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Review: The Sims 4 Discover University (PC)

8.5

Great

The eighth Sims 4 expansion pack has arrived in the form of the much anticipated Discover University. Like previous versions of this theme, your Sims can now attend university and enjoy student life and the perks of having a degree. How does it hold up? Let’s dive in. 

Discovering Britechester

As the title of this pack suggests, the focus of Discover University is the university experience. There’s a lot to unpack here, so bear with me. Unlike previous versions of this expansion pack, there’s no separate life stage for university. Young adult or older Sims can attend university, but a degree takes a minimum of three Sim weeks. That’s almost the entire young adult life stage on normal life span! While this is kinda realistic, you may wish to turn off ageing while at university so your Sim can enjoy a full life once they graduate. 

To compensate for taking up a big chunk of your Sim’s adult life, degrees have some pretty powerful benefits. My Sim completed a distinguished degree in computer science and was able to start at level 8 of the computer engineering career. She also got a signing bonus and a much higher hourly rate, and getting promoted was a breeze because she had already levelled up her programming and robotics skills while getting her degree. To put this in perspective, I have had many a Sim die of old age before reaching level 10 of their career, so my Sim reaching this level partway through her adult life stage was pretty cool. 

Getting a degree

Actually getting a degree is no small feat, however. My Sim spent her teen years getting good grades and learning a few skills in the hopes of getting accepted to do a distinguished degree and maybe even getting a scholarship or two. She ended up getting accepted for several distinguished degrees, and earning a few scholarships, mostly for her academic performance. Once you’ve decided to enrol, your Sim needs to pick a university and a degree. There’s Foxbury Institute, a modern science-focused university, and the University of Britechester, an older university with a focus on the arts. 

There’s a long list of degrees to choose from. Your Sims’ choice of uni will probably be determined by whether they want a specific distinguished degree, as these are based on the university’s focus area. For example, my Sim chose to do a distinguished computer science degree at Foxbury Institute. The ‘distinguished’ part simply means that these degrees are harder to get accepted into (your Sim will need a few skills under their belt before applying), and they offer a higher starting position in related jobs after graduation. 

I have had many a Sim die of old age before reaching level 10 of their career, so my Sim reaching this level partway through her adult life stage was pretty cool. 

Each term your Sim will need to choose what classes they’ll take – up to four classes, which may include 1 elective. A degree requires 12 completed classes, which can include electives before your Sim can graduate. You can choose to take fewer classes each term, extending your degree but giving your Sim more free time. Your Sims can also choose to take a break between terms, but at the cost of losing their scholarships. 

Every class has an associated skill, such as programming or robotics for the classes in the computer science degree. Sims will level up these skills naturally as they attend classes or complete coursework for that class. My Sim finished her degree with several new skills, including a couple at level 5+. Every class also comes with homework that should be completed before the next lecture, plus a final exam, term paper or presentation that must be submitted before the end of the term. Not completing this assignment has a big negative impact on your Sim’s grade for that class. Starting a term in the middle of the week will give your Sim the weekend to catch up on their coursework, which I would consider essential given how much time everything takes. 

Anxious Sims can annoy their professors by visiting them during office hours or emailing them to find out how they’re doing in their classes. There are also guest lecture and skills classes to attend, and Sims can tutor others in various skills to earn a bit of cash. 

Balancing act

Your Sim may wish to have a life outside of studying day and night. Both universities offer various organisations that your Sim can join, such as the robotics club or debating. These organisations have regular events for Sims to attend, where they can interact with other organisation members and ask to join. If your Sim joins an organisation, they’ll start at the lowest rank and be given tasks to complete in order to reach higher ranks. Each rank comes with various bonuses, some of which may help your Sim with their studies or skills. Or they might just get a neat shirt to wear. And if your Sim is really lucky, they may encounter the secret society that’s rumoured to operate across both universities. 

If your Sim wants even more to do, they can join the soccer or esports teams of the university they’re attending. These operate like after school activities, with daily tasks and skill requirements. There are weekly matches on Saturday evenings that other Sims can also attend to support their team. Reaching the top of either of these activities will give your Sim a bonus in the relevant career (professional athlete or esports) after they graduate. 

New skills

Discover University introduces two new skills: robotics, and research and debate. The latter skill gives you a host of passive bonuses when studying, doing homework, or reading, as well as active abilities like debating or persuading other Sims into doing your homework. In addition to the debating podium object used for – you guessed it – holding debates, there’s also an archiving computer that Sims can use to research various topics, or contribute their own knowledge to earn some extra cash. There’s a debating organisation at Britechester Uni, and this skill also features in the Education career.

The ultimate robotics project is Servo, a full-size robot that can join your household as a playable Sim.

The robotics skill takes centre stage in the bot club at Foxbury, as well as the engineering career, but any Sim can simply use a robotics station to dabble in this new skill. Much like the handiness skill, Sims can craft a variety of items at the robotics station, including drones and small robots. Some of these little bots can help around the house with cleaning or gardening, but they are susceptible to water damage, which can be problematic if you have Seasons installed. 

The ultimate robotics project is Servo, a full-size robot that can join your household as a playable Sim. Like the smaller bots, Servo can be upgraded to enhance their functionality. 

New careers

It’s been a while since we’ve had several new ‘normal’ full-time jobs added to the game. Discover University adds the education, law, and engineering careers, each with two branches. They are similar to the other newer careers in the game, where you can choose to work from home or send your Sim to work on their own for each shift. Education offers the professor or administrator branches, while law lets your Sim become a private attorney or a judge, and engineering gives the choice between computer or mechanical engineering. 

Roommates 

Another new feature in Discover University is the roommate system. Whether you’re staying in university housing or just want another Sim to help you pay the bills at home, roommates are now an option. The game will automatically fill any empty beds in university housing with autonomous roommates. You can’t control them directly but your Sim can interact with them, and some of them might even help with cleaning up the place. In a normal home, your Sim can place an ad for a roommate, and meet with any applicants before accepting them. All you need to do is ensure they have a bed of their own and they’ll hang around the house and pay rent, and possibly do some chores. 

I want to ride my bicycle

Of course, no pack is perfect. One issue my Sim had while living on campus was the sheer size of the campus itself. Walking from her dorm to the building where her classes were seemed to take forever. Even if she rode her bicycle part of the way, there are a lot of staircases at Foxbury, so she would always walk part of the way. Needless to say, she was almost always late for her classes. (Someone has already made a ‘get to classes faster’ mod to help deal with this frustrating aspect of the pack.)

The new bicycles are great, and can be ridden around any area of the world. Unfortunately, you can’t tell your Sim to always use a bicycle, so I often found my Sim walking great distances across campus when a bike would have been much faster. My solution? I placed a whole lot of bikes outside her residence. Not ideal, but she got to some of her classes on time at least! 

In addition to the bicycle, there are various new gameplay objects in Discover University that can be used outside of the university context. These include the mini-fridge (with space for a microwave on top), the ping pong table, the soccer ball, and juice kegs. The latter comes in various flavours and your Sim can even throw a keg party if they’re really enthusiastic about drinking juice and doing keg stands. 

New stuff!

I’ve already written a lot and I haven’t really mentioned the new Build/Buy or CAS content. Discover University has a large assortment of each, including everything you need to kit out your Sims’ dorm rooms, plus modern furnishings for Foxbury Institute and more old fashioned ones for Britechester U. Clothing and hair-wise, there’s nothing for toddlers or kids (which actually makes sense in this case, but it would have been cute to have uni shirts or something for youngsters to wear), but there is heaps of new stuff for older male and female Sims. These range from comfy casual wear to some really nice more formal items. The new hairstyles are excellent. 

Conclusion

Discover University is a pretty hefty pack with a lot of content. I feel it captures the struggle of trying to complete a full course load while still having time for friends and other activities. The campuses are pretty large, open areas, which is nice, but they do suffer a bit from The Sims 3 problem of feeling a bit empty, though Sims do hang around in some of the areas. Living on campus with several roommates does make it unlikely that every Sim will be asleep simultaneously, so the game never runs at max speed. Most of the pre-built lots leave something to be desired, but on PC/Mac this can easily be remedied by downloading builds from the Gallery.

The large amount of time it takes out of your Sims’ lives is probably worth it for the bonuses they receive, but I can see myself turning off ageing and extending my Sims’ degrees across more terms so there’s more time for activities besides studying. I was not a fan of the university-themed packs in The Sims 2 and 3, but I feel like it’s been done right this time.

This review was made possible by EA Game Changers.

Good

  • Two universities to choose from
  • Lots of degrees, classes and electives to choose from
  • New skills, careers and activities to enjoy
  • Good rewards for completing degrees

Bad

  • Huge campuses feel a bit empty
  • Sims take forever to get to class
  • Balancing studying with other activities is challenging (though realistic!)

Summary

Discover University brings a lot of new gameplay options, as well as build/buy and hair and clothing items, plus two new skills and three new careers, to The Sims 4. And that's before you even visit the new world of Britechester and enrol your Sim in a university. This pack feels like the Sims varsity experience done right.
8.5

Great

Gamer, geek, LEGO fanatic. I also love Pathfinder RPG, The Sims, cross stitching, crochet, and sci-fi and fantasy movies, games & books. And animals.

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