We love the Sims, so you can imagine our excitement when we heard that Maxis was developing an expansion for The Sims 2
. Not that it was unexpected though, after all, Maxis had developed more than a half a dozen expansions for the original Sims so Sims University
was practically inevitable. But unlike those other expansions this one actually changes the gameplay enough to make it worthwhile. Sure, the new objects are great but the real highlight of this pack comes from the ability to finally put your Sims through college.
There are three different pre-made campuses for you to enjoy and while they’re aesthetically different, they each contain the same basic tenets: dormitories, coffee shops, student unions, lounges and landmarks. The dormitories are the biggest change to the formula as they’ll require you to share your living space with up to seven other Sims. You’ll have your own private room but most of the action takes place in the relatively large common space that houses most of the fun. This is great for social Sims as they won’t have to break a sweat building and maintaining relationships. After you gain enough cash you can eventually move out into one of the surrounding houses or apply to a Frat/Sorority and join their house.
The new feature that really has the biggest impact on the core gameplay is influence. As you gain more friends and move up in the world you’ll build an influence meter. When you’ve amassed enough points you can get other Sims to perform the pesky tasks that you don’t really want to bother with. This especially comes in handy when you’ve got finals in 5 hours and you’re faced with the dilemma of finishing that term paper or streaking around the campus. Oh college, where life’s toughest decisions are made.
Speaking of streaking, it’s just one of the many new interactions that University adds to the mix. You can prank your friends (or enemies), jump into a game of hacky sack or just hang out with a group of people. I’m especially fond of the hanging out feature because it allows Sims to build up your relationships with a group of people as opposed to one Sim at a time. Some of the pranks are pretty weak and really show a lack of effort on the part of the developers. They can come up with witty names for all of the college courses but couldn’t come up with something better than this?
While we’re on the topic of courses, your Sims will have to go to class but you’ll never see the inside of one. This is especially strange considering that much of the college experience takes place within the confines of the classroom. It’s a place to meet people, learn more about life and enhance one’s true understanding of the world around him. Instead, Maxis decided to treat classes like jobs as they send the Sim off-screen only to have him or her return a couple of hours later. To us it seems like a lost opportunity that really should have been an integral part of the game.At least going to school helps you with the real world. By completing your education you’ll have a head-start in any profession that you choose to take. University also adds four new careers to the mix that add some variety to the game. The most interesting is the show business career which allows you to become a pampered celebrity not unlike we’re accustomed to seeing on our televisions. We also enjoyed the paranormal career as it allowed us to live out our dreams of becoming the next Miss Cleo. The artist path finally gives some meaning to the easel while the natural science career feels like a throwaway considering the game already featured a career in the science field. Each of these new career paths also have their own career rewards of which our favorite is the Artists’ camera which allows you to take photos of anything in the game and hang them on your walls.
University adds about 120 new items but only a small handful of them will prove to be useful. Most notable are the addition of musical instruments that fall into the creativity skill building category. Like the piano, Sims with low creativity levels will struggle with their instruments until they can build up more skills. As they progress they’ll transition from poseur deluxe to rock star supreme. The sheer detail in each instrument is amazing too, including the foot pedals that come with the guitar. It’s also nice to see that the instruments can be played in conjunction, leading to some pretty interesting results. The pool table also makes a return along with a “juice” keg and a whole host of random objects.
In terms of aesthetics the game finally adds some fountains to the mix, bringing that refined elegance with it. There’s a huge Student Union-style fountain that Sims can sit on and there are smaller ones that can be placed in more practical locations. Completing the college experience are sports pennants and memorabilia that can be used to adorn your walls. There are some nice touches here such as posters and framed uniforms from the University’s varsity teams. Additionally, the game now includes Greek Letters so that you can really complete the Frat House experience.
University adds two new genres of music to the mix: College Rock and Jazz. Jazz is just amazing as it reminds me of the Jazz CDs that my girlfriend loves listening to. Some of the college rock is great too and really reminded me of some of the stuff I had heard in my years at Southern Oregon University and my numerous trips down to San Francisco State University. Then again, some of it is composed of the horrific pop rock that seems to be all the rage with high school kids nowadays. I’m a little saddened to hear the new mix of the theme song but it’s decent in its own right. Overall you’ll love these two new genres and they’ll just as good, or maybe better, than what was in the original game.
At the end of the day University doesn’t reinvent the Sims, it simply complements it and that’s what an expansion pack should do. The new items are sure to be a hit with the fans and the University aspect lends an entirely new atmosphere to explore. It could have been better but then again, isn’t that what the next fifteen expansion packs are for?