The Sims 4 Cottage Living review – A rose-tinted trip to the British countryside
The Sims 4 Cottage Living expansion pack whisks Simmers away to the idyllic world of Henford-on-Bagley. Chock full of new features such as canning, picnics, cross-stitching, intense lot challenges, farming, and errands to run, there’s lots to do as you explore the Cotswolds-inspired location.
The Sims 4 Cottage Living heavily leans into romanticism, bringing with it whimsical, highly requested features and even returning ones into Create a Sim, Build/Buy, and Live Mode.
Of course, the main focus of Cottage Living is farming – something that, until now, has never made a featured appearance in any of the game‘s packs so far.
While the new features give Simmers something new to sink their teeth into for some time, they also reveal a lot of stark gaps in the overall gameplay.
The Sims 4 Cottage Living key details
- Price: $39.99 / £34.99
- Developer: Maxis
- Release Date: July 22, 2021
- Platforms: PC, Mac, PlayStation, Xbox
The Sims 4 Cottage Living trailer
Lighthearted, feel-good farming gameplay
The long-awaited farming feature in Cottage Living has been perfectly executed by the developers. Adding a Stardew Valley-like element to the game, it’s kept fresh and interesting with just the right amount of whimsy.
While players can tend the typical cows and chickens, things are shaken up by being able to own Llamas and even evil chickens that can potentially harm both your Sims and any unwanted visitors! Wild animals such as foxes, rabbits, and birds make an appearance to be befriended (and even sung to, Disney Princess style!) that help to make Henford-on-Bagley feel rural and, most importantly, alive.
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As you tend to your animals, you’ll build relationships with them through different social interactions. You can feed them different treats that you can either craft or purchase from the new Grocer stalls from Finchwick, resulting in unique and special types of produce to use or sell. Give chickens a gold treat and they’ll turn into a Golden chicken (and are more likely to lay golden eggs!), or feed your cows a veggie treat and they’ll produce plant-based milk.
It’s not just all fun and games, though. Two lot challenges were added with Cottage Living: ‘Simple Living’ and ‘Wild Foxes’. Taking farming one step further, these add an extra level of depth to the gameplay loop. ‘Simple Living’ forces you to venture out into the world to grow new vegetables like pumpkins, or purchase and forage for your food – as you’re restricted to only being able to cook recipes that you have the ingredients for in your inventory.
‘Wild Foxes’ increases the chance of the critter spawning on your lot, and if you’ve got livestock or other wild animals around, you’ll need to micromanage and figure out the best way to keep them at bay. If you’ve got the room for an extra stable or two, a Llama makes for a spitting deterrent (literally).
Canning brings in many different preserves that can be eaten, used in cooking, or sold – from conserves to custards and even meat substitutes. Meals that are synonymous with the UK have even been added to the game, so whether your Sims fancy a crumpet with a spot of blueberry jam, or a tasty Yorkshire Pudding, there’s tasty cuisine for everyone to tuck into.
The new Aspiration, ‘Country Caretaker’, goes hand in hand with the new ‘Animal Enthusiast’ trait and farming features, as Sims with these will seek out to befriend all manner of animals within the game and have an easier time doing so. While these work well together, ‘Lactose Intolerant’ is the second trait added, and although it does add some realism and funny moments to the game, it feels strange to include it within the traits section itself. It takes a slot away from other traits that add much more overall personality to a Sim, and I found myself switching it out for a different trait to do just that.
Henford-on-Bagley is a living world that still feels pared back
It has to be said: Henford-on-Bagley is arguably one of the most breathtaking worlds in The Sims 4 thus far. The new world transports you right into the likes of a Jane Austen or Agatha Christie novel – with beautiful thatched cottages, vast open countryside, and fantastical landmarks that pepper the likes of each of the three neighborhoods.
Living in Finchwick actually feels like you’re in an open world. There, Sims can interact with some of the buildings with a new ‘window shop’ interaction, and one of the shops even allows you to change your clothes. Yes, these features are small, but they’re a welcome addition to fleshing out the world as a whole.
The Finchwick Fair builds upon the Festivals feature added back in City Living, further making it one of the best places to live. Whenever these fairs pop up, you can enter events like llama and pie competitions that are judged by the village’s Mayor. There, you can mingle with other Sims, purchase special items, and even take home ribbons to showcase your victory (or lack thereof)!
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One of the standout features of this new world is without a doubt its residents. While Cottage Living brings back the legendary Agnes Crumplebottom (and her cousin, Agatha!) complete with her now-iconic handbag, each resident feels integral to the world in a way that ultimately has been missing since The Sims 2. A board located in the town lets you learn about each of them, and whether it’s through the stalls and pubs that they own in town or the backstories that have been crafted for them, it’s incredibly refreshing to see.
Each of these residents has a new interaction, too: Errands. Similar to the Odd Jobs feature added back in Island Living, you can take up small tasks that might see you talking to Gnomes for gossip or figuring out who’s single in town so for Agnes, and you’ll, in turn, be rewarded. As you take on these tasks, you’ll naturally explore the world as your forage for items and complete these tasks.
The Creature Keeper is one of the most interesting NPC additions to the expansion. Living in a special type of cottage that long-term fans will know as a Rabbithole – a special type of lot that can’t be entered but can be interacted with from the outside. If you can spot them roaming around, you’ll also be able to trade items with them to gain quirky clothes to dress up your animals in.
Despite this, the world can, at times, feel restrained. Vast swathes of it are mostly there purely as set-dressing, and decorative vehicles continue to tease Simmers about how we still don’t have cars to drive – two are even frustratingly parked right outside of a home lot!
Henford-on-Bagley’s game map also has a lot of unused, dead space, and ships with an underwhelming total of 12 lots – exactly the same number that came with the much cheaper Strangerville Game Pack. Though this has unfortunately been a recurring theme in The Sims 4 for some time now, 2015’s Windenburg world from Get Together came with 27, proving that worlds with more lots can be done.
Half-baked CAS and Build/Buy catalog holds Cottage Living back
The new CAS items available in Cottage Living are bang on trend, fully leaning into the Cottagecore aesthetic. With thick knitted jackets, wellington boots, sweaters, and a beautiful array of hairstyles and accessories, The Sims team has truly created some wonderful pieces to use.
However, there is a clear bias towards feminine fashion here, and masculine-framed Sims are left in the dust with much less to choose from overall – with ten feminine hairstyles (some with their own variations), and only three masculine ones.
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Cottage Living’s overall catalog for Build/Buy is incredibly lackluster in comparison to what we’ve seen in other expansions, too. Objects like the ‘Legacy Tea Set’ and the ‘Who Knew? Phone Booth’ are both synonymous with UK culture, yet are bizarrely purely decorative.
Being able to call from the phone booth, or perhaps repurposing them into small libraries would have been great, and being able to serve and pour tea would add more meat to the limited catalog.
The Sims 4 Cottage Living is a step in the right direction for The Sims team and shows that they’re listening to what the community wants. With a beautiful world, deep story, returning, and highly requested features, the overall experience of Cottage Living is incredibly positive.
However, after taking off the rose-tinted glasses and taking a step back, it highlights significant gaps in the overall gameplay loop that need to be expanded upon to truly create something that will give its players more to keep coming back to in The Sims.