Dragons have invaded The Sims, but you can put that sword away, you won’t be needing it

The Sims 3: Dragon Valley

FANS of The Sims 3 have already been treated to installable worlds involving pirates, foreign planets, island paradises and Mediterranean cuisine, but now the game has gone medieval (just not in the same way that The Sims: Medieval went medieval).

E.A.’s latest inhabitable offering, Dragon Valley, sounds far more epic than it actually is. For starters, I don’t think the town technically constitutes a valley, and secondly, if you’re expecting Skyrim-style dragon-slaying to take place there, then you’ve chosen the wrong game. However, if you’ve always dreamed of recreating Rivendell for your Sims, and have them carry miniature dragons around, then you might just be in luck.

At the moment, U.K. players can only buy this expansion pack by downloading it from the Sims 3 website. It took me four, exhausting hours to download it due to having problems connecting to Origin (E.A.’s download software) and needing to install a seemingly-endless number of patches and updates. There are two ways to buy the game- as part of either the Standard or the Gold Bundle. At £12.80, the Standard Bundle includes the town, items, clothing and 100 SimPoints to spend in the online store. The Gold Bundle, costing about £10 more, contains 1900 SimPoints and premium content such as the Celtic Lands collection of items and the tiny black dragon of death. Roar.

Upon seeing the town for the first time from my elevated position of Sim God I didn’t think it looked like much. It wasn’t until I zoomed in and started scrolling through the streets that I realised that it beats the plain, flat Sims 3 default, Sunset Valley, hands down. The terrain is much more varied- with tumbling hills, waterfalls, rocky coasts and mountain ranges stretching across the vast expanse of land you’re given to play with. The town’s auburn trees, crumbling ruins (Solstice party, anyone?) and the large, ancient symbols burned into the ground, possibly the work of dragons, all amass to a very Celtic feel.

The historic influence continues with mosaic-stone roads replacing the usual tarmac and the streets being lit by wooden torches. The expansion pack takes inspiration from no set era; the sports stadium has become a brightly-coloured medieval champion’s tent, although, unfortunately, jousting is not available, while the World’s Theatre looks a lot like The Globe in London. The houses have thatched roofs and Tudor-style wooden panels, but are still fairly modern and, despite its legendary influence, cars and Sims in modern clothing do not look out of place in this town.

Elven style architecture

The expansion pack doesn’t exactly contain a dragon’s haul of new items. Many of them feature delicate woodwork, carved stone and intricate patterns worthy of an Elven palace. The collection’s highlights include the Bonded tapestry, a shining gold wall hanging depicting a dragon that wouldn’t look out of place in a Saxon castle, and to commemorate the dragon fighting that you absolutely cannot do in the game, the quite terrifying Dragon Slayer Heroine Statue. As for the new outfits, these are the real fantasy adventure costumes. You can now dress your Sims as Elven nobility in gold-woven armour or as a peasant from yonder village in simple linen shirts and dresses.

The items included in Dragon Valley are great, if they are not considered alongside what is severely lacking. Some areas have been missed out completely– there are no beds or sofas if you wanted to carry the historical theme throughout a whole house. You might get the impression from promotional images that you can create your own world from the time of myth, but doing so in this game would cause great difficulty due to lack of old-fashioned cooking equipment. Instead, just imagine going on a shopping spree in Middle Earth and bringing your purchases back to the modern world; it works strangely well. If you want a more authentic experience, I’d recommend the Sims: Medieval, although it’s a quest-based, instead of free-play, Sims game.

If you opt for the Gold Bundle, then the Duke of Bows Renaissance Fayre is available to buy with your 1900 SimPoints. The most annoying thing about the expansion pack is that this public lot is included as standard, and as the central hang-out point of the whole town, it really should be. The miniature castle looks like the sort of plastic, medieval-style food court you might get a theme park, complete with barbecues and a play area. Included are some of the best items in the expansion pack-  colourful tournament banners, archery target practice and, finally, a musical instrument that ISN’T a guitar- the Fit as a Fiddle Violin. For this, you’re expected to pay ten extra pounds, and it’s irritating when you consider that more could have been put in the standard package to make it worth the money.

Duke of Bows Renaissance Fayre

The focus of the world is, of course, the dragons. The story is that once upon a time, Dragon Valley kept getting torched by huge, fire-breathing  monsters, but now, that’s all sorted, and Sims keep tiny dragons as pets thanks to some shrinking technology. Your Sims can be proud parents as they watch an egg hatch into either a red, green or purple dragon, each colour having its own characteristics. The red dragon improves a Sim’s athletic skill, shoots fire at enemies and has the really useful ability of allowing a Sim to go longer without bathing or sleeping. The purple dragon improves charisma and livens up lagging parties, whereas the green dragon helps with the gardening skill, harvests plants and gathers treasure.

You can feed the dragons, play with them and fly them around your garden, but ultimately the interactions are fairly superficial. Aside from wandering around and falling asleep, they lack autonomy (although, I think one of mine flew away). It would be great if they could at least cause a bit of trouble with those dragon powers. I would have also liked to have seen some new objects that dragons can interact with, and perhaps some associated skills for Sims to learn- a “dragon trainer” skill, perhaps? Sims also have a habit of putting the dragons in their inventory when they’ve finished playing with them, which is really annoying if you want another Sim to have a go. The dragons are a nice touch, but more could have been done with them.

Dragon Valley provides the perfect setting for mystical happenings, just without – tiny dragons aside – the mystical happenings. It’s a perfect companion to the Supernatural expansion pack in that respect, but I wonder how it would hold up without it. To be fair, it doesn’t claim to be a fully-fledged expansion pack, but I’m not sure that it has enough to make it worth the money. As underwhelming as it was at first, I have since attempted to download the Gold Package extras, so it must have done something right. But then, that’s the Sims for you- it’s endlessly addictive, and because of that I find myself constantly wanting to update my game. However, this is costly, and with The Sims 4 scheduled for release next year I feel like EA are picking fans up by the ankles and shaking them until all their simoleons fall out- and I just can’t keep up.

Dragon Valley seems like a bit of rip-off, but it’s a rip-off that looks fantastic- and reigniting my interest in a highly time-consuming game can only be a good thing, right?