The Sims 4: Cats and Dogs review – Plenty of pets, passable perks

Credit: EA
Credit: EA /

The Sims 4: Cats and Dogs brings some bold changes, and many are questionable. Even so, it’s a joy to see furry creations come to life.

Developer: Maxis
Publisher: EA
Platforms: PC (Version reviewed)
Release Date: November 10, 2017

It’s taken three years, but The Sims 4’s most-anticipated expansion is here. This time, it’s under the more conservative title of Cats and Dogs, meaning no horses or lizards. Still, a life simulator without pets is incomplete, and many will be asking whether this fills the gap.

Due to a substantial change, some may find it doesn’t. In essence, you’ll have no control over your pets. Playable pets were first introduced with The Sims 3, but the developers have decided against it this time around. That, combined with the omission of the pet careers found in The Sims 2, makes for an initial step back.

However, if you can make it past these changes, there’s plenty of content to fill the void. Though limited to cats, dogs, foxes, and raccoons, creating pets is the best it’s ever been. The new tool offers a ton of different breeds, as well as the ability to crossbreed and fine-tune the details of your pet. As a result, you’ll get a good likeness of your real pet (or raccoon?) in the virtual world. You can adjust anything from ear size to the shape of your pet’s brow. In some places, the pet editor even goes beyond its human counterpart.

This is all thanks to a powerful new feature: paint mode. A series of brushes let you create specific markings on your pet, either completely free hand, or through a collection of stencils. It makes your pet a truly unique creation and can be combined with different fur types or a menagerie of colors.

You can now spend hours upon hours crafting your pet, and a strange oversight means you’ll probably have to. For reasons unknown, switching sex has no effect on your pet’s appearance. Most of the dogs look male by default and the cats, female, though there’s often a big size difference in real life. Unfortunately, you can’t adjust your pet’s height, so you’ll be forced to customize from the ground-up with a different breed, or take the hit.

It’s clear that the expansion has some failings, but many of them come down to personal preference.

At some point, though, your stint in the creator will come to an end. After choosing your pet’s traits, the new neighborhood of Brindleton Bay will call to you, complete with its dog parks, veterinary surgeries, and harbors. The town looks beautiful, and while your pets may not look as good as in the editor, the animations will easily make up for it.

Depending on the traits you choose, your pets will act differently. Excitable dogs will jump up at you, while aggressive ones will bark and growl. Cats have similar, though more feline traits. There are thousands of little touches throughout the game, such as your puppy’s struggle to walk up the stairs. It goes a long way in making them feel real, providing you can overlook their telepathic door-opening.

But when all is said and done, the meat of an expansion is the gameplay, and that’s where Cats and Dogs stumbles a little. No sooner had I sent my Springer loping around the house when I was left thinking ‘now what?’

With an inability to control them and the lack of pet careers mentioned above, your furry friends quickly become a burden. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy burden to manage. There isn’t a needs bar in sight, so you’ll have to walk up to your dog and ask it what’s wrong every time it shows distress. It’s clear that Maxis is going for a more realistic spin, but it seems to have come at the expense of any real fun.

Sims 4 cats and dogs vets
Credit: EA /

The new career doesn’t do much to make up for this, either. While setting up your own veterinary clinic is fun at first, you quickly realize how little it differs from other businesses in the game. In the beginning, there a lot of interesting things to do; choosing the right medication for an animal, managing your profit margins, or putting them into a surgery machine. After a while, though, it gets repetitive, and I couldn’t see myself micro-managing it forever. However, if you don’t own Back to Work, it could add some exciting new variety to your play.

It’s clear that the expansion has some failings, but many of them come down to personal preference. Like every Sims expansion, this one has a high price tag, but Cats and Dogs offers some of the best value so far. As well as the features mentioned, it introduces thousands of new items to build mode, alongside some great new hairstyles and clothing.

Related: The Sims 4 rains Cats and Dogs with latest expansion reveal

Ultimately, the expansion is about the bond between human and animal, and with evolving relationships, dog training, and plenty of toys, it’s hard to put down. It may not have the bells and whistles that some players expected, but Cats and Dogs still gets my recommendation if you’re a pet lover.

. The Sims 4: Cats and Dogs. 7. The Sims 4 Cats and Dogs changes the pet formula once more, reducing the amount of micro-management, but also the fun. Despite vast improvements in animal creation, players should consider what they’re looking for before dropping their hard-earned money.. Maxis

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.