The Sims 3: University Life is the ninth expansion in the The Sims 3 collection, and many fans have been clamoring for it, but does it live up to its predecessor, The Sims 2: University? In a word: mostly.
Any Sim from young adult to elder can go to college, and they can go as many times as they want to. You can only study one major at a time, so completionists will want to go at least six times to get a degree in all: Business, Communications, Fine Arts, Physical Education, Science and Medicine, and Technology. Before starting college, though, you want to take an aptitude test to find out what you should study and if you qualify for tuition assistance. Someone with a high painting skill, for example, is a natural fit for a Fine Arts degree, and if he or she chooses to study it, it'll be cheaper than for those without artistic inclinations. You can then choose the length of the term, between one and two weeks, and how heavy your course load will be. More courses cost more but also lead to higher degrees, which mean more money once you graduate. In addition to your degree, graduation gives you an extra trait slot. You only get the trait slot the first time you graduate, though, so there's no bonus for extra degrees.
Sims University, the unoriginal but descriptive name of your school, is a town in its own right. You can live in a co-ed dorm, sorority, fraternity, or to rent a house in town if you don't want to deal with roommates. Once you move in, you choose a room and claim a bed before all the good ones are taken, and then your college experience begins. While at college, you can't have a full-time job, only part-time, and unlike in real life, your Sims cannot get pregnant or married during that time.
Your Career tab becomes your Graduation tab, on which you can find your schedule, how well you're doing in your term, and a constant, ominous countdown to your next exam. The schedule changes some depending on major and class load, there's at least one lecture day, and exams are always on Fridays. Lectures are semi-interactive; instead of just fast-forwarding until your character is controllable again, like with classes and non-Ambitions jobs, you can control some of your Sim's actions, choosing between taking notes, asking questions and, of course, sleeping through it. In your off time, you can study using your new nameless-but-very-familiar Smartphone, which can also be used for games, texting or social networking; forming study groups or practicing skills related to your major can also increase your grade.
College isn't all about the learning, though. It's about parties, too, and University Life adds several new types. You can throw a juice kegger, at which you can do juice keg stands or play juice pong (got to love that "T" rating). You can throw a bonfire party after dark, throwing herbs into the bonfire for different effects or cooking food on the fire. If fun isn't your style, though, you can always throw a protest for anything under the sun, from clowns and beetles to death. If you have The Sims 3: Seasons, you get a Spring Break between terms to throw a lot of parties, though you don't leave the university lot during the break. None of the other Seasons holidays are celebrated.
You can't party all the time, but University Life is full of other possibilities. Social groups are a big new addition; the three groups offer benefits and like-minded friends for your Sims. The jocks spend their time at the Bowl-o-Rama and enjoy sports and throwing the best parties on campus. The nerds prefer to spend their time at the comic book shop, and they love to succeed in mental challenges and do well in school. They also play video games, of course. The rebels love a good protest or tagging buildings with Street Art skill, and they like to hang out at the coffee shop drinking organic herbal teas and bucking the status quo. Three new careers have also been added, each suited to one of the social groups: art appraiser, sports agent and video game developer. You get an offer to join these jobs when you gain very high influence with the rebels, jocks or nerds, respectively.
As always with a new The Sims 3 expansion, we have new collectables, herbs and coffee beans, which you can use to make teas or coffee, and there are new insects as well. Herbs can also be added to cooked food or thrown in a bonfire, and depending on the herb, can provide positive or negative moodlets.
There are three new traits. Avante Garde is the quintessential hipster trait; they love to talk about all the things they enjoy that you've never heard of. Irresistible Sims rarely fail at social interactions, and Socially Awkward Sims are the opposite, sometimes stumbling over their words when talking to other Sims.
There are also three new skills: Science, Social Networking and Street Art. Science is used to analyze insects, fish, and plants and can make things created or gathered in other scientific skills higher quality; the skill doesn't seem to affect anything on its own, however. Social Networking is increased by taking pictures and videos with your Smartphone, blogging and texting. As you gain skill, you gain followers, and it becomes easier to gain friends and social group influence. Street Artists love to tag buildings or create murals on walls and sidewalks. If you do not have The Sims 3: World Adventures, the Photography skill is now available to you without having to leave the country to buy a camera.
Plantsims make their triumphant return. Last seen in The Sims 2: Seasons, they are, obviously, plant people, and they can be grown from Forbidden Fruit, a new plant that requires 7 Gardening skill to grow. You have a 50% chance when gathering a fully grown Forbidden Fruit of getting an edible fruit, which you can eat and become a Plantsim. The other 50% blooms into a Plantsim baby instead of a fruit. I was unable to successfully harvest the Plantsim Cabbage Patch Kid, but I've seen screenshots, and it's both hilarious and horrifying. Plantsims do not have a Hunger or Bladder motive, and their Hygiene is replaced with Water. They can photosynthesize on a sunny day to regain Water and Engery, or they can sleep and shower like normal Sims would. They can communicate with plants and cannot reproduce except with planting more Forbidden Fruit. Aside from that, they are not much different from a regular Sim.
Roommates aren't limited to your college experience; you can also get one once you graduate. They are not a controllable member of your household, though you can ask them to do things for you, like cleaning up or cooking dinner. They will pay you once a week for their part of the rent, and they can be either very helpful or terrible, as is often the case with real roommates. If you end up with a really bad roomie, you can always kick him or her out and get a new one.
The only downside I've found with University Life is the awful frame rates. My computer is middle-of-the-line on a good day, but what had been a game I could run decently on medium to high settings, up to and including The Sims 3: Seasons, has become a game that stutters and freezes even on the lowest settings as of University Life.
All in all, The Sims 3: University Life is another fun addition to the The Sims 3 collection, and it adds a lot of new stuff to do. University Life would have been better served if it had been released earlier, as going to college is more important and interesting in a Sim's life than, say, werewolves. With all the frame rate and freezing issues I've had with this expansion, you should wait until they patch it a few times before picking up this expansion, but I do recommend it.
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