Most helpful critical review
Graduating with an 'OK'
on 14 March 2013
The latest expansion of the Sims 3 series allows Sims to attend university. The university works in the same way as the holiday destinations in 'world adventures' (WA) - the relevant Sim(s) moves to a new neighbourhood with new characters and buildings, and automatically returns home after they have completed their degree. Any adult Sim can attend university, you don't have to go immediately after school. So far (fingers crossed) I haven't encountered the sort of glitches that World Adventures was (and still is to some extent) plagued by. The game does run a bit slower when loading/exiting/saving, but again the slow down isn't as bad as for WA.
Whilst your Sim(s) is away at university, anyone left at home is frozen in time and doesn't age up/story progression doesn't occur. This means most of the new features happen in all one go. However gaining a degree has positive benefits in your Sim's life. Graduates get higher salaries in relevant careers and start off partway up the career ladder. They also get an extra trait which can be chosen. There are three new skills as well, which can be built in the home town as well as at university. Science and street art are fairly traditional skill types. Social networking is a skill associated with the new and improved mobile phone - which is now a smart phone. The phone can do all the things the old conventional mobile could, but can also browse the web, send texts, stream videos, and upload to blogs. Doing these 'social networking' activities builds the social networking skill. There are lots of new achievements for players who enjoy working towards those.
The social aspects of university life are not neglected. Whilst at university your Sim can gain 'influence' with any (or all) of three social groups - the 'nerds', the 'jocks' and the 'rebels'. Influence can be gained by undertaking certain activities, or by socialising with influential members of the group. It's an interesting new aspect of the game, although the novelty wears off pretty quickly once you realise that gaining influence in fact involves doing nothing more than the familiar social interactions from the base game. However there are a range of new interactions that can become unlocked with increased influence, and a number of new activities to try out. Influence doesn't decay, and if you get to level 8 you get another selectable trait - meaning a Sim can have 7 user-selected traits. However when you return home you will be unable to encounter any of your new friends - or at least I couldn't. I'm not sure if this is a glitch that might get resolved.
University life can be a little strange, especially if you have only one or two Sims attending and you've been used to controlling a big family. Most of the lessons are 'rabbit holes' where you can't see or control the character, and even those where you can don't seem to give you any genuine options for interaction. It's pretty boring watching your Sim watch someone else give a lecture! I did find that the full class schedule, plus time for travelling around the campus (painfully slow at times on a bicycle), and keeping motives high, meant there was little time to do anything more fun. Some players have recommended taking fewer credits, giving more time to enjoy the other features and less ultra-speeding through lectures. I would recommend investing in some decent furniture for the dorm (e.g. a good bed), and stocking up the Sim's inventory with cheap edibles. The class schedule on three days of the week doesn't give sufficient time to eat out or make something - and sometimes there isn't even time in the dorm once you've slept and washed. If you have the Motive Mobile lifetime reward, taking it with you in your inventory might enable shorter travel times and full motives, enabling more time to enjoy the features (I did this for WA). I did discover however that on the day of graduation (Saturday of the last term) you can go into buy mode and select whatever dorm furniture takes your fancy and drag to your family inventory, and it will still be available when you get home. This is handy for high value items like the snooker table, as you can either enjoy back home or sell on. Likewise if you have nice furniture at home, as long as it's in the family inventory before you move you should be able to access it at uni. The dormitory is fully customisable, just like a house.
Going away to university and exploring the new university neighbourhood and associated features are enjoyable, but do relatively little to change 'normal' game play. However Sims can attend multiple times if they wish, so that is an option. It would take a lot of visits to fully exploit all of the possibilities. The greatest weakness of the game - the relatively isolated world of the university - is also a strength in a way, as unlike Seasons it does not have the same capacity to alter and impede familiar gameplay in the main game. I wouldn't rate it as the greatest expansion, simply because of the episodic nature of visits. If you haven't got any expansions yet, I would recommend Generations, Ambitions or Pets. But for Sims fans who are looking forward to new content and options to freshen up their gameplay, this won't disappoint.