Each Saturday, the townspeople of Henford-on-Bagley descend upon the village sq. for the weekly truthful. There are cubicles for contemporary flowers and native greens, with picnickers huddled round woven baskets from which they pluck jars of canned fruit. Mushrooms develop wild within the close by brambles, as mischievous rabbits and foxes play within the mossy groves close by. Henford-on-Bagley is a self-sufficient neighborhood and an idyllic, pastoral paradise — one which feels prefer it’s been plucked from the coziest of fairy tales.

The Sims 4’s latest enlargement pack, Cottage Living, totally embraces the fairytale, cottagecore aesthetic that’s develop into more and more common over the previous 12 months. In the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, cottagecore was a approach for individuals to reclaim the fact that compelled some individuals — however not all — into the isolation of our properties. Cottagecore transforms the trimmings of home residing, like baking bread and canning fruit, into an embraceable aesthetic designed to cowl up the grim realities of the world. Cottagecore’s mainstream explosion is due, largely, partly to TikTok and Instagram, the place the shareable and comfortable content material might be handed round and admired with ease.

Although cottagecore went mainstream this previous 12 months, it’s been round for some time. In The Sims 4, gamers have been creating and sustaining cottagecore worlds for years. Before Cottage Living got here out, The Sims 4 gamers stuffed their web areas with tutorials and custom-made content material for followers who wished to create moss-draped cottages nestled deep within the woods — or, at the least, to create one of the best approximation of that.

Image: Maxis/Electronic Arts

So it is sensible for developer Maxis to give in to the development, to launch Cottage Living close to the peak of its reputation, to a gaggle of gamers who’ve been keen to totally embrace the aesthetic for years. The irony of cottagecore, as Vox’s Rebecca Jennings put it, is that it’s an aesthetic that largely exists on-line, “posted and participated in through a smartphone from cluttered apartments or suburban bedrooms.” The Sims 4: Cottage Living takes it a step additional, permitting its gamers to not simply work together with these idyllic worlds on-line, however to create and reside on the earth — simply as a Sim.

And I’ve excellent news: Cottage Living is great at doing simply that. The enlargement pack, which will likely be launched on July 22, is constructed upon the cottagecore legacy that Sims gamers have embraced for therefore lengthy, together with community-built tons made by fan-favorite creators. The aforementioned new neighborhood, Henford-on-Bagley, has the appeal of a rural English village. Larger tons are important for increasing gardens and newly-built hen coops. Cottage Living has all of it: an Instagram-worthy, Smeg-esque fridge, iconic Dutch ovens, and twee-patterned materials. It’s the cottagecore dream I’ve seen solely on the web.

Except that Cottage Living takes the fantasy in a brand new path. Cottagecore — at the least, the model of it that rose to prominence throughout the pandemic — has usually been about romanticizing the concept of isolation. That made sense in a time when massive numbers of individuals had been inspired to simply keep house. The fantasy was about idyllic survivalism and self-sufficiency, one thing much less scary than the compelled isolation introduced on by the pandemic. In The Sims 4, although, the cottage aesthetic is much less about isolation and extra centered round neighborhood. It’s refreshing.

Though Cottage Living has added loads of methods for Sims gamers to create self-sustaining households — together with the power to solely prepare dinner utilizing solely the gadgets you might have available — the enlargement closely encourages the participant to search out others in Henford-on-Bagley. There are not any new jobs added with Cottage Living; as a substitute, gamers can search out duties from the premade Sims residing on the town, just like the mayor, grocery supply of us, and village retailers. These are methods to get to know the opposite residents, with every little request unspooling minor story particulars that flesh out the English countryside.

It was initially stunning to see extra concrete story particulars, nevertheless small they’re, embedded into the Sims. Typically I don’t search out the ready-made Sims; I favor utilizing my personal longtime favorites or newly made households. I additionally have a tendency to persist with utilizing a single lot at a time, constructing out the proper, singular world across the good, singular home. The attraction of the Sims, for me, was about what I may create somewhat than what tales I may inform. That’s nonetheless the attraction of Cottage Living, nevertheless it’s satisfied me to put extra of an emphasis on the world as a complete. The Sims in Henford-on-Bagley really feel crucial to the world in a approach that different premades haven’t for me. They’re not simply populating the world; they’re an integral a part of it. And so, somewhat than centering my personal Sims in a single, remoted family, I discover myself driving them all around the map, chasing rabbits or searching for out mushrooms, taking part within the vibrant world round them.

The small questlines from Henford-on-Bagley’s Sims will not be merely fetch quests with a narrative connected. They’re a compelling approach to expertise every thing that the enlargement pack has to supply. It’s helped me deal with elements of the sport that I wouldn’t in any other case search out — like caring for any Sims however my personal. These small favors, as they’re known as within the recreation, aren’t extreme and even full tales; the discrete dimension of them feels good for a Sims recreation. They’re minor sufficient that they are often ignored in favor of extra conventional gameplay, if that’s your pace.

a person holding a bunny in front of a family doing inside activities

Image: Maxis/Electronic Arts

There is lots to do in Cottage Living in case you do need to focus extra on constructing homes and households. The Simple Living lot attribute is a method to get a really feel for every thing the enlargement pack has to supply; you actually can’t prepare dinner with out scavenging on your personal components. That may imply shopping for them from the farmer’s market, rising your individual greens, buying and selling animals for meat (lol), or fishing. Or it may imply ordering supply. Cooking feels extra sturdy, like one thing you’ve bought to plan for. It offers extra depth if that’s what you need, but when it’s not, it’s one thing you may flip off, too. It’s the identical for the opposite new lot trait, which supplies foxes free rein to terrorize your chickens.

There’s quite a lot of room to make Cottage Living the expertise you need. For me, that meant discovering new methods to play The Sims 4, to embrace the built-in storytelling as a substitute of isolating my gameplay to a single lot. It’s a reimagining of self-sustainability than that of the pandemic-fueled uptick in cottagecore-esque isolation, refocused on the items of the aesthetic that middle on neighborhood.

The Sims 4: Cottage Living will likely be launched July 22 on Mac, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. The recreation was previewed on Windows PC utilizing a construct offered by writer Electronic Arts. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media could earn commissions for merchandise bought through affiliate hyperlinks. You can discover extra details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.