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The Sims 3 University Life Review: College Life As I Imagined It To Be
After having attended college for nearly four years, I look back and wish I had done a few things differently. I’ve basically coasted along, doing nothing to embrace the experience that is involved in the college experience. I’ve gone to classes, done the homework, and done well in school overall, but missed out on the opportunities that are presented to university students. Luckily, with the welcome assistance of Maxis, The Sims Studio managed to capture many of the best (and worst) parts of being in college in The Sims 3 University Life Expansion Pack.
Sure, you can still do as I did, enrolling in an obnoxious number of classes and playing video games in the spare time (which actually helps you, more on that later). Social groups can either accept you as one of their own or ignore you as an outsider, or simply treat you like a normal person. Pick one of six unique majors to help you advance in a number of fields and learn new skills, or slack off and build social contacts that could lead to an interesting career in itself. Many things have been presented for Simmers to experience, so let’s dive in.
The university experience is grasped in this pack pretty efficiently, and The Sims 3 engine does it much more effectively than The Sims 2 engine did. The classes are separated similar to the way classes are laid out in real colleges (if my school is to judge). A selection of six majors are available, with their own bonuses to related fields. Playing through as a technology major, my Sim had rabbit hole classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, a special class at the comic book store (one of several new venues in the game) on Tuesdays, and a lecture hall class at the student union building on Thursdays. Outside of classes, your Sims may choose to use the related degree’s object, like an anatomy skeleton for Science & Medicine majors, or the brain enhancing machine for Technology majors.
The rabbit hole class was to be expected of The Sims 3. It added content, without being too system demanding. The lack of actual action during this class is made up for in the lecture hall class, where you have several available actions that reflect the things that many students in college actually do (if my experience is to be trusted): Ask questions, take notes, or sleep through the lecture.
The advancement of the Sims grade is determined by the advancement of related skills, the amount of time and effort put into studying, the attendance of classes, and of course the final exam grade. This structure seemed fair, while not being to hard or easy to accomplish. It takes serious effort to ace a course, while it takes pretty much no studying and no advancement of skills to fail a course. If you’re so inclined, the option exists to have another Sim attend class for you, give you “answers”, or even take your exam for you. These cheating methods may help you pass an especially difficult course, but the consequences can be tragic. At the end of each term, which can be either one or two weeks, the Sim receives a score report, including how many credits they earned and their final grade. The progress report was a decent way of informing you how your Sim is doing in school.
Once the Sim has returned home from college, they can enroll for another term to earn more credits toward their degree, or if they earned a degree the semester before, return to work on a new degree. This allows for Simmers to fulfill their fantasies of being a professional student. Not to mention, living on a college campus can (socially) be a blast.
The majors and their supported careers are as follows: Business (Business and Criminal), Technology (Military and Law Enforcement), Science & Medicine (pretty obviously Science and Medical), Communications (Political, Journalism, and Fortune Tellers), Fine Arts (Music, Culinary, and Film), and Physical Education (Professional Sports).
New social groups added to the game add an entirely new and interesting level to social interaction never seen before in the Sims franchise. As you interact with members of certain social groups (which include Nerds, Jocks, and Rebels), you gain influence with them by doing certain things based on the group (like gaming, for Nerd respect). If you manage to advance your Sim to the highest echelon of their social group, you can expect great rewards, like new social interactions, an extra trait slot, or a new super career related to your social group: Art Appraiser (Level 10 Rebel), Sports Agent (Level 10 Jock), Video Game Developer (Level 10 Nerd).
Something that makes all of this easier to manage are nightly parties at frat houses or dorms. These parties are often filled with people from several social groups. New party types (Juice Kegger, Bonfire Party) fit the theme just right, though one thing I did notice about some of the parties is that they would be scheduled, and when I arrived for it, the host would be nowhere to be found, and there would be no party goers. Also, bonfire parties, though possible with the new bonfire pit object added to the game, rarely actually involved the bonfire pit.
Forgot about the party that was supposed to be thrown tonight? Don’t worry, you’ll be reminded via your brand new smartphone! Yes, the Sims have joined the 21st century with brand new touch screen smartphones. These devices can be used to check your social group status (as well as what you can do to increase influence with each group, and notable members of the group that you can talk to), text other Sims, browse the web, share videos and pictures, and find Sims using an app. You can even try your hand at blogging.
Blogging is a big part of the new Social Networking skill, and can actually be a source of income if you gain a big enough (and generous enough following). As you “write” posts (which is nothing more than entering a title for the post, and maybe attaching a picture), you can either gain or lose followers based on the seemingly random quality of the post. The quality of the post likely increases as the Social Networking skill increases, and once the blog gets bigger, followers may start donating to the blog.
New venues across the university add flair to the nightlife and help keep your Sim sane while away at college. Notable visitable venues include a coffee shop, the student union building, the bowling alley (with functional bowling lanes), and the comic book store. A new restaurant, Sim Burger, adds another rabbit hole food option that’s fitting of many university students.
The living situation is both similar and all in all unique to the way that The Sims 2 handled dorm living. Immediately after arriving on campus, you pick where you want to stay. You can either stay in a dorm for free, rent a house, or move into a frat or sorority house. If you chose against renting a house on campus, your living option then populates with enough students to fill the building. You’re encouraged to choose and set a bed as owned (though this doesn’t really matter to some of the dorm members, annoyingly enough). You can set bed ownership for everyone, or you can just keep your bedroom door locked, to keep others out of your room. Unlike The Sims 2 version, you don’t claim a door, just the bed.
New traits have been added to make defining a persons social ability more well defined and fitting of different university students. These are Avant Garde (increasing the Sims interest in the arts), Irresistible (increases a Sims charm, and makes it difficult for other Sims to refuse your Sims advances), and Social Awkward (which makes it difficult for your Sim to fit in in social groups, and slip up in conversations).
One last note: the dorm mechanic works in the main town too. You can now have roommates come in to help with the rent. Just ask them to move in, or find random roommates online or on the phone.
Other new items indicative of a college setting were added to the game, including a Barista bar, comic books, energy drinks, flying disc (Frisbee), kicky bag (present in previous Sims games before The Sims 3, basically a hacky sack), mini fridges, Murphy beds, Ping Pong tables (allowing for “juice pong”), lecture podiums, graffiti tools, and whiteboards. The clothing options added in CAS make it extremely easy to make an outfit or appearance that fits today’s college environment and social groups, and hair and furniture help finish off the effect for decorations sake.
The new genre of music included in The Sims 3 University Life is Geek Rock. It was added likely to fit the new nerd social group. The genre includes six songs, and the style reminds me of Mumford and Sons and the band Fun.
The visuals in this game fit a classical university, with gorgeously designed buildings and all the features expected of a university campus expertly rendered. The quality of the look aimed for is a high expectation of Sims fans, and The Sims Studio delivered this time around as per usual.
With the new degrees and combinations of degrees, as well as the number of credit differences and social groups you can advance in, the replay value of the expansion pack is higher than several recent packs for The Sims 3. The combinations are an interesting way to create several different and unique Sims before you’ve ever gotten the opportunity to get through everything the game has to offer.
The expansion added great new content to the game for a reasonable price, but left a few annoying bugs in the game that make it difficult to manage time. There are still lag bugs where a Sim will stand next to a bed or shower for an hour before ever getting in. There are also bugs where a Sim will attend a party at a specified time and place, only to find the party not happening, or with the bonfire parties not involving bonfires. These bugs leave a bit to be desired, but will hopefully be worked out in the long run.
Overall, the experience included in the game helped a sheltered and boring university student relive college and do things that he wishes he could have done. It seems to capture the stereotypical university experience, without coming across as too overplayed or cliche. It is a fun addition to the environment of The Sims 3, which makes it that much more relateable and realistic an experience for anyone that wants to live vicariously through little computer people.
This game was reviewed on PC and the review was written after approximately 14 hours of gameplay.
Gameplay Footage (Taken from Casey’s livestream on Twitch.TV/WeatheredTunic):
First Video (Footage doesn’t begin until near the end, seek to it)
Second Video (continuation after first video cuts off)