They say that your school years are meant to be some of the best of your life. In The Sims 4, it’s kind of hard to say that because you never got to follow your young Sims to school… until now. The Sims 4 High School Years Expansion allows you to live your teen Sims’ lives by following them to high school, which has been promoted to a fully-fledged active “career”. While the main focus of this Expansion is on high school life, it goes beyond that on exploring your teens out of school as they establish themselves and prepare to become adults and enjoy the teenage life. Find out how great this experience is as you read this The Sims 4 High School Years review!
Story – Teens Take Center-Stage at Copperdale High
Since this is The Sims 4, there’s not usually a set story. The idea is that the player comes up with their own stories, even with pre-made Sims in pre-made Lots in a pre-made world. This doesn’t mean, however, that there’s no story of any kind to analyse in this Sims 4 High School Years review. It does have a theme, and the clue’s in the title. This Expansion is all about your teenage Sims and them going to high school. Before this Expansion came along, the teenage life state in The Sims 4 was rather overlooked and underused. They did get a little attention in the Parenthood Game Pack, but with High School Years, the focus is all on them and no-one else. Once you install and play High School Years, you won’t think that teens don’t get any look-in ever again.
With a new Expansion comes a new world: Copperdale, home of Copperdale High School, where all teen Sims will attend, including your playable teens. Like all worlds in The Sims 4, Copperdale comes with its own Sims, Lots, neighborhoods, history, and backstory. Of course, it’s up to you, the player, to make up your own stories, but High School Years has just opened up the floodgates with new ideas for storytelling.
Gameplay – Teens Can Now Thrive
Teens are the core of this Expansion Pack, and with it being called High School Years, going to high school is the central theme. There’s lots more to this pack though, so let’s study the gameplay for this The Sims 4 High School Years review.
Time for School!
Thanks to this pack, your teens no longer disappear off lot for several hours when they go to high school. If you don’t have High School Years, the only time you get involved in their school life is when you’re making them do their homework (or working on a school project, if you have the Parenthood Game Pack). This Expansion changes all of that, and it does a good job of recreating the high school experience, plus making you feel immersed, which is a bonus. (As another bonus, as with all active careers, you don’t have to follow your Sims to school; you’re not forced to.)
Teens going to high school works just like any active career, in that you have the option to follow them to a brand-new High School Lot based in Copperdale. Copperdale High is your typical high school, complete with classrooms, a cafeteria, corridors with lockers, the principal’s office, and an enormous playing field. As an added bonus, there’s a gym and computer suite in the school’s basement, plus on the top floor of the school, there’s an art classroom and music classroom. This is truly a great place for teens to work on various skills.
Your Sims attend school every day from Monday to Friday, hours lasting from 8am to 3pm. Every day, the routine is the same. You get free time between classes, including lunch, but then there’s the classes themselves, two different ones a day, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Classes include maths, foreign languages, and social studies. Your Sims build skills during these hour-long classes, sometimes multiple skills at once. If you have certain packs installed, you’ll build skills from them as well, such as the Selvadoradian Culture skill from the Jungle Adventure Game Pack.
There’s nothing stupidly complicated about the high school system. You only have two classes a day to worry about, and you get plenty of free time between lessons to go and do other things. The school day seems to go pretty quickly, which is another perk. Your Sims automatically go to classes 30 in-game minutes before they’re due, or you can click on the flashing whiteboard in the classroom and select Attend Class. In class, your Sims automatically whip out their notebooks and get down with learning. It’s all hands-on while being hassle-free, and it’s immersive.
It would have been nice though if classes could have been a bit more interactive. Your Sims just sit there, take notes, and that’s it. You don’t have to input anything yourself as the player; your Sim does all the work. Your Sims could have passed notes to others, or interacted with the teacher. Occasionally, you do get a multiple-choice option during class, but that’s as much as you put in. Still, at least you don’t have to micromanage everything your Sim does, so perhaps this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Another important part of school life is exams, which takes place at the end of every week. Your Sims have to study for these exams, similar to completing assignments in Discover University. Studying is very easy; you just click on your Sim and select Study for Exams and they read their book. Studying doesn’t take too long, not like university assignments, so this isn’t too laborious a process, and it’s nothing to stress about too much.
More to Life Than School
This Expansion might be called High School Years, but that doesn’t mean the only new feature is going to high school. There’s lots more your teen Sims can do when they’re not at school. For a start, they can take part in after-school activities such as cheerleading, football, chess club, and the computer club. These activities have events associated with them, so you can get together for a cheerleading competition or a football rally, all in the spirit of high school. These new activities are really great fun to take part in. Seeing a whole group of Sims perform a cheer routine is quite impressive (and hilarious when a low-level Sim messes up!)
There are downsides to the new after-school activities though, when comparing them to part-time jobs. For a start, your Sims don’t get paid. Second, it seems that you are unable to have both a part-time job and an after-school activity (at least in my case, while I was playing High School Years for this review, I couldn’t be a cheerleader and work as a lifeguard via Island Living). This isn’t to say that these activities are a waste of time, as they are good fun, but if you want your teen Sims to make money, you’d probably choose the paid job.
As well as after-school activities, there are special events linked to high school, such as the prom and graduation. The prom is a big event in any teenager’s life, and in High School Years, it’s no different. The Sims has previously had a prom event, with The Sims 3: Generations Expansion, but this occurred off-screen, with a chain of pop-up messages informing you of what’s going on, then you got some souvenirs afterwards. The Sims 4: High School Years does this differently. You can actually attend the prom in person – and it does not disappoint. It’s a proper affair, hosted in the school’s gymnasium, where you can dance, drink punch, vote for the Prom Royalty and Prom Joker, and get photos taken. It’s a fun night, but it’s a shame it doesn’t last. The prom itself only lasts about 3 in-game hours, and it whizzes by. Saying that, you do get the chance to attend an after-party, plus it probably feels quick because you’ve enjoyed it so much.
Graphics and Audio – An Impressive New World, Clothes, and Objects
While the graphics for The Sims 4 has consistently stayed the same with its realistic-yet-cartoonish style, for this review of The Sims 4: High School Years, we can at least talk about what’s new with this pack, such as the new world Copperdale, the new clothes, hair and accessories in Create-A-Sim, and the new objects.
Copperdale Is the Place to Be
One thing every Sims 4 player gets excited about is a new world, and Copperdale is another great entry in the catalog of worlds. Although this is where the high school is based, there’s a lot more to Copperdale than just the school. It’s a place you can call home, and it’s a beautiful and exciting place to visit. Plus, it’s not just a cool hangout for teenagers, but Sims of all ages.
Copperdale is a pretty big world, and there’s plenty to do there. You’ve got the thrift store, library, high school – and there’s an amusement park! You can go on rides such as the Tunnel of Love, Ghost Train, and the Ferris Wheel! It’s a shame that these are the only rides available. They could have at least included a carousel as well. What’s also a shame is that you cannot see your Sims on the Ferris Wheel, another missed opportunity. It would have been great if you could have had your Sims sharing a kiss at the top. There is some other good stuff at the amusement park though, such as an ice cream stall! It’s a great place for all Sims to visit, not just teens, and it’s definitely a place you’ll want to check out. It looks especially cool at night, with all the colorful lights on.
Let’s talk about the high school itself. We’ve already explored what’s at the school, but it’s been recreated like a real school so well. It’s certainly not a disappointment and you’ll feel like you’re at a real high school. There’s even a huge playing field at the back for that extra touch, and a gymnasium.
What’s New in Create-A-Sim?
This is something every Sims player wants to know. I couldn’t do this Sims 4 High School Years review without analysing the new outfits and accessories in Create-A-Sim. As you can imagine with this particular pack, everything new in CAS is geared towards teenagers, and there’s something for everybody in all styles. Your teens can finally have their own style that distinguishes them from their elders, so they actually look and dress more like teenagers, plus they can flaunt their own style, whether it’s following the trend or experimenting with creative new looks. If I had to give one criticism, it would be that I wish there were more accessories such as shoes, jewellery, etc. There are TONS of new tops, bottoms, and outfits, but the accessories feel a little neglected.
New Objects Aimed at Teens
Create-A-Sim has been covered, but what about the new objects? Apparently, there’s over 300 new objects to check out in High School Years. As with everything else in this pack, it’s all geared towards teens, but with the objects, these can be used by all age groups. For example, you could deck a child’s room out in teen stuff, or even an adult’s. It’s not all strictly just for teenagers, and that’s the great thing.
Another great thing is that not only do you get stuff to deck out your Sims’ homes, but also the new High School Lot. If you want to give Copperdale High a makeover and make it your own, you can, thanks to the new objects designed to go in the school.
The Sims 4: High School Years Expansion Pack was reviewed on PC.