The Sims 4 Growing Together review: Breathes new life into the game
Growing Together takes a slightly different approach to most Sims 4 expansions.
Most big expansions tend to focus on adding new experiences through content that can be treated as complementary to the base game. Then there's Seasons, an outlier that's also considered by many to be as close to an essential pack as you can get.
Seasons used weather and seasonal events to craft a stronger sense of time progression, but even more impressive was the way the concepts were integrated into and enhanced the core gameplay, to the point where it's now difficult to imagine ever playing without the expansion.
Growing Together tries to replicate this success. It's an expansion that's meant to be a permanent fixture of your game once installed, aiming to reinvigorate family gameplay with more dynamic relationships and interactions among your Sims.
Related: The Sims 4 Growing Together expansion is 27% off in launch deal
Two of the big features are family dynamic and social compatibility, though the impact of them isn't immediately obvious and it may take hours of gameplay to fully appreciate what they bring to the table.
The former allows the relationship dynamic between two family members to be set, and this organically affects their interactions. Two siblings have more positive autonomous interactions with each other if they have a 'Close' dynamic compared to having a 'Difficult' one, while a parent and child with a 'Strict' dynamic sees the parent being more demanding compared to if they had a 'Permissive' or 'Supportive' dynamic.
Meanwhile, social compatibility determines how much two Sims naturally get along and whether they are more likely to become fast friends or clash.
These two features combine to make relationships with other people more varied and distinct, and given that social interactions are such a huge part of the core experience as far as family gameplay is concerned, the added personality that shines through can really be felt.
Then there's the milestones system, which marks significant moments in a Sim's life from learning to babble as an infant to falling in love as an adult. Milestones occasionally unlock new interactions, but also play out like memories over a Sim's lifetime that can be satisfying to reflect on, helping to emphasise and give meaning to life events.
Combined, the additions are a big win for storytelling. There's no doubt that the expansion offers more tools when it comes to creating narratives, and we wouldn't want to play without Growing Together's central mechanics going forwards.
However, there will be debate on whether certain content is justified being sold in a new paid expansion. There is no single answer that everyone will agree with, but a couple of the features in Growing Together, despite being technically new, can feel like they're additional layers on top of existing base mechanics.
For us, the most obvious example of this is the social compatibility feature. The compatibility strength between two Sims is based on the Sims' Likes and Dislikes, a feature that was added for free in 2021.
Likes and Dislikes by themselves add a bit more flavour for Sims, but the way social compatibility harnesses them to influence interactions between two Sims gives that system far greater significance – and you're essentially paying to unlock the base feature's full potential (although the extent it has been expanded is fairly considerable).
Related: The Sims 4 team discuss how community requests influenced Growing Together
The other big feature to discuss is the infants life stage, which was added to the base game for free at around the same time as Growing Together's launch.
Infants are a great addition. They're cute, provide more depth to both parenting and the younger years of a Sim's lifetime, and surprisingly provide some challenge. Things can get busy for parent Sims, trying to juggle raising an infant with everything else going on in life like their career and fulfilling their own needs. In some ways, it replicates real life, which is a nice touch.
However, it is worth pointing out that Growing Together is required to get the most out of infants, with many of the locked features expanding on how infants feel and play.
Aside from milestones and family dynamic, both of which work really well with infants, the expansion adds personality to infants through nearly 20 discoverable infant quirks that affect an infant's behaviour (some of these include 'early rise', 'good appetite', and 'loves being held').
But some exclusive items, such as baby-changing tables for dealing with dirty diapers and back carriers, probably should have been part of the base game.
The pack includes plenty of other stuff for Sims to do, although most of it isn't as interesting as the headline features.
Sims are able to build a treehouse together, which can be decorated and upgraded afterwards. Learning to ride a bike and midlife crises are among some of the newer life events for Sims to experience over their lifetime, and there are activities aimed at older Sims, including at the new rec centre venue.
Elsewhere, baby showers, slumber parties, and family reunions are available as new social events, although they play similarly to other social events (with the same jank).
The world of San Sequoia is perhaps the most underwhelming part of the expansion. Based on San Francisco, San Sequoia is not only another American-inspired locale but also lacks the personality and individuality that the best worlds usually boast.
While San Sequoia is a letdown, you don't need to enjoy the world to engage with the strengths of Growing Together. The expansion is a big deal for Simmers who specifically lean towards family gameplay, with the nuances and twists introduced by the new systems breathing new life into the base game experience.
It's not quite as game-changing as Seasons was, and the new features won't have as much of a pronounced impact if family gameplay isn't your thing.
But Growing Together addresses some of the past criticisms with the game. The Sims 4 has worked hard over the last few years to give players more options than ever to customise their Sims, and this pack is a continuation of that direction – with its focus on evolving large parts of the gameplay a refreshing attempt at making a Sim's lifetime more colourful and rounded.
Platform reviewed on: PC
The Sims 4: Growing Together is out now on PC, Mac, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
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