Who’d want to go back to high school? Not many of us. But you can, if you want, thanks to The Sims 4′s latest expansion: High School Years.
Admittedly, in the world of The Sims, it’s an exciting prospect. For years we’ve watched our Sims’ progeny leave the house at 8am and magically reappear at 3pm. What happens during those seven hours no longer needs to be a mystery, as you can now accompany them to high school. We’ve got good and bad news for you. Here’s the good: it’s a lot of fun, and it opens up a whole new world we’ve never experienced in The Sims. And the bad? It’s just as stressful and traumatic as the real thing.
Our brand new Sim, teenager Lana, found herself getting bullied by the wannabe cast of Mean Girls on her very first day. That was after a rough day of running between classes, skipping lunch to study and trying – and failing – to make friends with the surely-famous Cassandra Goth. The final bell went, Lana went to do some extra study in a classroom, only to be besieged by a group of bullies. Typical.
Naturally, Lana’s mood swiftly turned from pleasant to angry. We had the option to retaliate: we could have made Lana insult the girls back, or get caught up in an argument. We decided to be the bigger person, having Lana leave the room. Thankfully, there’s a free-to-use gym in the school basement. Letting off some steam on the punching bag quickly sorted Lana’s mood out.
Admittedly, we should have headed up as soon as the final bell rang at 3pm. But with so much to see and do in a new school, we ended up staying there until 8pm, exploring the rooms and trying to make new friends. EA has crafted a believable high school, albeit one that’s shrunken down to manageable Sim proportions. The canteen only has a handful of tables, for example, instead of the dozens you’d expect to see. And you’ll visit the same classroom again and again, instead of each class having its own.
But the feeling of high school has been captured wonderfully, and for those of us who want our Sims to experience an entire life as fully as possible, it’s a fantastic addition to the game. Not to mention the new town Copperdale, which may be our favourite Sims 4 region to date. Even better, EA has worked with community creators who designed some of the town’s hot spots. There’s a gorgeous thrift shop-come-bubble tea café, designed by MsGryphi and a public library, designed by JOL1990, both beautiful, and both fantastic hang-out spots.
As always, there’s a range of new houses to move your Sims into, and a couple of empty spots if you enjoy starting from scratch. The small cottage that we moved Lana and her mother into might be one of the nicest starter houses we’ve ever seen: small but perfectly proportioned, and designed way better than we could have done ourselves from scratch.
The Sims 4: High School Years bundles in plenty of new items too. There are new posters and decor to dress up teenage bedrooms, new bookshelves, new chairs and more, allowing you to customise your Sims’ homes even further. There’s a focus on bold, bright colours, which likely won’t appeal to everyone but we’ve found plenty of stuff that we love. Including a neon heart-shaped bedside lamp.
Back in school, it’s not just lessons and studying that your young Sims have to worry about. You can pull pranks on fellow classmates – stink capsule in a locker, maybe? – if you’re the mischievous kind. Or you can keep yourself to yourself, decorating your locker to showcase your personality. When it comes to the end of the year, there’s also prom to think about, letting your young Sims dress up in their finery, planning the big night down to the finest detail. A leaf has been taken out of Wedding Stories‘ book here, allowing you to plan dance routines, pick out snacks, choose the music and more.
Unfortunately, High School Years hasn’t been a complete high since its launch last week. Many players reported serious bugs being introduced into the game alongside the latest update, including rapid aging of sims, new features not working as intended, and more. Thankfully, we’ve not experienced any hiccups during our time with the new expansion, and EA is actively working on fixing any remaining issues, with some patches already being live.
Ultimately, there’s a lot to love in The Sims 4: High School Years. It feels as though the Sims community has been waiting a long time to finally be able to accompany their teenage Sims to school – and we think it’s been worth the wait. Provided you’ve not been affected by a bug, this is a fantastic, well-rounded expansion, bringing a beautiful new neighbourhood, plenty of new items and a whole new experience to The Sims 4. All the stress of high school, without ever stepping outside of your front door. Ah, bliss.