The Sims 4: High School Years Overview – High School Never Ends
The Sims 4 brings new depth to the teen life stage with High School Years, introducing interactive school days for teens, the drama of teen relationships, several after-school clubs, and some new hangout spots. A collaboration with Depop also introduces thrift shops, style trends, and the in-game fashion app Trendi. It’s a packed offering that is much desired after the sporadic releases of the last year, but does it live up to expectations?
Interactive school days are the core component of High School Years, with all other features built around them. Copperdale High School acts as a focal point for your teen Sims to explore relationships, find their style, and work out who they are. This is emphasised by senior game designer Jessica Croft who says, “the high school experience is the spine of the pack, while the drama, discovery, and excitement of being a teenager is the soul.”
As always, this expansion comprises build and buy items, clothing, and gameplay elements. All of these are teen-focused and blend together well to create a cohesive yet unique aesthetic. Build and buy focuses on school items as well as bedroom furniture, since a teen's bedroom is often how they express themselves. Personality is also to be found in teenage wardrobes, which is addressed with a wide range of different items, including many that mix and match well, enabling your Sims to find their own style.
For builders, the first thing you’ll notice is that Copperdale High School has been designed to be renovated. The default main building has three floors and includes a range of basic facilities, while the Auditorium has several states, including being decorated for prom, graduation, and a career fair. You can freely edit both lots from the world menu, without the need for cheats. This means that your teens can attend the kind of school you want, be it one with top facilities, or something far more run down. This is a huge bonus for anyone who wants to customise the school experience, or even just change around those uneven cafeteria chairs.
The range of items is solid, with a good number of swatches available and a handful of distinct styles that fit not just teens, but also older Sims as well. For those with Discover University, the items are perfectly complimented by dorm items you can find in that expansion, meaning you can build a pretty extensive school. The customisation options for teen bedrooms are also a great plus for those who hate to build but love to decorate. The themes are flexible, and they include clutter items and wall decor, all of which you can place almost anywhere to add instant personality to a room.
The main thing that feels lacking is the decor for prom. The trailer and initial hype seemed to imply a lot more customisation than we actually see. There are a few decorations, including curtains, banners, and balloons, but they are quite neutral. If you want a more specific theme than a general colour scheme, you’ll need to venture into other packs.
When we move on to Create A Sim, things get more varied, especially since additions include a collaboration with Depop. Steve Dool, brand director of the fashion company says, “Increasingly, there is such little distance between how people express themselves in real life and virtually, so it’s a really interesting place for us to appear.” The contribution of Depop focuses on the new Thrift Store, which allows Sims to search for different outfits each day. Many of these have been designed by Depop sellers, including Selena Williams, who says, “I feel I can bring the thrift shop experience right to the users’ fingertips… This makes it so much easier, especially when you don’t have a lot of time or even know where to start.”
Fashion is of clear importance in this pack and encompasses multiple styles. Sims can also become Simfluencers and set their own trends, selling outfits on Trendi and inspiring others to dress like them. “Fashion is one of the key ways your teens can begin to represent the identity that they start to form in those critical teenage years,” says George Pigula, the pack’s lead producer. “We knew that fashion would be key to supporting that self-discovery and would create a lot of fun gameplay.”
While your Sims will look great, and can visit some stunning locations, it’s the gameplay that really needed to be spot on in this pack, but unfortunately, that hasn’t panned out as hoped. High School Years is not broken at a level that makes it unplayable, but some weird bugs can make high school life even more difficult. Some things, like the principal cheering on a fight, also make storytelling a challenge.
Going to school works like an active career. You can send Sims alone or specify which teenage Sims you want to be able to control during the school day. Once at school, Sims have tasks to complete and the difficulty here comes from the fact that the day feels very rushed, and Sims don’t always do as you ask. I found that, especially when it came to exams, my Sim liked to get up from the desk and wander about the place, making sure he failed and tanked his grade. I tried a different Sim, yet got the same results. Getting those grades back up can also be a difficult task and takes several days.
Classes are short, but there are no interactions available during them, so you can’t choose to work harder, pass notes, or any other typical school behaviour, unless you get a rare random popup notification. You can however get in trouble for being late to class – something that is easy to do since it can take up to one Sim hour for your Sim to get to class, depending on the size of the school. Sims caught pranking lockers can also face detention – or even death if their prank goes very wrong. The second death in the pack comes to those of a high mischief skill who mess with urban legends.
Between the morning and afternoon classes, you can grab some lunch and socialise with your peers. Socialising can also happen through posts and DMs on Social Bunny, a new app on your phone. If you choose to join an after-school club these take the form of rabbit hole career events that happen a few times a week. The combination can make a Sim’s school life feel quite chaotic. This is heightened by the fact that there is a prom every single week, or at least there’s supposed to be. Certain other events appear to override it, making prom less predictable than hoped. You can’t cancel prom either, although you can just ignore it. Graduation doesn’t happen until your Sim ages up and can no longer attend school.
The new world of Copperdale also includes some unique locations. The ThrifTea store allows Sims to search for new clothing while drinking bubble tea, and is a favourite hangout for teens. Alternatively, the town has a library, park and non-editable pier area that includes a ferris wheel, tunnel of love, and haunted house. Sims of young adult or above can enjoy a little risky woohoo on the rides, but watch out. If you get caught you can be banned from the area!
Overall, there is a lot to do in this pack, yet the school day feels both rushed and slightly boring. Some different ways to engage with classes would have helped with this, as would a longer term. The length is tied to short lifespans, but there’s little flexibility. Teens definitely feel fleshed out now, and the new clothing items, as well as the addition of acne and body hair, help give them a style and look more distinct than adults. If you enjoy this life stage, there’s much more to do, but some elements of the gameplay definitely feel lacklustre. A patch has fixed the most problematic issues, including incestuous and inappropriate wants, but there is still some work to be done.
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