My ideal Sims family does not typically include children – largely because they’ve felt inessential since The Sims 4 launched. While that’s slowly changed, with expansion packs like Parenthood and High School Years adding in new activities and motivations for kids of all ages, the game’s latest pack, Growing Together, is the first to really elevate young Sims, and give them a renewed purpose. It makes raising a family feel more coherent than ever, and provides genuine reason for lovingly raising and rearing Sims to adulthood.
In Growing Together, you’ll find a range of new features that enhance everyday, family-oriented Sims gameplay. It introduces a family-friendly neighbourhood with a giant water park, library, recreation centre, and gardens to explore. It also adds in two game-changing features that work together to provide your Sim family with renewed personality: Dynamics and Milestones.
Dynamics majorly complicate The Sims 4
Dynamics determine individual relationships between Sims, and can either be set in Create-A-Sim Mode, or allowed to flourish during gameplay. Dynamics can change at any time, in response to certain conversations and stimuli, and these shifts give a deeper insight into home living in the Sims, and the deep emotional turmoil your household may face.
In my time with Growing Together, I established a three-person household: a mother, father, and a teenage daughter. At first, the daughter had a ‘Jokester’ Dynamic with her mother, and a ‘Difficult’ Dynamic with her father. When the couple had another child, it completely changed the inner workings of the household.
The teenager daughter began feeling neglected, as the parents spent more time with the baby. Eventually, this led to feelings of anger and sadness, and a pop-up window suggested her relationship with her mother had grown Difficult.
Soon after, the teenage daughter also developed a Difficult relationship with her younger sibling, due to jealousy, and the lack of attention. Her moods plummeted, and her school work began to reflect a loss of effort. Her dialogue options became limited to ‘Mean’ interactions, and she even gained the ability to ‘Crush the Dreams’ of her infant sibling. Eventually, the situation became so dire, I had to move the daughter out of home, as she was frequently very sad, angry, or embarrassed at being related to her family.
When she moved out, my other Sims gained ‘Inspired’ and ‘Confident’ moodlets from being in a coherent, close-knit household where they felt loved and support.
While this complicated my plans to foster a big, loving Sim family, it added an extra wrinkle to gameplay. If you’re somebody who picks favourites, your time in The Sims 4 is about to get more difficult. If you pick favourites, so will your Sims – and new moodlets will reflect that lack of care. You’ll need to balance everyone’s needs for a happy household, and this grows more complicated when children enter the picture.
That said, the new Milestones feature does somewhat balance out the pain caused by ever-changing family Dynamics.
Milestones provide goalposts and balance
The new Milestones feature introduced in The Sims 4: Growing Together functions similarly to the base game ‘Memories’ feature included in The Sims 2 and The Sims 3. Essentially, the feature gives you a badge for every major twist and turn in your Sims’ life – from joining school for the first time, to making a best friend, to meeting a partner, to WooHooing, and having a baby. For every achievement, you are rewarded, with the Milestone tracker painting a rich picture of each Sim life.
For those who feel The Sims 4 lacks a personal, story-based touch, this system is a neat twist that provides reason, logic, and simple storytelling for your everyday Sim adventures. It also provides a roadmap for raising children, enhancing their stories and development along the way.
Launching alongside Growing Together is a new base game ‘infants’ update that adds in an additional life stage for kids. While they are still born as bassinet-bound babies, they quickly advance to a middle stage where players can teach them the essential basics of being a child – crawling, tasting new food, learning to sit up, learning to grab, and so on.
While the base game only offers simple infant gameplay, Growing Together goes several steps further with new unlockable milestones and set goalposts for child rearing. Milestones define your relationships with infant Sims, and provide a roadmap for learning. You can chart when your infant begins to talk, and walk, and learn, with each achievement allowing them a smoother path to the next life stage.
If you manage to successfully raise your child well, they’ll even get an exclusive new trait that will allow them to learn faster, and have better success in life. This is partially why Growing Together feels so important.
With every Milestone achievement earned, you’re rewarded with new life skills and abilities. It puts the future of your Child Sims directly in your hands – and yes, that means added pressure and expectation on top of working tough hours and keeping a household running. But the end result is worth the satisfaction, as you see your infant grow and change, shaped by your own hands.
Growing Together also spices up family life in other ways, by providing new interactions, toys, and locales to journey through together. Adult Sims can construct a new treehouse, which functions as a cubbyhole for Child Sims to play within – using their newfound imagination to craft stories and adventures for themselves. New water park items also let you construct your own home theme park, where kids can splash around. There’s even a bike they can learn to ride, interactive action figures that teach life skills, and plenty of opportunities to forge new Milestones as a family unit.
Engaging deeply with everything Growing Together has to offer brings a more personal connection with your Sims family and their struggles. Individual personality has always played a part in family dynamics, but by implementing a system where you can track changes and monitor how moods impact personal development, Growing Together introduces more intimate aspects that make everyday gameplay feel more involved.
You want to spend more time with your younger Sims, to ensure they have better life prospects and earn the skills they need for a happy, healthy life. You want to provide a loving home for Teen Sims, foster positive emotions, and ensure they get all the attention they desire. Equally, you want your Adult Sims to feel fulfilled, so they can grasp missing Milestones and achieve happiness before the Elder life stage comes calling.
In Growing Together, every Sim feels important. You’ll constantly be thinking about how your actions may impact the life of your child, but arguably, this is a more realistic interpretation of child rearing. Stressful, yes, but a much needed upgraded for a game that has often deprioritised family life.
While this expansion pack does present a whole new array of challenges – from diaper blowouts to random morning temper tantrums – it adds a much-needed sense of wholesomeness and realism to The Sims 4. It enhances the quirks of Sim relationships, provides goalposts for every Sim to strive towards, and provides a narrative-less game with a real sense of shape. With plenty of new achievements to nab and activities to enjoy, Growing Together breathes new life and vigour into The Sims 4.
4 Stars: ★★★★
The Sims 4: Growing Together Expansion Pack
Platforms: PC, Mac, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: 16 March 2023
A copy of The Sims 4: Growing Together was provided and played for the purposes of this review. The early access version provided was not final, and is subject to change.