Much like previous expansion packs in The Sims 4 line, Discover University has a rich history. It all started with Sims 2's University expansion and continued with the Sims 3: University Life. Unfortunately, unlike its predecessors, it is devoid of almost all charm, focusing instead on making the experience as true to life as possible and sucking all of the fun out of everything. When I jumped into Discover University I hadn’t watched any of the trailers but I had fond memories of playing the prior expansions, so I had some high hopes.
The Road to University
When you first decide that your Young Adult or older Sim wants to go to college, you apply to enroll. Generally, you're accepted, even if your Sim has not gone to school already. However, good grades can open up additional majors or scholarships, so it's not all for naught. Scholarships can be a very good thing, considering if your Sim is too poor to afford University, they are forced to take out student loans. Yes, I sat and stared at the computer for a while there too. Considering Sims is a game and games are supposed to be fun, I have no idea why someone thought student loans were a good idea. There’s such a thing as being too close to life, and c’mon guys – cheat codes. Use ‘em.
After being accepted, you can choose where you’d like to go, either Foxbury Institute or the University of Britchester. Each school has different majors available depending on your Sim’s educational status, but the lack of diversity among majors was a letdown. Art History, Communications, Culinary Arts, Drama, Fine Art, History, Language and Literature are the distinguished degrees at Britchester, while Foxbury specializes in Biology, Computer Science, Economics, Physics, Psychology, and Villainy. Where’s the Law, Engineering and Education majors? Medicine? What’s my budding secret agent supposed to take, ALL of the classes?! There’s “Fine Art” and “Art History” but there’s not a distinction between Economics and Business?
Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with ye olde University ways from England, here’s a quick summary. Universities like Oxford and Cambridge didn’t, and most still don’t, have degrees for anything that’s not considered a “traditional” university subject, while polytechnic institutes were created for studying things like science, engineering, etc. So I get what they were trying to go for with this, emulating the traditional model. However, both schools have all degrees available, it’s just a matter of whether or not your Sim has the grades to get into that program.
Dealing With Roommates
Frustrated with the lack of choices of major, I set my Sim to major in Villainy and carried on, only to find out that if you want to move your household into a college dorm where there are currently other Sims living, you MUST merge your households. Great, I really wanted to play through with two deadweights attached to my wrists. Now, I know that I can choose somewhere else to go, or I can go to edit the world and move these Sims out, but I shouldn’t be forced to do this. Bonus points, after I merged households, I wasn’t allowed to move out and take any of my money with me.
Now, with all the preliminaries out of the way, my Sim is finally at college! Woohoo! (Not like that). Unfortunately, the gameplay still doesn’t improve. Each semester lasts a week, which really crams a lot in. There are the usual keggers and parties and uh, e-sports activities for your Sims to enjoy, which are fine. I mean, even if someone messes up programming a kegger it’s still a rager. There are three different student societies on each campus, plus a Secret Society, which added some nice differentiation to the mix. Items added include communal showers, juice pong, soccer balls and for some bizarre reason, bathroom stalls. Why these weren’t in either the base game or the first expansion, is anyone’s guess.
A Shallow Shell of Buildings
The world itself feels exceedingly shallow. Most of the campus buildings are just facades, and in the dormitories, you can’t even access the first floor. What’s down there? Who knows! They could be resurrecting dinosaurs and giving them fairy wings and we would never know. Is it probably just more rooms and a lobby? Yeah, I’m sure, but not being able to see just feels like a cheap cut off. Several of the buildings you don’t even get to see into at all. In the town area where your Sim can go and mingle with students from both universities, there’s a quaint juice bar hangout for fun and some off-campus housing, but that’s it. Compared to the bowling alleys and clubs and libraries of yore, it’s a snooze. However, if you look at the bathroom from a certain angle, it looks like the flatscreen TV is actually in the bathroom stalls. So that’s quite funny.
The class load is where I give the game the most credit, pun intended, as you can choose how many courses your student takes over each “semester.” Be bold and go for five, or take your time and do one at a time, you pay per course anyway. However, the game’s balance feels off if you take more than one course. Can you still do it? Yes, of course, but then you have a miserable Sim who’s definitely not acing all of their classes. While that may be par for the course in the real world, you don’t really get the enjoy any of the fringe perks of college, like partying and joining clubs in that case. If you’re trying to speed through to get a mediocre degree for other benefits in the game’s careers, you can choose to zip through, but I don’t see any situation in which this is recommended.
Additionally, trying to balance multiple course loads and homework, between three Sims, was pretty difficult. I didn’t want two of them in the first place, so eventually, I just hung them out to dry. If you’re looking for a challenge, perhaps this is the path you want. Being on the Villainy major, I also tried to straight-up murder them, but Sims just don’t catch on fire like they used to.
Bits, Bobs and New Items
The aesthetics of the game, the added objects, hair, clothes, and skills, were fun. Hair and clothes tended to be a mix of hipster, stoner and upper crust gear, ranging from sweatpants and dreadlocks to fancy formal blazers and perfectly coiffed hairdos. The objects, for the most part, were to enhance the feel of the Britchester, old English campus theme that the game seemed to be focused on, but it wasn’t a bad batch if you enjoy that aesthetic. The game also added back things like the Servo robot and the Repo-man from previous generations, while bringing out the new and almost totally useless due to Charisma skill of Research and Debate, to pair with the new Robotics skill. Three main career paths are added – education, engineering, and law.
The Sims 4: Discover University was a mess from start to finish. It wasn’t fun, and I’m honestly not sure what they thought when they were putting this all together. Student loans? Boring majors? Façade buildings? It feels like a minimum of effort went into all of this, and is a sad follow-up to two exceedingly fun predecessor expansions in the previous generations. Even just as a follow-up to the Magic game pack released last month, it’s a sorry state of affairs. Perhaps it’s the designers who need to go back to school, not my Sims.
TechRaptor reviewed The Sims 4: Discover University on PC with a copy provided by the publisher.