The Sims 4 Growing Together review: Entertaining gameplay, bland world
The Sims 4 Growing Together is essentially this title's version of The Sims 3 Generations. The new Sims 4 Growing Together expansion pack is completely centred around family dynamics and sets out to bulk out interactions and activities between family members to make them feel more real.
Join us as we go through The Sims 4 Growing Together review of this latest expansion pack, including new CAS and Build Mode items and crucial gameplay elements to decide if the pack is worth buying or not.
- Be sure to also check out our guide to The Sims 4 infant update, a free update that introduced the new infant life stage to the game.
The Sims 4 Growing Together Map: San Sequoia
The new world introduced with The Sims 4 Growing Together is called San Sequoia and is based loosely on the wharf area of San Francisco.
As such, the map has stunning views from multiple docks and offers the typical urban neighbourhoods you would expect from a pack centred around family.
Although the world looks great, it is yet another Americanised neighbourhood which doesn’t offer anything striking in terms of theme or style. As a family pack, however, this is to be expected and does offer a good amount of playable lots (10 lots, and a bonus of two non-residential lots).
The issue arises, in the fact that San Sequoia feels empty. As a town with multiple docks, you could at least expect more water activities which are already in the game such as swimming and fishing. Although there is one water park and 'power walk' areas, there is a severe lack of outdoor family activities.
The boats at the harbour are non-functional as are most of the other things in the world, only serving as decoration.
There is a cinema lot, but you cannot access it directly from the map or organise to see a movie via the phone. Instead, you have to travel to the rec centre nearby and walk the rest of the way. Once you do get to the cinema, you can pick a movie and watch one with a friend, but you disappear inside a rabbit hole.
Although many players dislike rabbit holes altogether, we wouldn’t mind it so much in this situation if you at least got pop-ups and got to choose scenarios like the rabbit holes in the werewolf pack, or on carnival rides in the High School Years pack.
Being able to choose drinks and snacks or even whether to focus on the movie or whisper to your date next to you could have been a nice touch to add detail to an otherwise blank canvas.
The rec centre - like the rest of the pack - looks the part but also lacks the liveliness you would expect. In short, there need to be more citizens visiting the lot to make it feel like a hotspot activity centre in the world.
The Sims 4 Growing Together Create-A-Sim items.
The create-a-sim items in this pack are excellent, particularly the addition of more birthmarks and freckles, of which, there are a ton of new options. This makes your sims feel more real and unique and the ability to give your infants birthmarks and carry this forward into adulthood is a nice touch.
The style of the clothing items tends to be comfortable, with jumpers and layered shirts being at the forefront of the options available. This feels true to the pack and the emphasis on family and home life, you'd expect flashy outfits in The Sims 4 Get Famous Pack, but not so much here.
In total, there are a bunch of top options for feminine and masculine frames, 8 new hairstyles for masculine sims, and ten for feminine. Three hairstyles for children and seven in total for infants.
There are no new skinny jeans of course. At this point, it’s even a running joke that The Sims team never seem to include skinny jeans in CAS items. There are, however, some floral dresses for elderly women which is a great addition for anyone wishing to expand their elder's wardrobes.
Infants are where we would expect the content to stand out, as this pack arrived shortly after the infant base game update and primarily focuses on fledging out the infant life stage.
In this aspect, it is a success. Infants don’t have any top or bottom options but have a total of eleven full-body clothing options to choose from, some of which are completely adorable such as the duck onesie.
The choice of having baby grows vs tops and bottoms is a great way to differentiate between the infant and toddler life stages.
The Sims 4 Growing Together Build Mode items
The Sims 4 Growing Together build mode items vary completely in style and offer a mix of contemporary and more traditional themes. This can be seen as a good thing as you may want to create different families with different tastes, if this is the only expansion pack you buy you will at least have some diversity of items to work with.
As such, if you wish to add more modern pieces to your repertoire, The Sims 4 Dream Home Decorator offers some fantastic modern modular pieces, and The Sims 4 Cottage Living offers all the farmstead traditional furnishings you'll need.
The Sims 4 Growing Together doesn’t provide a strong theme one way or another, but it does have some effective pieces in the catalogue, the little sheep stool is a firm favourite as is the cowplant-themed suitcase.
There's a nice amount of clutter items, and a few key gameplay items such as the suitcases, sleeping bags, and new activity board which sims can use to play different board games or jigsaws. This is a lovely dynamic you can play with as you can get families to sit down and spend time together in seemingly meaningful ways.
If making the jigsaw, there are numerous themes to choose from, or you can create one from a reference in a similar way as the painting mechanic. You can even be mischievous and steal a piece so the jigsaw can't be completed. They can then be framed and put on the wall for added customisation.
There's a good number of chairs added to the pack and a nice modular bookshelf piece that can be added and shaped. There is, however, only one new floor tile which is slightly disappointing as there was scope for adding more choices, particularly for kids' rooms.
The Sims 4 Growing Together Gameplay
The family dynamic system is one of the key additions to the pack and will determine how your sims talk to each other. For example, a 'Distant' dynamic may result in sims only exchanging small talk and avoiding deep conversations.
This strengthens the realism aspect if you're looking to add depth to family gameplay as it takes into account likes and dislikes and whether your sims have good compatibility or not. Dynamics can be individually set to household members via the CAS menu or can be discovered naturally through gameplay.
Dynamics can also change depending on how your family interacts with one another, offering new and unique gameplay opportunities.
This feature applies to all household members from infants to elders and different family members may have different relationships with the same person. This is one of the major successes of the pack as it adds dimension to gameplay and helps curate a narrative between family members.
Below, are new gameplay additions features with the pack, categorised by life stage.
The Sims 4 Growing Together Infants
The gameplay of The Sims 4 Growing Together is where the pack shines through, clearly the main motivation for the expansion. Although, this comes with its own controversy.
The pack offers a host of milestones for infants, which some have argued should have been included with the infant update. The crux of the issue is the timing, with the infant update releasing just two days before the Sims 4 Growing Together expansion, there is overlap.
Could have come to the base game update
Whilst the milestones are clearly an expansion addition, some of the lesser features could have made their way to the base game update. In particular, the changing tables. As of writing, you can only change your infant at a changing table if you have The Sims 4 Growing Together, but this feels like a mechanic that could have been given to the base game update.
With The Sims 4 Growing Together, infants will not start out life being able to use a highchair or eat foods, they must progress with their' Tummy Time' and achieve certain milestones first. For example, without learning to 'reach' they won't be able to play with toys. They also won't eat food in a highchair until they learn to sit up on their own.
With this feature alone, the game really provides a progression mechanic for infants and makes them feel like real beings instead of starter sims.
I did discover a bug, however, where my infant would get stuck on their caregiver whilst being picked up, meaning said caregiver couldn't get to them and help their needs. This was fixed by a simple reset but must be bared in mind that the infants may suffer a few routing issues before they're perfected.
The Sims 4 Growing Together children
Kids have been given some much-needed attention with the pack also. They can now complete important milestones like learning to ride a bike and losing their first teeth. Again, this adds a level of realism and simply gives you more things to do with your kids.
One feature that really cements this is the treehouse. There is only one treehouse option, but once built, it can be decorated in several different styles and can be upgraded to feature lights, a bell, a slide, and a pole.
The slide is particularly fun as you can set this as the main way your kids get up and down the treehouse. You can also set the treehouse as teens-only or kids-only, and it is a new woohoo spot for adults (which is slightly strange).
Your kids can also make a friendship bracelet at a crafts table and give it to a 'Good Friend'. You can only do this once unfortunately, but if you do, your kid and their friend will unlock a secret 'Bracelet Buddy Fist Bump' which is heart-warming.
Kids can also have sleepovers which are different from the new 'Stay Over' mechanic. It must be organised as a social event by an adult and it is possible to make it an event with a goal to win unique sleeping bags. Sims that are selected for the sleepover will visit with a suitcase and sleeping bag which you can ask them to get out as a prompt. You can have pillow fights and tell stories whilst sitting on the sleeping bags which is a charming touch.
The Sims 4 Growing Together adults
The main new feature for adults is the ability to have a mid-life crisis. This usually amounts to your sim being tense until you follow a set of mini-aspirations. The crisis can be triggered for a number of reasons and the steps you take to fix it will be assigned accordingly. During this time, your sim can find out they prefer other hobbies, likes and dislikes and it can change the trajectory of their life path.
Sims that produce new likes and dislikes can be accepted or rejected so you can choose to decline these if you wish to.
The Sims 4 Growing Together teens and elders
Teens and elders are mostly neglected in this pack. Although this was to be expected for teens as they have their own dedicated pack, this is a disappointment for elders.
As a 'generations' pack, we should have gotten the option for retirement homes and more elder-friendly activities. As it stands the only new thing elders receive in the pack is the 'Keepsake Box' which is a family heirloom of sorts that can contain items and be passed down to other family members.
Apart from putting objects in the box, all you can do is click on it and 'ponder' family dynamics for a moodlet.
Overall, The Sims 4 Growing Together is an expansion pack that you'll love if you're a generations player and love playing with the same family across generations.
The gameplay mechanics alone are enough to provide entertainment, which is a good thing as the world is somewhat bland and boring. Although the Build Mode items are confusing without a solid theme, the CAS items are stronger.
For gameplay alone, this is a great companion pack to the base game and perhaps another pack like Seasons or High School Years - if your focus is more on the familial gameplay aspect.
Nevertheless, this does bring up an ethical debate. It can easily be argued that you would have gotten this and more with The Sims 3 Generations - possibly bundling The Sims 4 Growing Together, High School Years and Parenthood in one instead of being split into different packs.
Whilst the pack holds up against other expansions, it is lacking just that extra oomph for elders and critically needs more outdoor activities and places to visit as a family.
Reviewed on PC. Code Provided By publisher.