The Sims 4 High School Years Review: 'A Novelty That Soon Becomes Repetitive'
The Sims 4: High School Years is the newest expansion release from developers, Maxis. With it, teens in The Sims 4 finally have a purpose, can attend classes, join clubs, and experience teen love for the first time. If you've always wanted to re-live your high school memories or make new ones, then this might just be the pack for you! Read on for a full rundown of gameplay, build/buy furniture, and create-a-sim (CAS) items with The Sims 4: High School Years.
- Check out our Sims 4: Werewolves review if you're also looking to dip your toe in the phantasmal occult pack.
The create-a-sim clothing of this pack reads like an awkward teen wardrobe. There doesn’t seem to be a cohesive theme within the items. There is a range of preppy and more grunge-like items which can be seen as a great thing, like a teen that hasn’t discovered themselves or their style yet, this could add to the storytelling.
However, the range of items is lacklustre with only three new formal dresses and no full body suits at all. There are two masculine dress shirts, but both are highly stylised, with one being completely bedazzled with sequins. This is an option for an extravagant sim, but for many that wish to dress their sims in a sleek suit, you'll be disappointed.
For a pack that has the major selling point of prom, this seems like a huge oversight. Where are all the poofy gowns?
A gripe that many fans have had over the years is the lack of form-fitted jeans, these are in dire need, especially for masculine sims whose only options are currently flares and shorts. There is one pair of fitted jeans that come with this pack, with many swatches including classic neutral tones and more jazzy tartan and stripy options. Luckily, sims clothing is not gender locked, so we finally have at least one solid jean option for masculine sims.
There are no clothing items for toddlers or children in this pack, unsurprising as it is marketed as a teen-centric pack. You can, however, apply the new hairstyles that came with High School Years to toddlers or children which is a nice touch.
There are only four hairstyles for masculine sims, one of which is a coloured variant of another and the feminine hairstyles although appealing, are also limited. For a high school pack, it feels as though there should have been more accessory options for hair, such as hairbands and clips, to deal with those awkward teen hair phases. Hair disasters from teenhood are a rite of passage, emo fringes and bob cuts are iconic and would have been a nice touch if implemented within the pack.
The new bed and desk options are one of the highlights of this pack. There are five new single beds and three double beds with multiple swatches and different bedsheet designs. A teen's room is their sanctuary, meaning the build/buy items had to be spot on. Many will argue that we didn’t need more beds in the game, and whilst this may be true, more choice is always a good thing and choosing a bed often dictates where the design of a bedroom will lead to.
The pack also introduces new laptops and wide-screen computers with accompanying LED lights so you can deck out your teen's room as a wannabe gamer or streamer. This will resonate with a lot of sims players, who at their heart, are gamers.
The decorative items introduce new hobby-themed clutter which is a joy to see. New stacks of books, music and games can be added to your teen's room to show off more personality. Some key items are the hanging chair with fairy lights and the new partition which also has fairly lights and pictures added within it. When we picture a teen room, we picture a messy space filled with hobby items. Even a neat teen may have collectables and posters adorning their walls. More collectables and clutter items are a key feature of the pack, the only thing that would make it better would be to add even more.
There are eight new posters with multiple swatches which are easily the best-looking items in the build/buy mode, more clutter to go along with the fabulous poster choice would have been perfect. A new collectable for teens, like the MySims Go! Or the geodes would have been a great addition also, perhaps a teen sim looking to build up a record or card collection, something akin to Magic: The Gathering?
- For an overview of all the new items listed from the pack, read our guide to the Sims 4: High School Years items.
New World Of Copperdale
The new world of Copperdale is one of the largest added in recent memory. With 12 plots, Plumbite Pier is the star of the show. Visually, the pier and carnival rides are fantastic and with lakeside views sprinkled around the old mining town, The Sims team consistently produces high-quality environments.
One of the biggest disappointments of the pack is that the carnival rides are rabbit holes. You don’t see your sims on the rides, instead, they disappear upon interaction. Although mechanically, this is challenging as it would take more processing power. Most fans would agree that they would rather have a smaller world with fewer lots if it meant that we could get added gameplay such as this.
Having a full carnival at your fingertips, for your sim to just disappear inside is disappointing. The text pop-ups can, however, trigger relationship opportunities. The tunnel of love can create the 'Crush' sentiment on participants which is a pleasant addition.
Beyond this, the pack has introduced a heavy emphasis on thrift shopping and selling, with the new ThrifTea shop both selling bubble tea and thrift store items to sims. Whilst this sounds interesting in theory, in practice, setting a fashion look is simply entering create-a-sim, but with fewer options. In the trailers, we saw sims trying on outfits in dressing rooms, a UI that incorporated this would have been a refreshing way to differentiate the thrifting mechanic from create-a-sim.
Beyond the pier and the thrift store, there isn’t a lot to do in the world. Although visually appealing, the world comes across as slightly empty in this regard. More hobbies and teen hangout spots could have fixed this, maybe even a skate park and a skateboarding skill for teens to try. The pack is crying out for more hobbies and skills, although the pack has introduced after-school clubs, these are also rabbit holes that work similarly to jobs.
Saved By The Bell
The key feature of The Sims 4: High School Years is the ability to follow your teen sims to school and attend classes like a regular kid. This is an exciting prospect at first, attending class, exams, study sessions with friends, and participating in lunchtime cafeteria drama are all the prospects you need to relive your Breakfast Club dreams. This is a novelty that soon becomes repetitive, however, as you realise that all classes follow the same gameplay.
Your sim will sit at a desk and listen to a teacher talk in front of a whiteboard. Even in classes such as art, the gameplay is the same. This is such a wasted opportunity as having sims in front of easels physically practising art would have been so much better and not beyond the realms of possibility for the game. Even exams and detentions are in the same classroom format, simply moving the exam to the auditorium space and having an invigilator pacing up and down would have been a welcome change.
Likewise, being able to interact with fellow students or slack off in class would have added some much-needed depth to classroom scenarios. You do gain skills by going to classes such as programming and archaeology, which is a nice touch.
Sims tend to have two classes a day with a lunch break in-between and an exam at the end of the week. You can choose to study for your exam, which amounts to the same interaction as doing your homework. The teen sims that populate the school are interesting enough but be careful of age settings in your game as they tend to age up and disappear from high school before you get to graduation. Once this happens, high school becomes a barren space without many teens to populate it.
You can interact with school lockers by slipping notes to classmates or planting stink bombs as pranks, this is an excellent added flavour to school life, however, if the principal catches you outside of class there isn't any repercussion just detention where you sit in class after hours.
Along with the new base game addition of Wants and Fears, teens have three new traits and four new aspirations locked behind the teen life stage. These traits impact gameplay and the Wants and Fears you may get, more than previous packs beforehand. The socially awkward trait has some interesting dimensions to it, you can confess your awkwardness to people close to you and if they choose to comfort you in response this can trigger new sentiments.
The sentiments system has been expanded, there are new prom-based sentiments that activate depending on how you approach prom, whether you make a pact to skip prom with someone or ask a special someone out instead. Sentiments in general, fledge out relationships in a way that feels more realistic.
You will also experience all the aches and pains associated with teenhood including acne and body hair (body hair was included in the base game update), with the pack body hair will continuously grow unless you shave it or turn the option off in the settings. Again, this adds a level of realism that family sim players will get a kick out of.
A new walk animation features teens checking their phones more often, as such, phones have become a more prominent part of teen life with the introduction of two new apps.
The Social Bunny app is a fully interactive app which allows you to send messages to friends and react to other sim's posts. You can create a post every time your sim engages in an activity. The fact you can enter the app and make changes yourself is a welcome addition to the game and suits the target audience of the pack.
The Trendi app is essentially The Sim's version of DePop. You can source clothes from the thrift store, create an outfit and sell it on Trendi for some side income. Although the thrift store has changing stock every few days, the 'create a fashion look' interaction felt like a watered-down version of create-a-sim. For simmers who love designing looks, however, there is some enjoyment to be had.
Get Your Prom On
Prom is the main attraction and selling point of the pack. The ability to craft promposals, create a prom outfit and attend is what draws many to the pack. Prom doesn’t go beyond the realms of any other event, however, as it follows the same goal-orientated focus of other events in the game.
Voting for prom royalty and jester is entertaining, the rest of the activities mostly involve dancing and eating. The photo booth could have been a fantastic addition to gameplay, working just like any other camera in the game, being able to adjust poses and have a group photo with friends could have been fun – even more so if they added props to use like regular photo booths. However, your sim disappears into the booth and then returns with a photo in their inventory.
Once prom is done there isn’t a lot of replayability, except perhaps, if you redesign the venue for yourself. Prom is locked to the Auditorium lot in Copperdale, meaning you cannot hold prom anywhere else in any other lot or world (the same applies to the high school lot).
There are also career day events and the graduation ceremony to attend. The career day amounts to your sim talking to other sims in professions and then telling their teacher they spoke to them. The level of interaction is very low as such, it would have been nice to see sims take part in a taster session or ask more in-depth questions about possible careers.
It is possible to have events for afterschool activities such as cheerleading and computer club (science fair). These also all amount to similar gameplay interactions of having a sim make an entry, be judged, to then wait for results. The football pitch by the school is only decorative and you can't follow your teens to after-school activities and take part in activities like group cheerleading or chess tournaments.
Value for Money?
All in all, this pack has some seriously great ideas but fails to fully deliver them. The build/buy items are a great selling point for the pack, if you wish to create more 'lived-in' rooms for your teens and wish to explore the new social platform then this could be a good companion pack for you. Likewise, if you're a simmer who loves playing with families then the High School Years pack will offer you gameplay that you'll enjoy.
The issues arise when the repetitive nature of classes and activities creep in. The pack is mostly average with the world feeling quite empty. It makes a good addition to other packs, but if you have to choose to buy just one expansion, then others would offer more in terms of gameplay.
- To see such packs for yourself and how they compare, see our list of all the best Sims 4 expansion packs ranked.
Reviewed on PC. Code provided by the publisher.