The Sims 4: Cottage Living Dragged My Sims Outside To Meet Their Neighbors
Every Saturday, the people of Henford-on-Bagley descend on the village square for the weekly fair. There are stalls of fresh flowers and local vegetables, with picnickers huddled around woven baskets from which they pick jars of canned fruit. Mushrooms grow wild in nearby brambles, while playful rabbits and foxes play in the nearby mossy groves. Henford-on-Bagley is a self-sufficient community and an idyllic pastoral paradise, which feels like it has been pulled out of the coziest of fairy tales.
The sims 4the newest expansion pack of, Villa, fully embraces the fairytale and cottagecore aesthetic that has become increasingly popular over the past year or so. Deep in the COVID-19 pandemic, cottagecore was a way for people to reclaim the reality that forced some people – but not all – to isolate our homes. Cottagecore transforms attributes of domestic life, like baking bread and canning fruit, into a welcoming aesthetic designed to cover the grim realities of the world. Cottagecore’s mainstream explosion is due, in large part, in part to TikTok and Instagram, where shareable and comfortable content can be streamed and admired with ease.
Although cottagecore became widespread last year, it has been around for some time. In the Sims 4, players have been creating and maintaining cottagecore worlds for years. Before Villa came out of, The sims 4 gamers filled their internet spaces with tutorials and content tailored for fans who wanted to create moss-draped cottages nestled deep in the woods – or, at least, to create the best approximation of that.
So it makes sense for developer Maxis to give in to the trend, to publish Villa near the peak of its popularity, to a group of gamers eager to fully embrace the aesthetic for years. The irony of cottagecore, as Vox’s Rebecca Jennings put it, is that it is an aesthetic that largely exists online, “posted and used via a smartphone from crowded apartments or guest rooms. suburbs”. The sims 4: Villa goes one step further, allowing its players to not only interact with these idyllic worlds online, but to create and live in the world – just like a Sim.
And I have good news: Villa is excellent for doing just that. The expansion pack, due out July 22, builds on the cottagecore legacy that Sims players have embraced for so long, including community-built bundles created by fan-favorite creators. The aforementioned new district, Henford-on-Bagley, has the charm of a rural English village. Larger grounds are essential for expanding the newly constructed gardens and henhouses. Villa has it all: an Instagram-worthy, Smeg-worthy fridge, iconic Dutch ovens and twee patterned fabrics. This is the cottagecore dream that I have only seen on the internet.
Except Villa takes the fantasy in a new direction. Cottagecore – at least, the version that rose to prominence during the pandemic – has often been about idealizing the idea of isolation. It made sense at a time when large numbers of people were encouraged to stay in their homes. The fantasy was about idyllic survivalism and self-reliance, something less frightening than the forced isolation brought about by the pandemic. In The sims 4, however, the aesthetics of the chalet are less about isolation and more community-centric. It is refreshing.
But Villa Added numerous ways for Sims players to create self-sufficient households – including the ability to cook only using only the items you have on hand – the expansion strongly encourages the player to search for other people in Henford – on-Bagley. There are no new jobs added with Villa; instead, players can search for tasks from predefined Sims living in town, such as the mayor, grocery delivery men, and village traders. These are ways to get to know other residents, with every little request unraveling minor details of the story that flesh out the English countryside.
It was initially surprising to see more concrete story details, no matter how small, incorporated into The Sims. Usually, I don’t look for out-of-the-box Sims; I prefer to use my own long-standing favorites or newly created families. I also tend to stick to one lot at a time, building the perfect, singular world around the perfect, singular house. The attraction of The Sims to me was what I could create rather than the stories I could tell. It is always the attraction of Villa, but it convinced me to put more emphasis on the world as a whole. The Sims of Henford-on-Bagley feel needed for the world in a way that other premades don’t have for me. They don’t just populate the world; they are an integral part of it. And so, rather than centering my own Sims in one isolated household, I find myself leading them all over the map, hunting rabbits or looking for mushrooms, participating in the vibrant world around them.
The Sims of Henford-on-Bagley Small Questlines aren’t just salvage quests with a story attached. It’s a compelling way to experience all that the expansion pack has to offer. It helped me focus on parts of the game that I wouldn’t be looking for otherwise, like taking care of any Sim except my own. These little favors, as they are called in the game, are not overkill or even complete; their discreet size is perfect for a Sims game. They’re minor enough that they can be skipped in favor of more traditional gameplay, if that’s your speed.
There is something to do in Villa if you want to focus more on building houses and families. The Simple Living Bundle Attribute is a way to get a feel for all that the Expansion Pack has to offer; you literally can’t cook without collecting your own ingredients. It could mean buying them at the farmer’s market, growing your own veg, trading animals for meat (lol), or fishing. Or it could mean ordering delivery. The kitchen looks more robust, like something you have to plan for. It gives more depth if that’s what you want, but if it doesn’t, it’s also something you can turn off. The same goes for the other new batch trait, which gives foxes carte blanche to terrorize your chickens.
There is a lot of room to do Villa the experience you want. For me that meant finding new ways to play The sims 4, to embrace built-in storytelling instead of isolating my gameplay into one batch. It is a reinvention of self-reliance as the pandemic-fueled rise in cottagecore-esque isolation, refocused on community-centric aesthetic elements.
The Sims 4: Cabin Life releases July 22 for Mac, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. The game was previewed on Windows PC using a version provided by publisher Electronic Arts. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find more information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.