Packed with a ton of new features, The Sims 4: Discover University gets your Young Adult Sims out on their own for an education and despite its excellent new gameplay suffers from some balancing issues.
After much excitement and high anticipation, the next chapter in The Sims 4 is finally here.
The Sims 4: Discover University is the eighth expansion pack for the massively popular life simulation game from Electronic Arts and Maxis.
In case you have actually been living under a proverbial rock, The Sims 4 is the fourth incarnation of a virtual living game known as The Sims, where you get to control simulated people and control their destiny.
Originally released in 2000 from games industry legend Will Wright, The Sims has since become a pop culture phenomenon as well as actually being an excellent game series, thanks in part to its parody of American culture and humorous take on life itself.
Each Sims installment sells excellently well for Electronic Arts, is a PC games top ten main-stay as well as performing well on consoles with EA stating earlier this month that The Sims has generated over $5 billion for the company over its lifetime sales.
In 2014, The Sims 4 was released and has since reinvigorated the series by taking the series back to its humorous roots that were well established with The Sims 2 after heading in a different direction with The Sims 3.
What keeps a Sims installment alive so long is the regular release of content in the form of different packs, something that The Sims is well known for.
Expansion Packs are the largest of the packs and typically add rich new gameplay features, new areas, clothing and items.
Stuff Packs are typically small and usually add some themed in-game items and clothing to The Sims such as “Romantic Garden Stuff” for example.
Game Packs, which were introduced with The Sims 4 are a blend of Expansions and Stuff Packs, adding some new game features and items while not as large as a full expansion or as small as a Stuff Pack.
The Sims 4: Discover University is the latest Expansion Pack and from the outset, it is clear that this is one of the largest expansions so far.
Following this month’s update, the expansion has shipped with some very rich gameplay, getting Young Adult Sims out of the family home and beginning their adult life while attending University.
This isn’t the first college-themed Sims expansion, as The Sims 2: University introduced Sims to higher education years ago and was continued once more in The Sims 3: University Life.
However, while similar, this latest expansion is far more richly detailed and even has two campuses for Sims to choose from.
The University of Britechester is the main University situated in the town of Britechester and caters to the more traditional or artistic type of studying.
Alternatively, The Foxbury Institute offers an education to the more logical and technical of students, equipped with a state of the art robotics labs.
Each University provides standard degrees that provide a boost to their associated careers by offering a higher starting position, increased salary and more vacation days plus specialty “Distinguished Degrees” that offer even more.
However, in order to secure a place on a Distinguished Degree course, your Sims will need to be an A level student while at High School and have the necessary skill levels required.
As such, Distinguished Degrees offer yet more benefits to start position, salary and vacation days.
Standard degrees can also be undertaken and can be just as good as a Distinguished Degrees provided your Sims work hard enough.
However, your final degree result when graduating University will ultimately determine your benefits which can be higher or lower depending on a Sim’s final GPA and honors.
NOTE: There are some technical changes that you may need to be aware of.
You can read more HERE.
University of Britechester – A Traditional Approach
UBrite is more of a traditional campus and is based on the classic University structure with architecture and surroundings inspired by Oxford and Cambridge in the U.K.
Covering a large area that requires two neighborhoods, UBrite is quite picturesque and as well as a large study library, upscale dorms and expensive surrounding housing, the area also features traditional British-style pubs.
Given that UBrite is a traditional University with an emphasis on the arts and literature, its Organizations reflect the academic standards upheld by the institution.
First and foremost, the University of Britechester is revered for its research and debate skills, and as such holds regular debate competitions by way of the Debate Guild which meets at Darby’s Den.
The Arts Society also holds events around the Quad and welcomes artists of all manner to join in their fun and creative activities.
The Foxbury Institute – Modern Paradigm
The Foxbury Institute prides itself on being a premier technology-based school with an emphasis on tech-based courses and activities and appears to be inspired by M.I.T in the United States.
Half the size of UBrite, Foxbury is more of a niche college with smaller dorms and commons areas, but just as fun and interesting as UBrite and even has a robotics lab.
Given their propensity for all things tech, Foxbury is home to the Bot Savants who get together to discuss robots and build gadgets together at Larry’s Lagoon.
Being home to the more geeky type of Sims, Foxbury also entertains The Brainiacs, a specialized study group that love nothing more than prepping for exams and discussing course work.
University Life – Study, Play, Participate
Organizations are University-specific so for example, Sims from UBrite cannot belong to the Bot Savants as they are situated at Foxbury.
Sims from differing establishments, however, can take part in activities during a particular Organization meeting even if they are not a member.
As well as their different features, each establishment has its own interactive areas including:
- Study Hall
- Commons Area
- Open-space Event Area (Quads)
Study Hall – Peace and Quiet Boosts the Brain
Each study hall has the new ‘Study Spot’ and ‘University Student Hangout Spot’ lot traits that boost studying and encourage students to gather respectively.
Commons – Research Areas and Event Establishments
Commons areas provide access to the powerful new ERAM machines that can boost skills quickly by researching different types of information offered by the machines as well as finding out about the history of the two Universities.
The Commons’ also facilitates Organization gatherings and allows Sims to order some food via the food stations that are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner at various times throughout the day.
Quads – Inter – Establishment Events
The open-space event areas, or “Quads” for each school serves as the meeting grounds for various activities throughout each term which are different depending on the college.
Foxbury, for example, may hold a Utilibot judging competition whereby students from the tech-based school can show off their latest robot creations to earn a prize.
Or Sims can just come along and play with the machines and have some fun while they are at it.
While attending an event at the Foxbury Institute I had a Sim meet one of the new Servo bots (which are extremely cool), play with Quadcopters and dance away with the insanely fun Party-Bot.
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Open-space areas can also serve as the hosting grounds for Organization Events such as the Britechester Spirit Corps “Game-day Party” that provides Juice Pong and Kegs for a raucous gathering before the match.
These events happen at specific times and function the same as the Festivals from The Sims 4: City Living.
Similarly, you will be informed when an event is about to take place so that you can attend.
Sims are not limited by their University affiliation as to what events they can attend as each University event and Organization gathering is open for all Sims.
The open nature of events allows Sims from different schools to intermingle and further reinforces the friendly rivalry of each school.
School rivalry is personified by University mascots Larry the Lobster and Darby the Dragon of Foxbury and UBrite respectively.
The Quads are also where Dorms are situated and although the neighborhood is accessible by all, only Sims from their respective University may enter campus residential buildings at each grounds.
Other Quad features include:
- University Merchandise Stands
- Food and Drink Stalls
- University Statues
- Guest Lecture Halls
Merchandise Stands allow Sims to get into the school spirit by purchasing specific clothing sporting their college colors, buying University items and looking up University-specific information.
Apparel includes top and bottom clothing sweatpants and sweatshirts as well as a hat that can be worn by Sims from each establishment.
The stands also sell University items such as sports goods, college course books that help with final exams and home items such as rugs, mirrors and posters.
Most of these can be purchased via the Build/Buy menu including the new bikes and mini-fridges that shipped with the expansion and not the latest update.
Information provided by these stands allows Sims to check their class grades, enrollment status, upcoming Organization events, scholarships and term information.
Using the stand is one of the features that add to the feeling of belonging to a particular University as the game tries very hard to get you into the school spirit.
Food and drink stalls are pretty much the same as other stalls in the game and provide some new foods and drinks.
- Chocolate Croissants
- Sweet Bread
- Cinnamon Roll
- Cezve Coffee
- Matcha Tea
Each of these foods and drinks can provide small but useful buffs for Sims as well as filling a small amount of the hunger need, useful during long study sessions.
University Statues are large monoliths situated in each school’s Quad area and can provide some fun Moodlets while each one has unique interaction options.
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There’s even a special interaction that can help Sims with their academic path.
One of the most interesting features of the Quads is that each has a Guest Lecture Hall where Sims can sit in on guest lectures, sit in on a skill class or even provide tutoring themselves.
Utilizing the lecture hall is an excellent way to build skills and Moodlets while it’s also a necessary step for the new Academic aspiration.
Once this aspiration has been completed it will provide graduated Sims a boost to skill-building when using ERAM machines and allow them to earn more money from publishing research papers.
Applying to a University – The Tense Wait
The first step to getting to a University is to first apply using a computer and then waiting for an acceptance letter, which will typically take around three days.
Once your Sim receives their acceptance letter they will be informed of whether they met the requirements for the school and based upon their skills and school grades can proceed to apply.
Application of particular degrees is based upon school performance and skills known, as some degrees, especially Distinguished Degrees have higher requirements.
Sims can also apply for scholarships, although to be honest, it isn’t necessary, as education seems to be really cheap in the world of the Sims at less than $1000.
I feel this was a lost opportunity in that the game feels very unrealistic, as it would have made working for and ultimately applying for scholarships more satisfying and rewarding.
Studying at an Establishment
When your Sim has selected their options for study they can then choose to stay at home when studying or move to Britechester to live in dorms or private housing.
While private housing may sound more appealing, dorms are situated on the University Quad where everything a Sim could possibly need is provided as well as being at the center of all the college action.
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Actually studying for GPA advancement is straight forward however will require you to effectively manage your Sim’s time accordingly.
Each class requires a homework Daily Task as well as a Special Assignment which is usually a Term Paper or a Presentation, each of which needs to be completed before the last class of the term.
While these aren’t particularly difficult, they will need to be drafted and improved for the best grade, basically being worked on twice.
Given the amount of work required and the fact that there are two classes per day, juggling a Sim’s time between study, work and play actually requires some planning and perks such as Seldom Sleepy are a huge advantage.
This is highlighted by the fact that some actions such as giving a final presentation can only be undertaken between 8 am and 4 pm.
Therefore, University work will take up the vast majority of a Sim’s time if they wish to get the best grade, which may lead to missing out on a large part of the fun activities happening around campus.
This requires the player to balance the time of the Sims effectively rather than the developers having done a better job of time and activity management.
This strikes a poor balance considering that the game goes out if it’s way to try to get the player to undertake additional activities.
Additionally, if you are aiming to complete the Academic aspiration, your time will be stretched even more thinly and require even more management according to the requirements of the aspirational goals.
Each of the four terms lasts for five weekdays with a weekend in between which should be taken as a fortunate opportunity to get ahead of the following beginning of term coursework, rather than going out and having too much fun.
Upon conclusion of study at any of these institutions, your Sims will earn their degree.
Rather than being a fancy certificate that they can be proud of, a degree has the benefit of allowing Sims to begin at a higher level in their chosen career, will pay more money and allocate more vacation days.
New Careers Means More Opportunities
Apart from studying, The Sims 4: Discover University has also added three new careers for your Sims to work in and although they aren’t active careers, they offer some great new interactions, perks and unique items.
A Career in Law
The Law career is for Sims with a propensity for justice, not necessarily for all.
With two branches covering Judge and Private Attorney, this career provides job opportunities for the just and not so just students of law.
The Educational Career
Education is a much-requested returning career for Sims with that academic spark, whether it by inspiring young minds or being inspired to push visionary boundaries.
The branches of this career include the Administrator career which caters to a more scholastic path and the Professor branch that caters to the more mentally apt Sim.
New Engineering Career
Engineering is a brand new career for The Sims and is geared (sorry) more towards Sims who enjoy building things.
As such, there are two types of engineer paths available; mechanical for gearhead Sims and computer-based engineering for tech-savvy Sims.
Unique and New Features Added
Each The Sims 4 expansion pack comes with a ton of new features and this one is no exception.
There are some returning features that have been highly requested as well as some extremely cool new features unique to this EP.
Robots – Friend or Servant?
One of the most anticipated features of this expansion is the new Robotics skill.
Robots are nothing new in the world of The Sims and have in fact, like aliens, been a staple feature of the game since its very early days.
While the Robotics skill isn’t difficult to level up, it is a tedious process to build robots since they require some parts which cannot be purchased and need to be made by the Sim.
Mechanisms and Computer Chips need to be manufactured by the Sims and take some time to create.
This is further hampered by the frequent electric shocks your Sim will receive while building items at the Dr F. Official Robotics Station.
Shocks will put your Sim in a dazed state and unless you want your Sim to die of electrocution you will need to wait for three hours before using the station again.
I cannot state in words appropriate for this article just how infuriating this can be, even when a Sim has Level 10 Handiness and/or Logic skills, this doesn’t help with shocks.
I did find however that once past level 7 of the Robotics skill and with a Focused Moodlet, the amount of shock reduced significantly, where it all but disappears at level 10.
While building robots is very tedious, it is also extremely rewarding.
The feeling of satisfaction when finishing an ultra-cool Utilibot is amazing and the time spent developing the parts is almost worth it.
Obviously, Servo and Robo-Arm are just as cool and if you wish to build a lot of robots then Robo-Arm is a necessity as it will reduce component building times by 20%.
Bikes – Ride Away
The inclusion of bicycles is a Godsend for players with multiple expansions as some of the game worlds, including Britechester, are now becoming rather large so running everywhere not only looks silly but just isn’t feasible anymore.
Although there is a little disappointment as there is only one option and kids cannot use them, the bikes look great, they’re animated excellently and provide fitness and fun for Sims.
In addition, they are very fast which makes large neighborhood traversal seem not as boring anymore and there is, at last, a “Walk Here” option, although for some strange reason this is only available when a bike is in a Sim’s inventory.
Roommates – Dream Tenant or Nightmare Neighbour
Whether at University or in their own homes, Sims can now advertise for Roommates using the phone or computer.
This will add additional Sims to the household who will contribute to bills and household chores should they be so inclined.
Be warned that not all Sims are nice to live with and Roommate Sims cannot be controlled directly.
An Excellent, Yet Unbalanced Expansion
The Sims 4: Discover University is a very large expansion and one that provides has been designed excellently with that Sims sheen that only Maxis can do.
Attending University is fun and provides unique gameplay that is a welcome separation from the usual “At Home” gameplay of The Sims, similar to the Get to Work expansion pack.
However, the fact that attending classes is presented as a “Rabbit Hole” feature is a little disappointing as some interactivity in this area is a huge lost opportunity to provide some fresh gameplay.
Also, for whatever reason, the town of Britechester is sparsely populated and wandering around the UBrite Quads trying to find something to do can feel like a Ghost Town.
Disappointments aside, University gameplay is well implemented with an emphasis on study, school spirit and winding down, just as it should be.
Although the developers have evidently made school spirit a core gameplay feature by making sure there is always something to do, a lot of this gets in the way of studying.
This makes careful planning of a Sim’s time absolutely necessary should you wish to make the grade.
This appears to contradict the efforts made for having fun because absent some powerful traits, it is extremely difficult to balance a study/life program for your Sims given that they are usually so needy.
The inclusion of three new careers, each with excellent and unique reward items rounds of the features of the game nicely and will provide some great new directions for Sims.
However, the shining feature of this expansion is the Robotics skill and building robots which is a very missed feature which was last seen at the end of The Sims 3’s run of expansions in The Sims 3: Into the Future.
As time-consuming and frustrating as building bots is, it feels very rewarding to see the finished product which can then be kept or sold for cash and were it not included, a Game Pack of Robotics alone would have been welcome.
All of these features combined make up a very substantial Sims 4 expansion pack that not only adds more dimensions to Sims gameplay but is so large and with so much to do will do so well until the next expansion arrives.
The Sims 4: Discover University is an expansion well worth picking up and one that I feel has more depth to it than first appears.
I cannot recommend this EP enough and I for one have not been too disappointed despite some of the missed opportunities that to be fair are limitations of the game engine and not the developers’ ambition.
The Sims 4: Discover University is available now for Windows 10 PC and Mac OS.
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