I grew up in the countryside and thus Cottagecore has always faintly amused me as a concept. My experience was more ThereIsAlwaysASpiderInTheBathcore. You may imagine that you spend your days picking letterbox-red strawberries from your garden, under the heady scent of roses, but in actual fact if you do not get to the strawberries within about 30 seconds of them ripening then they will be eaten by slugs. But I don't want to destroy anyone's dream, and if real-life cottage fantasy doesn't work out then there's always The Sims 4: Cottage Living.
This latest expansion to EA's (already monstrously expanded) life sim allows you to live out the ultimate Cottagecore fantasy. Compliant hens, a Llama to joke with, the ability to commune with wild foxes and birds, and loads of cute wooden furniture. It's probably my favourite expansion in recent memory, maybe because Maxis appear to have embarked on a tactic of taking note of the most popular community mods and then making them. They should have just done that years ago. We'd have had official bunkbeds for ages.
I'm a bit late to the party with this review, partly because I never know how much of a Sims expansion I should play before I've really experienced it. I haven't received every colour of egg possible from my hens. It's also partly because I spent ages making my Sim into a kind of modern Snow White character, like the one with a pixie haircut in that TV show. I went through all the new clothes and haircuts and picked all the yellow top/blue bottom options I could reasonably fit together. She turned out pretty good.
"Cottage Living has the old-school silliness and potential for petty cruelty that's a hallmark of The Sims."
I chose this theme because one of the big additions in Cottage Living is animals - both controlled animal husbandry, and chatting with wild rabbits and birds. Befriending wild animals is good because then you can, for example, get the wild birds to help with your garden, or ask the foxes not to steal everything they find. The domesticated animals have more obvious utility: your hens produce eggs, your llama makes wool, and your cow makes milk (and the homes for each of them take up a substantial amount of lot real estate, especially the barn).
But combined with the new Simple Living lot trait, where you need to physically have food ingredients to cook with them, it means you've got actual incentive to grow and produce stuff in your home. Snow has a largely egg-based diet, but sustaining life as a smallholder is very possible once you get going. It is also, importantly, fun.
Cottage Living has some of the old-school silliness, combined with the potential for petty cruelty, that is a hallmark of The Sims. You can make your hens lay pink eggs or your cow produce pumpkin spice milk. You can put a dress on a rabbit. With the new Animal Enthusiast trait, you can play guitar to your llama. And the other new trait is Lactose Intolerant. These Sims will feel great if they avoid dairy for a while, but feel sick and bloated if they eat anything with dairy ingredients. It's not quite as funny as making a digusting little trash goblin, but creating a LI Sim and then making them eat cheese has big "removing the ladder from the pool" energy.
These additions make a big change to how you can live your life in The Sims, and I love it. Build Mode also has a bit of almost everything added, and even the pre-built rooms are pretty cute. I especially enjoyed the new kitchen cabinets, which are very "I have booked a country cottage on Airbnb", and includes one of those massive white block kitchen sinks. There's also a bunch of nice clutter, indoor and outdoor. I mainly play The Sims to build these days, and I was really happy with what I got. Combined with the Tiny Living Stuff Pack and you can really make an ideal, miniature little cottage.
I'm less in on the new Create A Sim clothes and looks - some are cute, but others feel a bit twinset and pearls for my taste, and a bunch feel along the same knitwear lines as what we got in Tiny Living - though they do have some really different swatches to play with (as does the new Build Mode stuff). Likewise the new world. I'm sure Henford-on-Bagley, with its forest neighborhood, farming area, and quaint village, is really cute if you live outside of the UK, but I just can't shake the feeling that everyone who lives there definitely voted for Brexit. In fairness, this may mean that it just accurately reminds me of my home town.
But those are mainly niggles about an expansion that I really enjoyed. New content like this, as well as the December update that added new and better options for skin tones, makes it feel like the devs are paying more attention to the needs of the community. Compared with the Star Wars tie-in, it's a real breath of fresh air, and so many of the wallpaper and floor swatches, the new landscaping options - just a lot of this in general - put me in mind of some of my favourite mods.
For me, The Sims was always supposed to be a kind of corny ideal life, rather than a simulation of reality, and a Cottagecore expansion is such a good theme to do that with. In real life, getting up every day to collect eggs and clean out your hen house is a pain in the ass, and you can't make friends with birds without serious effort. But this lifestyle is realised in sunny technicolour in Cottage Living. Apart from anything else, it's reignited my desire to flood the feed with posts about The Sims. So you're welcome and/or sorry in advance.