Sims 4 Discover University doesn't mirror my college experience exactly, but it mirrors the college experience in hilarious and depressing ways. Before heading to college, my sim had to get a second, part-time job because she couldn't afford the 75 Simoleons application fee; Insurance didn't pay her enough money to replace her oven after a house fire nearly destroyed her kitchen, and she was already broke from spending money on a study desk and laptop.
My girl had some big academic ambitions though, so I got enough money for her to apply to college. I also made her study computer, videogame, and other scientific-related skills so she could apply to as many scholarships as possible. I ended up applying to three: a low-income scholarship, an esports scholarship, and a residency grant. I got all of them, which gave me a free-ride to college. Tuition and room and board 100 percent covered. No crippling student loan debt.
Okay, so that's the complete opposite of my college experience, but that's the point of the Sims 4 Discover University; it's one part real college experience and one part fantasy. Going to college today is different than five or ten years ago, The Sims general manager Lyndsay Pearson tells me. Discover University was designed to reflect those changes. "It felt like this was a good time to go back through your sim's life and say hey, this is an important state that a lot of people go through, so let's do that. Let's go all in on that."
And, oh man, did they go all in on that. I mean, you can give your sims facial piercings now, something that defined part of my own college experience. (Sorry, mom.)
A lot has changed since The Sims 3 University Life expansion. Aside from being able to apply—and get—merit, need, resident, sports and esports, and skill-based scholarships, you can choose to go to one of two colleges: University of Britechester, an Ivy League-esque school known for its humanities programs and ghosts that roam the campus, and Foxbury Institute, a modern tech-school known for its science-based programs and cutting-edge tech. What school and major you get accepted into is based on your skill level in different areas, just like some of the scholarships.
Creating two schools rather than one or three meant that the developers could focus on giving each a distinct personality, while injecting some rivalry into the mix. "It offers a really good balance to introduce a little bit a potential conflict, and the question, 'What does it mean to be at one of either of those schools?'" While I'm not sure of the extent of the rivalry, I was able to play some harmless pranks on Foxbury's gymnasium by hanging Britechester's banners on the outside.
I guess I was feeling bitter that my sim didn't have the skills to get into Foxbury Institute's distinguished computer science program, so she went to University of Britechester to study that instead. (Hey, name-brand schools aren't always what they're cracked-up to be.) But being the overachieving goth that she is, I enrolled her in a full-load of classes—four—quit her jobs, and sent her off for some book learnin'. Taking that many classes leaves your sim little time for social activities. You'll get your degree faster, but miss out on exploring the organizations each college offers, which, aside from being able to choose between two colleges, is a massive change from Sims 3 University Life.
In University Life, you could build your social status in one of three social groups. If you reached the top social tier of that group, a new career path would unlock. (The nerd group would unlock the videogame developer career, for instance.) Social groups are not tied to status nor post-college careers this time around, which is not only more realistic to a real-life college experience, but also puts a bigger emphasis on having fun rather than seeing social opportunities as a means to an end for your sim's career path.
The developers were conscious of not making University Life feel like an American-specific university. "We tried to talk to a lot of different people about their experiences at universities around the world and say, okay, how do we make this more recognizable or relatable," said Pearson. Having studied at both American and Irish universities myself, I instantly saw the similarities between my college experiences in two different countries. The dorm life felt very American, while the lack of fraternities and sororities reminded me of my time in Ireland. The all-night ragers were standard across the board, though, and while snooker was absent in the commons, I could easily buy a juice keg and bring it up to my dorm—and play juice pong.
Speaking of living options, there is only one off-campus housing option in Britechester, as the other few that are available are filled up. This is a little disappointing, as it's still in-line with how small a lot of the towns are with few open or buildable lots. But, all the action is on campus in the dorms, which is the main ingredient to the quintessential (American) college experience: dorm-life. Dorms are co-ed and massive, with roommates coming and going at all hours of the night, chatting loudly while you're trying to do your homework, or streaking across the living room for no reason. The beds are twin-sized, but unfortunately you can't WooHoo in them or cuddle uncomfortably with your partner, but you can WooHoo in the showers, finally.
And speaking of WooHoo, I successfully WooHooed a robot. I didn't have enough time to level up my robotics skill and build my own, so I walked over to Foxbury and started romancing someone's robot that they brought out for a competition. Once I filled up our romance meter to a decent amount, I invited Mac, the robot, to my house since I wasn't living in the dorms at the time. Everything was perfect. I was excited for Mac to come over, and when he did, I went in for our first kiss—and it didn't go as planned.
Not only would Mac not kiss me because our Romance level wasn't high enough (maxed out seems high enough to me), but he wouldn't even think about WooHooing with me until we were best friends, so I had to spend time getting to know Mac until he would WooHoo me. (I guess robots have higher standards than most other sims.) Eventually, we WooHooed. And it was glorious. It was magical. My sim was in love with Mac, so I had her propose to him—and he rejected her proposal.
Seriously, Mac? Okay fine. We're breaking up.
After I broke up with Mac, I moved back into the dorms, which was a much better experience, although customizing your dorm room is a little convoluted. Unlike using the build/buy mode on a normal house. If you want to add any items to your dorm room like posters, a mini-fridge, or microwave (and yes, you can stack the microwave on top of your mini-fridge and make ramen), you have to buy those things from a nearby vending machine; build/buy mode is unavailable for the dorms because it changes the value of the overall lot, which affects any scholarships you might have. Scholarships roll over from term to term, and there's a fixed amount for room and board, if you choose to live in the dorms. Editing the dorms as you're living in them will change how much it costs to live in there next term, but your scholarship won't reflect that. If you want to change the look of the dorms, you'll have to edit them from world view first.
Figuring out where to eat on campus wasn't intuitive either, as there are no kitchens in the dorms, but once you figure out that the cafeteria is in the commons it makes complete sense. However, it only operates for certain hours, so if your sim gets a midnight study craving, you better have a mini-fridge and microwave in your room, or hope that a "food fairy" lives in your dorm—a roommate that randomly shows up with food all the time. That was how I fed my sim for her first two weeks of college.
Living with a bunch of strangers isn't all it's cracked up to be either. Remember the living room streaker? Well, he wrote a nasty note about my sim. She found it in her dorm room, and it said, "I'm not saying I'm the best roommate, but at least I'm not Skye."
So, I had her confront him in the bathroom.
Discovery University is the most comprehensive expansion pack that has been released for The Sims 4 yet. You can curate so many different college experiences: switch schools if the one you enrolled in initially isn't working out; take more elective classes than core classes if you want to be a "super senior"; earn multiple degrees; or just spend your time drinking at the local bar. If you missed Maxis' live stream last week, I highly suggest you check it out. The Sims 4 Discover University launches November 15th, and you can pre-order it here or via the Origin launcher.