through a long and convoluted process involving relationship-building and chemistry.
Teen Sims, conversely, have to contend with the more mundane realities of learning to drive, school proms and wild, hedonistic parties while their parents are away. Both children and teens can also set up booby traps and pranks around town, too, which are enormously satisfying if you can pull them off without running afoul of the new punishment system.
Children and teens are both significantly more interesting and fun to play than they were previously, which is good - previously, Sims' lives didn't really get interesting until they reached Young Adult level.
Speaking of adults, stay-at-home grown-up Sims looking for something to do have the opportunity to enroll as a Day Care professional. Like the Professions introduced in The Sims Ambitions, this is a job where the player has to actively participate rather than sending their Sim to a "rabbit hole" building for them to dive into for the duration of their working day. The profession itself is a fun multitasking challenge - particularly taxing for those managing multiple Sims' careers at the same time.
For those who can't be bothered to raise their own offspring, children and teens can also be sent to boarding school. Choice of boarding school affects the child's development and helps to develop Traits and improve skills in a specific field.
Players who like to plan ahead can set their child Sim on the road to success by enrolling them in an appropriate institution for their future career, while those who prefer caring for the younglings themselves can still do that. This is a great addition for those who want to build a dynasty of Sims but are finding juggling three or more Sims' lives at once a challenge.
Young Adult Sims growing up into full adults run the risk of suffering a Mid-Life Crisis. In gameplay terms, this presents the player with a series of challenging Wishes which cannot be cancelled if promised to the Sim. The rewards are much larger than usual, but they may take your Sim's life and personality in a direction you hadn't considered before.
This can be good for players who feel their Sims are stuck in a rut and doing the same old things day after day - but for those who are happy with their lot, the Crisis doesn't always happen and even if it does, can be cleared up with 2,000 Simoleons worth of therapy at the hospital.
The Sims 3: Generations feels like The Sims returning to its roots in family life. Playing as a teen or child Sim in particular is much more interesting and rewarding, and the wide variety of new objects and social interactions keeps the experience fresh.
That said, if The Sims 3 base game bored you, out of all the expansion packs, this is not the one that will convince you otherwise. There's no World Adventures-style dungeon crawling and puzzle solving, for interactive professions other than Day Care you'll have to pony up for Ambitions, and Late Night arguably added more to the socialisation experience. It's not the best of The Sims 3's expansions by a long shot, and compared to the other packs seems quite expensive for what it is - but fans of the series will enjoy the deeper experience it offers.