The Sims and magic have a long history dating back to the first game. Makin’ Magic, an expansion released as part of the original Sims back in 2003, added charms and spells and familiars, introducing the idea of Sims using special powers to improve their daily lives through various relationship and mood boosters. Making a minor appearance in The Sims 2: Apartment Life, magic would come back in a big way for The Sims 3: Supernatural, which included several life states and expanded on the potions and spells system, albeit only through its magic-focused Sim type, the Witch. And now, with Realm of Magic, it makes an expected but celebrated return with a more formal approach to alchemy and spellcasting.
Realm of Magic, as a game pack and not an expansion, is not as big as Supernatural. But it does add dimension. Its new life state, Spellcaster, allows Sims to learn potions and cast spells (each of which can be honed and refined through training with trainers in their respective schools of magic), but most importantly, battle it out in magic duels with their wands. These abilities are supplemented by new Aspirations, as well as bloodline Traits, and a host of lightly fantasy-themed furniture items and household objects outfit your Glimmerbrook cottage with appropriate decor like a stained glass canopy bed and glowing orb lanterns. It’s not a terribly robust piece of content, but its Magic Realm, with its wildflowers, fiery motes and bright crystals, is one of the prettiest environments I’ve ever seen in a Sims game, and the spellcasting aspects add both ease to their daily routine and drama to their social interactions. I’ve never been a hostile Sims player (or a fan of Harry Potter, from which this pack undoubtedly takes some cues), but after getting my ass handed to me in a magic duel, I was so invested, I was ready to make a few enemies, even at the cost of my Sims’ burgeoning celebrity.
Despite how much I’m enjoying the more fully fleshed out spell casting though (I love the look of the spellbook), Realm of Magic still highlights just how much EA has stripped The Sims for parts. I was worried that EA would start isolating different Sims life states to singular releases, and Realm of Magic appears to have done just that. As a result, the expansions of the past, especially The Sims 3, seem so generous by comparison. Supernatural alone included Witches, Werewolves, Ghosts, Fairies, (improved) Vampires, and even Zombies. Realm of Magic, while elaborating extensively on the Witch life state, only offers one. And in terms of items (of which Supernatural had a whopping 226), the difference is almost shocking. Remember the skeleton maid, Bonehilda? The jellybean bush? The magic mirror? It’s bad enough that The Sims 4 only includes a fraction of what it used to offer, but even worse that they no longer bring back legacy content.
At the very least, there’s the utility of Realm of Magic. The potions and spells will make your Sims’ life a little easier, and the magic duels are so fun, you’ll want to watch them on Normal speed. The pack also adds a much needed dash of fantasy to a game that has increasingly become little more than a domesticity simulator. While its thinness makes it clear that EA will not be returning to their old content model, Realm of Magic still adds a fair amount of depth to the spellcasting system. And in doing so, it holds its own.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.