the sims 4 discover university illustration by Ashawna Linyard
Finally, we get the university game we've been waiting for, but is it as good as it sounds? (Illustration by Ashawna L. Linyard, Georgia State University)

How Similar Is ‘The Sims 4 Discover University’ to Actual University?

Will the expansion pack actually reflect college life, or will it just be another example of ‘The Sim 4’ not living up to its predecessors?

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the sims 4 discover university illustration by Ashawna Linyard

Will the expansion pack actually reflect college life, or will it just be another example of ‘The Sim 4’ not living up to its predecessors?

Sul-sul, simmers! What we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived. “The Sims 4 Discover University” was announced last week after a series of leaks and clues with a very cinematic reveal trailer and it looks promising, if a bit unrealistic. Or maybe it’s just really European. However you feel about it, one thing cannot be denied: There are some serious dissimilarities between “The Sims 4 Discover University” and actual university.

For all hardcore simmers, there are three big expansion packs that really add to the game’s realism and stir up the hype: pets, seasons and university. We have had seasons and pets for a while now with the installments “The Sims 4 Cats and Dogs” and “The Sims 4 Seasons,” but it feels like we have been waiting on a university pack forever. That all ended last week.

Following a string of accidental leaks from several retailers like Target and Microsoft, “The Sims” team sent several simming YouTubers faux acceptance letters to two made-up colleges — Britechester University and Foxbury Institute — that told them (and their subscribers) to tune in to the official “The Sims” channel the next day for orientation. What we got instead was the first trailer for “The Sims 4 Discover University.” And it was definitely something.

One could make the argument that a university pack has become the single most requested expansion pack for “The Sims 4” in the last year or so. With all of this anticipation came a whole lot of expectation. Expectation that was, sadly, not exactly met. “The Sims 4” has long been known for its lack of real gameplay. While “The Sims 2” and “The Sims 3” were lauded for their fun and engaging live mode gameplay, “The Sims 4” focuses more on aesthetics.

Its goal is not to give all the little details we actually experience in real life, but to make the game look like real life. The worlds have more detail, the images are sharp and beautiful and the people look like unique, realistic cartoons — not the same, slightly changed pixelated version of one person over and over again.

But the downside to this is that there are fewer things to actually do in “The Sims 4” compared to previous generations of the franchise. And when we do finally get the things we already had in those previous generations, they’re usually separated out into multiple packs that we have to spend even more money on (don’t get me started on “The Sims 4 Cats and Dogs” and “The Sims 4 My First Pet Stuff”). It doesn’t look like this is any different in “The Sims 4 Discover University.”

While “The Sims 3 University Life” played more like an American state school, putting most of its energy into the partying aspect of college with sororities, fraternities, bonfire get-togethers and plenty of opportunities to get “juiced,” “The Sims 4 Discover University” more closely resembles an elite European university setting. It looks to be all about the actual schooling part of school, with new features like debate, robotics and a secret society. There are merits to both of these. No one has the same college experience. In fact, an accurate portrayal of college life would be a mix of the two. Unfortunately, that mix just isn’t there.

In this newest iteration of university for “The Sims,” not only is there no big frat party life aspect, there just doesn’t look to be that much new gameplay at all. Sure, you get the choice of attending two different schools (historical Britechester or modern Foxbury) instead of just one, but once you’re moved in, it seems like there’s not much else to do besides study and look around at the pretty view. “The Sims 3 University Life” may have had bare bones scenery, but at least you were always entertained. You could hit up the cafe for a study date, head over to the bowling alley for some strikes and then end the night with a streak through the quad.

With “The Sims 4 Discover University,” you can’t really do any of that. Cafes came with “The Sims 4 Get Together,” bowling was its own pack and streaking … kind of came with “The Sims 4 Island Living”? But it was just nude lots, not actual streaking. That means that we had to buy multiple packs to get the same content, and the content didn’t even have much quality. In fact, the biggest feature we appear to be getting with “The Sims 4 Discover University” is bicycles, something that literally came with the base game in “The Sims 3.”

This leaves our wallets empty and our gameplay unrealistic. Bicycles are not a huge staple of college life. They may be part of it, but they aren’t what you think when someone says college. You also don’t think building robots, debate tournaments, soccer games (rather than football — another European touch), partying at bars or really anything else that was advertised in the trailer. It also looks like there’s only going to be three majors — law, engineering and teaching. It’s all very niche and does not reflect the general vibe of college that most people know.

There are some things about the new expansion pack that do seem cool, though. The school rivalry looks interesting, the dorms appear to be much more realistic than the gigantic master suites in “The Sims 3 University Life” and there’s some really fun new Create-A-Sim options, including piercings and smaller tattoos. So, even if I have some objections to how college life is going to be portrayed, I will be shelling out my cash to buy the thing. As an avid simmer, I have to. I want the full gaming experience and university is an integral part of that, for storytelling and entertainment purposes. If you’re like me, get ready, “The Sims 4 Discover University” comes out Nov. 15 for Mac/PC and Dec. 17 for console. We’ll just be waiting here until then, EA. Dag-dag!

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