Review: The Sims 4: High School is all about form over function

Is this the expansion pack our teenage Sims have been waiting for?

The Sims 4: High School is finally a pack for teenagers. Toddlers, kids, young adults, adults, and even older Sims have gotten a ton of cool new content so far, but teenagers have always been left out. Until now. The new Sims 4 expansion packs come with new gameplay, new locations, items and drama. Is this the expansion our teenage sims have been waiting for?

The bell rings!

Welcome to Copperdale, the brand new place where your teenage Sims can now go to high school. While the new world is very nicely decorated with new places for your Sims to visit (including a thrift store and a fairground on a boulevard), the high school lacks all the fun. The spaces are large and empty, and it appears that only essential items are placed on the grounds.

It is possible to tear down and rebuild the school, or just make some adjustments here and there. If, like me, you play the Sims for the simulation element and not the construction element, then you are forced to consult the library. Fortunately, there are many beautiful schools in it. Unfortunately, also many who use several Sims expansions, so you miss a lot after placing the lot. Shame, but it almost seems like EA deliberately paid little attention to the school itself because they expect you to do the design yourself.

It is not possible to place a high school in another world. Sims from other worlds can go to high school in Copperdale, but it feels a little crazy. Their journey lasts as long as the loading screen, but it’s unrealistic to think that the Sims from all your worlds go to the same high school. A school with only two classrooms (and with only two lessons a day). I’m actually hoping for an update that makes it possible to build a high school in other sim worlds as well.

First day of school

The first days of school feel fun and new, but soon there is not much new to discover. At the start of each school day, you are given the choice to travel with your teenage Sim(s) or leave them alone. After a loading screen, your Sim is presented with a series of challenges that she must complete in order to have a better day at school, and at parties you must complete certain interactions to get a better medal for it.

There are two lessons and a long break per day. During the actual lesson there is nothing to do. Your Sim sits on a chair (or stands in the middle of the room) while the teacher writes something on the board. Is your SIM requirement low? Then you run the risk of them running out of the room, so you have to pay attention and send them back to their seats. Once you sit in that chair, you can only wait until the lesson is over. You can skip school, but as soon as the principal sees you, you will be detained for one more hour after the two lessons. Another hour of not being able to get your Sim to do anything.

So the novelty wears off quickly. You can also expect some input from the other Sims. They’re there, but aside from the rare stink bomb in your closet, they do little. They are sitting in class and walking down the hall. Here and there someone does a T-bag challenge, but you’ve also seen that three times. There are no cliques or groups that visit each other in the canteen.

That no one judges and they seem to get along is another great goal of The Sims 4: High School. At the same time, it’s just not very realistic. It doesn’t matter what personality your Sim has, what hobbies they pursue, or what interests they have. Therefore, playing a certain story (where your Sim mainly hangs out with other (Pixel Vault) nerds, for example) is not possible without a rich imagination. All in all, every school day feels pretty much the same.

After school activities, Social Bunny and Trendy

After school, your Sim can participate in various activities such as cheerleading and computer club. There is a large field behind the school, indicating that your Sim is training there, e.g. Nothing is less true. The field has no function other than that there is some kind of information market once a week. For after school activities, your Sim has to go home quickly, then suddenly they leave and you get a message: ‘Hedwig has gone to computer club!’. The same thing happens when your Sim gets an invitation to sneak out at night with a group of teenagers. You ask permission from your parents or sneak out the window and past the new ivy, but you can’t follow your Sim.

The Sims 4: High School is about form over function

For example, after school you can go to the fun fair at Plumbiet Pier with your friends. A nice venue (with lots of new woohoo spots), but the rides themselves are all rabbit holes, which makes them boring quickly. Another new location is the thrift store. Here you can get Boba ThrifTea or create your own new clothing styles to sell on Trendi – a kind of Vinted. EA has partnered with retailer Depop to allow your Sim to design clothes, create fashion trends, or make tons of money by designing and selling outfits outside of school.

Also new to your phone is Social Bunny. This base game update allows adding and sending messages to friends. When you open the app, time stands still and you can send an infinite number of messages. You can choose what type of message it should be (mean, flirty, funny, etc.), but you can’t write anything yourself. You will therefore often send the same messages, which quickly makes this function very monotonous. An advantage is that you can become friends with previously relatively unknown Sims in a single sim second. Just send them dozens of nice messages in a row. Click the app away and time starts again. Who said friendships take time?

The Sims 4: High School is about form over function

Last day of high school

There is a closing gala every week. You can ask a different person each week, and the closing gala itself is another event where you have to face challenges. If you don’t do this, it’s over in no time. The same things happen every week at the gala itself. You can vote for two classmates, eat, dance or visit the photo booth. Afterwards, you are almost always invited to an after party, which happened to me time and time again at the fair, where everyone stops in a group at the start of the party to talk or pee their pants. After the same scenario four times, I decided to skip the after parties with my Sims.

Graduation is not quite what you might expect. Is your Sim growing up before graduation? You will then receive your diploma by post. My Sims almost always got a call asking if they wanted to graduate early – and hey presto – they got a piece of paper in the mailbox too. So I can’t say much about the graduation ceremony, but at least there’s still something to look forward to!

The Sims 4: High School is about form over function

Form over function

The Sims 4: High School also comes with new clothes and hairstyles. In addition, teenagers from now on also have to deal with body hair and acne, and you can indicate in the mirror which sexual orientation your Sim has. Cool, except that body hair, acne, and sexual orientation are basic game updates that were announced with this expansion pack, and you’ll want them anyway after updating your game.

What is very good in this expansion pack is the gear and clothing. It really shows that the EA team has gone out of their way to give you as a player the opportunity to let your teenage Sims express themselves with clothing and gear. There are several new furniture styles that are also easy to combine, new computers, cool lamps and a lot of useless items that you can leave lying around. It really adds character to teenage rooms and their personality. Unfortunately, these appearances have no effect on your gameplay. So you’ll still have to use your own imagination for that.

The new expansion looks really cool, but playing itself soon isn’t very special. I found myself quitting school with my Sims, forgoing after school activities, and even skipping prom more than once. This expansion pack very much gives the impression that it was designed for the builders – not the simulation storytellers. So keep that in mind when considering buying The Sims 4: High School.

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