I was lucky enough to recieve a promotional code to download Barnacle Bay for reviewing purposes. Hooray! I figure I should keep my word and review it, even though I hate writing reviews of things, so here goes :P
Barnacle Bay is the first "DLC" World for The Sims 3. This means that it is purchased from the store and does indeed cost money. But is it worth it? I did not have to pay for it. So I can't really help there. But I can tell you what it includes and explain how well made it is.
Barnacle Bay includes a whopping 57 new sims, not counting 25 NPCs. Don't groan at the mention of NPCs- many beloved characters are NPCs, remember? Like Kaylynn! It also includes 18 pirate-themed items, all of which are very well made, and can be pretty useful.
The families do not have very fleshed out stories. They have mini-bios, and their names have some sort of meaning like with most of the games' families. Examples being the Darwin family, who are Scientists and have a passion for fish and fishing. Get it? There are sims with Nautical names, like Odessa Cross (Odessa is a large port town in the Ukraine), Fiona Fleet (Like a fleet of ships), Dude La Mer (La Mer means "The Sea"). There are lots of joke and pun names, which is a good thing, because we're used to those. Special mention to Lee-Roy Johnkins and Juliet Verona. All the sims in town have inter-connected relationships, they weren't just placed with complete disregard for making them a town. Attention was paid!
Nina and Dina Caliente return from The Sims 2! Their profiles imply that they moved to Barnacle Bay after living in Pleasantview, which seems to mean that Barnacle Bay is not set at the same time as the other official neighborhoods. They're both a bit older looking (I'd call them "Cougars") and are still the town tarts. They've got a more quiet friend named Luisa who they are trying to show the ropes of being a lovable skank. Lots of people seem to think they look ugly, but they mostly look older, and I always figured they were supposed to be the kind of girls who think they're better looking than they really are, anyway.
I also feel I should note that, like in Twinbrook, all the deceased sims (And there are lots, the town has two graveyards) have green skin if resurrected. Are we looking at zombies in a future expansion? (Deceased sims, as well, have references and relations to existing sims, including one who appears to be a distant relation to a sim in Twinbrook, who himself appears to be a Sims 3 version of a sim from MySims. I love all these connections!)
Anyway, the map. Like I've said from the start- it feels solid and it looks solid, just like the other EA worlds. Whether you like the layout/style or not, this is true. It is very well built. There are no clipping roads anywhere, I didn't see any floating scenery, the texturing is very good and I didn't see any texture mistakes anywhere.
There's a good number of lots- occupied, full, and empty-. The existing homes are quaint and nicely built, and are a good addition to your library assuming you add every pre-built in the game to it like I do.
Most of the community lots are campgrounds. At least I think they're supposed to be campgrounds. They are built in such a way that they look like part of the landscape, it is very nice.
The town is mostly near the beach, but just over the hill on the other side of the island are a few bigger homes facing a smaller beach. There are a few roads going out to peninsulas, with a few empty lots on them, and lots of room for more. One of the roads goes over a new bridge to its own mini-island, a good place for a rich sim to live. There's a small waterfall leading to a "river", which is very well done. The "Unincorporated" parts of the island are surrounded by farmland, the unplanned kind from the middle ages- meaning Barnacle Bay has had sims planting on it for a very long time. It looks very nice. There are a total of 7 beaches, though 2 or 3 might be too small to put a lot on. A few have lots on them already. The outer edges of the island are covered in cliffs, which are very well sculpted and painted. There are also a few new world decorations, mostly near the main beach.
In all, everything about the island is very solid. It's well built, it's well designed, it's well textured. The only problem I have with how it looks, really, is the beaches. They use the dark yellow sand instead of the light beige-y sand, and it looks horrible. I cannot stand the color of this sand and it is honestly enough to keep me, personally, from wanting to play the island. We desperately need a texturing tool for Edit World. I'd love to go in and add some forests to the farmland of this island, but when I know I hate the beaches, it makes the effort futile- because I can't stick to the island. But that is just me.
-Populated from the start
-Attention was paid to sim names
-Very well designed
-Very well textured
-Very well built
-Lots of nice lots to steal for your favorite neighborhood
-New families for populating other neighborhoods, if you want
-New rabbit hole, although its use is a bit limited. But it's a pirate ship you eat in! It's cool.
-Items are very nice for pirate-themed stuff, and well-made. I am particularly fond of the new statue and fence.
-Quaint feeling that is unlike any other EA worlds
-Lots of room for more lots
-Price is reasonable when you consider you are getting an item pack as well as a fully built, "lotted", populated world
-There are a few tombs
-The other half of the pirate pack should have been included as well. Breaking it in two and only including one half with a world is an affront to the consumer, for people who want just the items or people who want just the world, or people who want both. All three are a bit screwed by them being split up in this way.
-I, personally, can not stand the soaked-with-pee beach color.
-New world decorations are not added to Edit World
-The "rolling hills of farmland" sort of force you to consider the world a self-sustaining world, when, since it involves pirates, it would make a hell of a lot more sense to be a port town. There'd also be more room for building if the farmland was simply land, since we can't change textures.
-The game and store call it a "Vacation Getaway", but there's absolutely, ABSOLUTELY nothing about the town that even begins to imply people visit it for vacations. It's just a small town on an island.
-Nina and Dina's inclusion, I think, is nice- but it means one of two things. It either means that the worlds are not in canon with each other, and are set at different points in the timeline (which could get very confusing) or that the two are inexplicably included (which could piss off fans and doesn't seem very caring to the fans or the characters). I don't mind the first thing at all, but the second one is a bit iffy. In the future, it would be nice if returning faces were more explained.
But mostly, it is a very well built world with lots of stuff to play with. It all ends up depending on whether or not you like the shape of it. Lots of people decided to hate it based on the very first screenshot, because they're idiots, but hopefully people are smart enough to know how to consider whether or not they ACTUALLY like something for themselves.
Barnacle Bay can be purchased at The Sims 3 Store for the price of 1650 Sim Points. A copy was given to me for promotional/review purposes. Some images borrowed from SimsWiki.