The Sims 4 High School Years is the latest Expansion Pack to arrive in the popular life simulation, aiming to shake up teen Sims’ lives with all-new gameplay, while giving Simmers the chance to head off to school with them to directly control their day. With all that being said, is the 12th Expansion Pack worth it?
Teens are one life state in The Sims 4 that has borne the brunt of a lack of content so far, but High School Years aims to change all of that by introducing an interactable high school lot that Simmers can head off to with their Sims.
This feature marks a first for the series outside of the usual Sims disappearing off-screen or into rabbit holes, and while there, they can attend class, grab a spot of lunch, plant a stink bomb into lockers or even decorate their own to suit their personal style.
Please note that some images included in this review are from a pre-release code.
The Sims 4 High School Years Expansion Pack – Key details
- Price: $39.99 / £34.99
- Developer: Maxis
- Release date: July 28, 2022
- Platforms: PC, Mac, PlayStation, Xbox
The Sims 4 High School Years Expansion Pack trailer
Copperdale is full of set dressing and rabbit holes
Copperdale, the newest world to arrive in High School Years, is a small, timeless, and picture-perfect town that looks as if it’s plucked right from the collective conscience of locations from media. An amalgamation that feels equal parts Riverdale, Gilmore Girls, The Vampire Diaries, and Pretty Little Liars — it’s undoubtedly full of old-timey, middle-America charm.
Comprising three neighborhoods — Prescott Square, Rockridge Heights, and Plumbite Pier — alongside a total of 12 lots, Copperdale is an old town complete with a founding family called, you guessed it, the Prescotts.
Speaking of the Prescotts, this premade family is one of three total families that ship alongside the new Expansion Pack, with the others being the Harjo and Price families. As usual, each family has its own backstory that helps to fully realize these Sims, and I found myself enjoying my time spent playing with these premade families more than usual (I’ll typically create my own family straight off of the bat to check out a new pack with).
A small addition that I really enjoyed came with Ash, a teenage member of the Harjo family who contacted my teen Sim on their first few days in the world by phone, introducing me to particular locations around the map, including the new pier and ThrifTea, the latter of which is one of High School Years’ new lot types — a ‘Thrift and Bubble Tea Store’.
Here, Sims can opt to try out a handful of different foods, from fried chicken sliders to corndogs, or a selection of boba tea flavors (anyone else out there still not tried boba yet? No? Just me?).
The biggest draw of this new lot type, though, has to be its ties to the new phone app: Trendi. This app allows Sims to create, sell, wear, promote, and purchase (as well as resell) outfits. What’s cool about this feature is that you can talk to the store’s owner to ask what particular ‘style’ is trending lately, too — something that ties in with the new ‘fashion’ category for a Sim’s likes and dislikes. That’ll help you decide what style of outfit to create, and you’ll even find exclusive items here that you aren’t able to find in Create a Sim, including pieces created by Depop creators.
By doing this, your Sim can even gain experience toward the ‘Entrepreneur’ skill as they create and sell more designs. Each time I visited the store to create these looks, different items were available in ‘stock’, meaning that creating a cohesive and stylish outfit isn’t just as simple as combining items you know will work together well.
Oh so Trendi
On the other end of town, you’ve got the Plumbite Pier neighborhood, which includes a large pier with a dazzlingly lit funfair, complete with a Ferris wheel. This is one of the locations I was most excited to explore in Copperdale, particularly because this area isn’t on an actual lot itself and can be accessed from any of them within the neighborhood.
Unfortunately, upon visiting it with my Sim, I realized that all of the buildings here, from the Ferris wheel itself to the Haunted House ride and Tunnel of Love, are all rabbit holes. This was incredibly frustrating to me and is something that I’ve, rather disappointingly, come to expect from The Sims 4.
Being able to see your Sims out on a date, taking a ride around the Ferris wheel, or visiting the Tunnel of Love on Love Day would help to flesh out this gorgeous location even more. Without it, and despite the food stalls where you can purchase corn dogs and ice cream cones, it just becomes another empty backdrop as they emerge from it. This is felt throughout Prescott Square, too, where livable lots are situated right next to homes that purely act as set dressing. This seems to be something of a trend with worlds for The Sims 4, as it was something that was also present in the prior expansion, Cottage Living, and its world Henford-on-Bagley.
Copperdale High lacks depth
Over in the third neighborhood, Rockridge Heights, and what is likely the biggest draw for many Simmers, is Copperdale High School. The only location that a high school can be placed in within the entire game and its many previous worlds, this is where your teen Sims will head off to Monday through Friday as they build skills and forge relationships with others.
As an active lot, you’ll be able to visit (if you so choose) school with them, directing them through their day as they take part in classes, study for exams, and begin the steps to decide their future in Career Day.
Your teen Sim’s day will typically include a free period in the morning where they can study or work out, followed by a class, lunch, and one final class before school’s out at 3 PM.
What I love about the school is how they allow for natural progression through some of the game’s many skills. In Social Studies class, they’ll pick up Selvadoradian Culture, for example, alongside Writing — adding some depth to this new system. Unfortunately, classes are relatively devoid of excitement and consist of Sims sitting at a desk writing in their book while the class teacher points at a board. Popups do appear on screen, detailing things like passing notes in class or science experiments gone awry, but sadly, none of this matches what’s occurring on screen.
Out in the halls, lockers can be claimed and decorated, providing teens with a quick spot to take a break to grab an apple, cram for an exam (which occurs weekly on Fridays), or purchase an endless supply of footballs from. They can even tamper with other lockers, adding stink bombs to them if they’re feeling particularly mischievous.
Outside of the main building you’ve got the football field where events focused on things like cheerleading take place, giving them the chance to practice their routine if they’re part of the Cheer Team (one of the few new after-school activities added in the pack). On the other side of campus, you’ve got the Auditorium, a lot which follows the format of the Maker Space lot type added in Eco Lifestyle — meaning it serves multiple purposes. Taking the form of a Career Day hall, to the Prom or Graduation Day space depending upon what event is currently taking place, these can all be re-decorated if you so choose, too. Fancy adding a blue theme to the upcoming prom? Head into Build/Buy mode and tweak the interior to your liking.
Every Saturday at 7 PM (yes, Prom is a weekly event), teen Sims can dress up in their finest formalwear and head off to the Auditorium and celebrate. Here, they can take pictures in a photo booth, dance the night away with the new ‘sweetheart dance’, eat food, and vote for who they’d like to be considered as Prom Royalty (or alternatively, Prom Jester). While the event runtime is quite short, it repeats often enough, particularly for those playing on shorter lifespans, and is a nice experience to take part in and is great for storytelling purposes, with the photo booth providing a great touch for your Sims to take back home with them to keep as a memento.
You can even create a Promposal sign if you’re looking to impress your Sim’s crush in order to invite them to prom with you — though, from my experience in asking a Sim with or without the sign, they still seem to react positively (and will gain a Sentiment about it, too) regardless of the method you choose (if they accept).
Social Bunny, the perfect fit for High School Years
Social Bunny, a new app that mimics social media sites like Facebook, gives you the chance to post and react to messages sent by your friends. Here, depending upon what has occurred in your Sims’ day, you can choose to post about traveling, or their time spent creating looks on Trendi, among others, while also choosing the type of post you want your Sim to make. Giving you the option to do everything from an ‘energized post’ to a sad one, your Sims will say something different depending upon what you choose.
This addition feels like a perfect fit for High School Years and the teen life state, particularly in regard to the types of messages and posts they’ll send there. A flirty post targeted at a particular Sim may just say “John… Smash” for example, or Sims will post sickly sweet messages like “lunch is a great time to make some friends. Who wants to be besties?” This app is incredibly cool from a gameplay perspective, but it does become increasingly stale over time, especially when you start to see the same types of posts repeated over and over again.
Build/Buy & CAS modes hit it out of the park once again
What’s a teen’s bedroom without copious amounts of clutter, posters on the wall, and a PC kitted out with RGB keycaps and an ultrawide monitor? The Sims 4 High School Years‘ Build/Buy and CAS modes include a huge array of items to dress up your Sims with or to use in decorating their homes.
One of the standout pieces is undoubtedly the new window and climbable trellis — allowing Sims to sneak out of their window and down to the ground if they’re needing to make their way outside without the traditional methods of walking through doors and climbing stairs. Unfortunately, it’s only one window that this can be done with. If you’re building a Victorian-styled home in Forgotten Hollow, for example — these windows will look entirely out of place. Further options for this cool new feature would really have been the icing on the cake on a great addition to gameplay overall.
There are also plenty of messy piles, baskets and more to be used in a teen’s bedroom, and there’s even the inclusion of some more vintage-styled pieces in Build/Buy if you’re looking to create something a little more Art Deco.
Over in CAS, we’ve got oodles of Y2K fashion. Bucket hats, crop tops, and preppy outfits that look fresh from the screen are all present here, but we’re again presented with a limited scope of options for masculine-framed Sims (there are 12 feminine hairstyles and only two masculine ones, for example) — but many of the items seem to work particularly well regardless of which frame your Sim may have.
In CAS, there are three new traits — with more available to unlock in gameplay — including Overachiever, Party Animal, and Socially Awkward. Alongside these traits, you’ve got four new aspirations specifically for teens: Drama Llama, Admired Icon, Live Fast, and Goal Oriented.
There are also additional body hairstyles that go hand in hand with the game’s recent free Base Game Update to include it. Rather than simply being a visual element, however, with High School Years, you can opt to set a Sim’s body hair to grow over time, meaning that they can also shave it if you so choose. This adds another nice layer of realism to The Sims on the whole, and features like these are something I will always appreciate and tie in nicely with teen Sims needing to also use a cleanser to fight off potential acne breakouts.
The Verdict – 6.5/10
The Sims 4 High School Years is executed well when looking at what’s on the surface, and the features included with the expansion have undoubtedly fleshed out the teen life state to keep things interesting for a while. However, elements that could be taken much further — such as a funfair full of rabbit holes and a classroom that includes situations that are just tied to pop-ups — keep it from truly flourishing as an Expansion Pack.
Reviewed on PC