Review: The Sims 3 University Life bridges an important gap

It never ceases to amaze me that despite being nearly four years old, EA can continue to push out expansions for The Sims 3 that still manage to offer a fresh gameplay experience. University Life may not be the most innovative expansion, but when you're on the ninth expansion it tends to get that way. Anyone who has played The Sims 2 will immediately recognize the concept of University Life: attend college to further expand your Sims' future opportunities. It's definitely not original, though it does have plenty to offer fans of the series.

First off, it's important to note that University Life is more than just a clone of The Sims 2 University. It still offers the same great features – dorm life, studying, scholarships, mascots, and bonfires – but it also expands upon these options. For instance, no longer is the college life reserved for young adults. Now anyone of reasonable adult-like age can attend; this includes young adults, adults, and the elderly. Hey, I once had a 40-year old mother in my Digital Media class in college, so that's proof that you're never too old to go back to school. It's an addition I'm glad EA decided to include.

To date, The Sims 3 has received eight other expansions. Rarely, though, do they impact your Sim's life beyond the actual add-on. Seasons may have been a great expansion, but outside of weather effects and related Leisure days, it didn't really do much to benefit your Sim outside of the Seasons add-on. What makes University Life intriguing is that your decisions and actions in college directly affect your Sim's life well-beyond the classroom. Like real life (although I'm not sure how true this is in today's economy), a college degree will greatly benefit your Sim in their search for a job. Either way, obtaining a degree in this game will earn you a better starting position (and more pay) in the job related to that field of study. University Life offers six degrees: Business, Technology, Science & Medicine, Communications, Fine Arts, and Physical Education.

The Sims 3 University Life

Your social life is now more important than ever. University Life offers three social groups: Nerds, Jocks, and Rebels. Obtaining the highest social group influence among each of these groups not only offers a way to shape your Sim's identity, but can unlock Super Careers like art video game developer, sports agent, or art appraiser. Raising your status with each group functions similar to quests in World Adventures. When you enter the college, there's a main board with activities that you can perform or attend to increase your standing among each group. Activities include throwing parties, attending sporting events, or participating in protests.

The smartphone has received an upgrade to help you keep track of your social life. Much like real life, your social world revolves around this tiny little device. Through your smartphone you can now text, browse the web, share videos and photos, and even blog. All of these actions now play a role in the new Social Networking skill.

The Sims 3 University Life juice pong

Speaking of skills and traits, University Life contains all the bells and whistles we've come to expect from an expansion. It offers three new traits – Avante Garde, Irresistible, Socially Awkward – and three new skills – Street Art Skill, Social Networking Skill, and Science Skill. You can also expect to find university-themed objects and clothing.

Because your in college, classroom attendance is mandatory. Though you will never be expelled or put on probation, your grades will suffer making scholarships and career benefits harder to obtain. I'd recommend starting out with a light course load as the more credits you take, the less free time you'll have to actually enjoy the surrounding venues – which are far more entertaining than attending class. Class lectures are a mix between actual participation on your behalf and rabbit holes – places your Sim enters and performs actions automatically. In addition to the rabbit holes, you'll also be required to attend a lecture hall in the Student Union where your Sim will take notes and ask questions. Without a doubt, classes are the most boring part of the expansion. Kind of like real college, right?

The Sims 3 University Life classroom

The actual fun for University Life begins with the added venues and activities, in which there is plenty to do. University Life offers so much to do, making class attendance more of an annoyance than anything. From keggars to bonfires to dorm room parties to streaking, there's plenty to keep you busy. Let's not forget about the nine new venues, each offering a variety of objects to interact with. Let's just say, when it comes to gameplay features, University Life lacks nothing. And to be fair, there are unique, fun ways to study thanks to major-specific objects.

From a technical standpoint, University Life is what you'd expect from The Sims 3. Gameplay is largely the same, so don't expect any major changes to how you interact with objects. Memory issues still plague the game, resulting in unexpected crashes from time to time; I'd recommend saving often.

The Sims 3 University Life is more than just a themed expansion. It's a refreshing add-on that will have lasting effects beyond that of just your Sim's college career. More importantly, it's a meaningful expansion that fills a gap in The Sims 3 gameplay. It answers the question, 'what happens from childhood to young adulthood?' Up until now, all of our Sims have had GEDs. Because of that, University Life a worthy addition to the collection of expansions.