It seems like just yesterday my Sims were sipping tropical drinks and dipping their digital toes in the surf of an island paradise a la the Island Living expansion, just one of an astounding 30+ expansions, add-ons, and content packs that have released for the nearly five-year-old game. Lest anyone dismiss the franchise — drawing close to twenty years old — as passe or irrelevant, EA has claimed that The Sims 4 added over five million players last year and its user base grew by more than 30%. Now we have Realm of Magic, a substantial and game-changing pack that takes the Sims to a Harry Potter-like world of spells, magics, sexy witches and an alternative reality beyond the veil of everyday life.
It all begins in the new neighborhood called Glimmerbrook, which houses portals to the unseen Magic Realm, where the would-be wizards can be schooled in four different types of magic — Practical, Mischief, Untamed and Alchemy — as well as purchase lots of cool outfits and magical and sorcery-enabling items. By reading spellbooks and completing quests and talking to wise sages, the Sims can learn spells and they can purchase magical familiars at the shop in the Realm. It’s all very, very Harry Potter without the licensing.
Of course, all that arcane magical knowledge is a blast to use back in Glimmerbrook among the Muggles er…. non-magic-using Sims, where sorcery is put to practical use manipulating and often tormenting the other residents. But beware, as too much reliance on magic and spellcasting has a deleterious health effect (and can even cause death) and other sorcerer Sims can curse your toons. Sims can carry up to three curable curses that can have effects on both everyday life and health as well as magical success. If there’s a downside to Realm of Magic,it’s that many of the spells and potions can almost serve as cheats, taking care of the Sims’ basic needs and dumbing down the game play.
Fans of The Sims have speculated that the next iteration of the franchise may use the increased graphical horsepower of the next console generation to move to a more realistic art style, but the new Realm of Magic content will be pleased with the artistic flair and colorful, creative design elements for use in home decor, as well as the new options for costumes and everyday items. Thanks to an aesthetic which almost perfectly splits the difference between cartoon simplicity and realism, The Sims 4 doesn’t look dated, five years since it was released.
Almost more than any other expansion or add-on pack, Realm of Magic changes the core gameplay and daily life routine of the Sims characters. Between using Samantha Stevens-like housekeeping magic, alchemical love potions or family pets turned into familiars, the new ways of existing in the Sims world are interesting and as always, full of potential for emergent gameplay. There is a serious amount of content and creative potential in Realm of Magic and it’s further proof that while The Sims 5 might be in some shadowy state of development, there is still ample fun to be had with The Sims 4. Fans of Harry Potter will rejoice that the Sims can now explore the nexus of magic and everyday life and longtime players now have even more stuff to keep them in the game.