The Sims 4: First Impressions

The Sims 4 was released worldwide last week and when it came out here in Ireland on Friday; I picked up my copy first thing in the morning! I’ve been playing it over the weekend and decided to do a post based on my first impressions of this much anticipated game.

First thing’s first, a quick word relating to system requirements. I sensed from the start that something wasn’t right when this took over an hour to install. When I finally got to game-play mode, I was pretty disappointed — the graphics were poor, the music was off, the load screens were taking up to five minutes each…and then the whole game crashed.

My boyfriend L had a look at it and confirmed my suspicions — my poor laptop just couldn’t handle the game. Fortunately L knew how much I wanted to play this game and so he let me install it on his Alienware laptop. The difference is unreal — I can now play the game the way it’s meant to be played without constant lags and lengthy loading screens.

So to anyone who’s thinking about buying this game, triple check that your system meets the requirements! I honestly thought my laptop would be fine because it’s only a year old, has a decent enough memory and The Sims 3 worked relatively well on it (shows how much I know about these things!). Moving on anyway…

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To start with; the load screens are back. They come up every time you travel to a different lot —even to your next door neighbour’s. Like I said, these load screens were taking forever on my laptop. Then when I started playing it on L’s Alienware; they weren’t such a problem anymore. Ten to twenty seconds should be your average wait time. I loved the open world of The Sims 3 so, needless to say, I’m not a big fan of this change (no matter how quickly the screens load). I really miss being able to divide up the household and send them all in different directions. Instead what’s happening now is that if you want a Sim to go to the park, you have to go with them and stay there too. Any other Sims in the household can either come with or stay behind where they’re out of your control.

Speaking of travel, there are two worlds and five neighbourhoods within each world with Sims being able to move between both worlds and all of the neighbourhoods. At first glance, both worlds look shockingly small….and to be honest, that’s because they are. There’s a museum, library, club, gym and park in each world. There are also maybe a dozen residential lots, some of which are occupied. Personally I would have preferred if they had just created one world with better neighbourhoods. Unlike in TS3, you can’t see your Sims’ workplace or school. There are no cars or buses so when it comes to work or school time, your Sims just walk out their front door and disappear. If you want your Sim to meet other Sims, your best bet is to go to a community lot. So far my Sims haven’t made any friends through work or school but they’ve met a bunch of people just by sitting at the bar or taking a walk through the park.

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As for the Sims themselves…there are some characters in there, for sure! They really are smarter and more complex. Every one of them will surprise you with their little expressions and habits and reactions. They’re constantly influenced by their emotions so what they do will depend on whether they’re sad, happy, tense, playful, uncomfortable, inspired…

I still miss toddlers but not as much as I thought I would. The babies look cute (except for when there was a “demon baby” bug which has fortunately since been fixed!) and the children are adorable. I’ve only had one teen Sim so far and all I can say right now, is that it’s pretty hard to tell them apart from adults looks-wise.

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^ demon baby! ^

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As a family-oriented player, I’m not too happy about the fact that there are no family trees. It makes it virtually impossible to keep track of the Sims’ relations. For example, the first Sims I created had four children. When their eldest became a young adult, I moved her out and focused on her new household. However, when she returned to visit her family home a week later, I found out that her parents had died in the meantime…! There was no notification so she obviously had no reaction which meant it was like they had never existed — pretty annoying, I have to say.

It also seems that the whole story progression thing has been done away it. I switched back to my Sim’s family home to see what her siblings were up to and they were literally just sitting around the house, doing nothing. They didn’t have a career or a partner between them. For me, open worlds and story progression were the best things about TS3. It would mean the Sims’ world was constantly changing which made the game feel much more realistic and interesting.

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All in all (despite my complaints!), I’m actually about 75% happy with The Sims 4 so far. There are a lot of things that I’m missing but there is also a lot of new stuff that I like. The new Create-a-Sim is both straightforward and detailed and comes with gorgeous new clothes. The combined build/buy mode makes it easier than ever to create your perfect home. Emotions and new interactions make for more interesting personalities. I also love that Sims can multi-task — it seems like such a small thing but it makes such a difference!

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A number of players have pointed out that The Sims 4 is only a base game so we can surely expect it to develop in time to come. The big changes will most likely come in the form of expansion packs but I’m hoping that EA will have the decency to patch in at least a few cool updates. Also do bear in mind that I’ve only been playing the game for a few days so there are still many new features that I want to talk/discover more about. This is simply a little introduction to a big new game! Be sure to check in here later this week when I will be posting a more in-depth review!

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Confessions of a Learner Driver

It goes without saying that lessons don’t end when we graduate. Everyone may go in different directions but there’s still so much to learn after school. It’s (usually) up to you what new skills you gain. Right now? I’m learning how to drive!

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Here in Ireland, we can start learning how to drive at the age of seventeen. I enthusiastically did my theory test almost as soon as I was allowed and got (what was then known as) a Provisional Licence. Later I did maybe six months of nerve-wracking and half-hearted practice before going off to college.  While I was living the student life; the crazy cost of insurance and being away from my hometown meant putting driving on the back burner. I’ve since graduated and when I turned twenty-five earlier this year, I decided it was time to finally get back behind the wheel!

I saved up all my pennies (well, a bit more that that); sorted out (what is now called) a Learner Permit (I still refer to it as a Provisional); and during the summer, I got insured on my father’s car (thanks dad!).

I spent the first eight to ten weeks just practicing all the basics. We found the quietest little road and I would just drive up and down, up and down, up and down…! Even though I’d already had a dozen lessons with a professional instructor, I’d pretty much forgotten all that (college must have shoved those details right out of my head!) so everything felt new again.

I’ll admit it took me a little while to get used to clutch control, changing gears, checking mirrors and all the rest. It can be a bit frustrating especially as it looks so effortless when someone else is doing it! In reality, it takes (at least with me anyway) serious concentration and practice to grasp each step and put them all together.

Some time last month, when he was totally sure that I had put in enough practice (and knew how to brake!), dad decided I was ready to go out on a “proper” road. We’ve now moved on to somewhere bigger and busier complete with roundabouts (ooh!) and that’s where I am now. I’ll probably spend another couple of weeks there before moving to the next stage (built-up areas…but I don’t want to think about that yet!).

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As a learner, I can say with confidence than when you first start out, driving can be absolutely terrifying. It can be stressful and even overwhelming. I’ve already had a few drivers cut me off, dangerously overtake and even beep at me (I’m assuming this is a coincidence but in all cases, these were female drivers — what the hell, ladies?!)

However, as an optimist, I can also say that I know it’ll get better. It’s just about gaining enough confidence and experience on the road and in different situations (right?!). I can’t wait for the day when I have my full licence and a car of my own. It’ll feel like such an achievement and will definitely be worth all the effort… (ROAD TRIPS!)

Let’s Do Lunch

Like day trips and least favourite teachers; lunchtime tends to play a big part in our memories of school-time. From playing tag all throughout primary school to sitting on the tables and gossiping in secondary school; this precious free time was often the highlight of the school-day! We didn’t have on-site canteens serving food in our schools so it was up to ourselves (and our mums) to ensure we actually ate during the day.

In primary school, it was always a packed lunch usually consisting of sandwiches with the crusts cut off and a bar of chocolate. I was obsessed with Penguin bars in sixth class and had one every single day (but very few since then, surprisingly enough).  I also vaguely remember little cartons of “bainne” (milk) being delivered to the classroom every day. There was a choice of plain or strawberry-flavoured and I opted for the pink cartons every time (of course).

Secondary school was a different story altogether. Being older and (that little bit) more mature meant we weren’t confined to the school-yard. To be honest though, I hardly ever ventured any further than the shop across the road for a chicken fillet roll and my chocolate fix (I was an unusually well-behaved teenager!).

I’d love to hear about your memories of lunchtime at school. I also want to share some fun bits I found that would be perfect if you’re still in need of/wanting a packed lunch of your own! Have a browse and be sure to leave a comment below :-).

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Topshop Sushi Bento Lunchbox

Topshop Giraffe Straws

Not on the High Street Paisley Rose Lunchbox

New Look Sundae Print Cup

River Island Yellow Lunchbox

New Look Floral Print Sip Cup

Not on the High Street Insulated Lunch Tote

River Island Novelty Water Cannister

Not on the High Street Brown Paper Bag

A Sign of September

If you didn’t know, you could easily guess what month it is just by looking around you. It has become noticeably quieter during the day, the supermarkets are showcasing endless lunchtime options, the kids are suddenly all wearing identical clothes…yup, it’s September again!

This time of year often makes me a bit nostalgic for my school days. There was always a buzz coming in to a new term and even though it meant the return of uniforms and homework, there were some perks too. Going back to school meant catching up with friends, being in a higher (and therefore superior) year and the opportunity to splurge on shiny new stationery.  I loved stocking up on glossy markers, fancy folders, clean new copies and carefully selected pencil cases ( it was especially important to have a cool pencil case).

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With perfect timing, I was recently given the opportunity to pick up some stationery from Viking Direct. I had so much fun browsing the site and it took me forever to settle on what to choose! In the end, I went with three pretty and practical items.

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 Pink & Black Casebound Hardback Notebook:

This A4-sized notebook would be well suited to anyone who needs it for long-term use. I remember writing in basic refill pads throughout college and often by the end of the year, the pages were coming loose (bit of a nightmare when it came to revision time!).  This is sturdy, durable and margin ruled with a handy marker ribbon within. It also has the most beautiful floral design on its cover. Another bonus is that 20% of proceeds will go to the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity.

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Sheaffer Ballpoint Pen:

Available in red, silver, black and blue; I went with the colour that is befitting my blog! Sleek and elegant, it writes smoothly and is rounded to fit easily in your hand.  These pens come in presentation boxes making them a lovely affordable gift for stationery fans and students alike.

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CEP Pro Happy Magazine File:

Some storage solutions can be pretty dull so I was immediately attracted to the fun colour and curved design of this magazine file. Translucent pink, matte in parts and glossy elsewhere; this will fit in nicely on any desk. I’m an avid magazine reader and I have a ton of back issues around the house so it’s good to have a home for (at least some of!) them. Organization has never looked so good!

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Please note: As stated above, these items were sent to me for consideration. As always, all opinions are my own and 100% honest. These items, and others like them, can be viewed here.

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

I’ve decided to run a back-to-school theme all this week on my blog and what better way to kick this off than with a little lesson? ;-)

When I was studying French, we were taught about many little French customs including le goûter. Essentially le goûter is the time when kids have an afternoon snack after coming in from school. The idea is that they sit down together and enjoy a little treat that will keep them happy until dinnertime (which, in France, often isn’t served ’til at least 7pm!).

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I love the idea of this ritual and I think chocolate chip shortbread cookies would be a pretty good option for le goûter. Freshly baked and served warm (or even at room temperature), these would be irresistible to school-kids and grown-ups alike.

I used this recipe and made these today. I’ll admit that I did accidentally leave them in the oven a few minutes too long so they’re a bit more crisp and golden than they should be. Trust me though, they still taste delicious! They’re rich and buttery, a perfect accompaniment to hot drinks and if they’re not all eaten for le goûter, they can be slipped in to lunch-boxes the next day for an extra special treat!

shortbread-cookies

So Long, Summer

I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this summer passed by so quickly. As I mentioned before, being sick and on the hunt for a new job meant that — for me — this season wasn’t quite as exciting as it could have been! While we didn’t get to do everything we wanted to, we’ve certainly been making up for that recently — in fact, I think we probably packed more in to this last week than the last few months! Some time at the beach, a few days at my boyfriend’s family home, a picnic in the park and lots of ice-cream in between meant we got a burst of summer practically in one go (better late than never!).

As tomorrow is the start of a new month and a new season; I’m looking forward to a fresh start. Bring on the crisp days, changing leaves, fall fashion and comfort food. ‘Til next year, summer…

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Newtown Cove

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When we were in Tramore over the weekend, we spent some time in Newtown Cove. If you’re down in that direction, this is a place that you have to visit. If you ever wanted to see just how gorgeous Ireland’s coastline and natural scenery is; this is a pretty good example.

The Cove is incredibly scenic with its high cliffs, rugged features and sparkling water. It’s a perfect spot for swimming, fishing and picnics — or just for a wander around! Even though we were there on a Saturday afternoon, it was still so calm and peaceful. Our visit to this place was a definite highlight of the weekend and I really want to return and spend an entire day there — can we go back to the start of summer?!

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