Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
So every now and then I find myself in a position of having no idea how I wound up in that said position. I have to run a school? Alright, I’ve done that with Valthirian Arc but what’s that? I have to both build the school from scratch and these are normal students? Not adventurers? Academia: School Simulator set out its gauntlet and I rose to the challenge… only to have people quit and ask for transfers out on the first day that I opened the doors.
The Sim genre is a particular one that requires a lot of time, patience, and loads of trial and error to get things right. They are an investment and there’s a reason that they are a hit with fans of the management and city building genres. As such, this genre has developed quite a lot over the years from the last time that I personally dipped my toes into that body of water and while it took a bit to get started, I found myself hours from when I first loaded it up and had simultaneously learned loads while also having gotten nothing done. Especially my house chores!
Note: I am going to state that this is generally not my style of gaming, but due to unforeseen circumstances, I took this over from one of my reviewers and have honestly had no regrets while I enjoyed my time with it.
Split into a main, sandbox, and scenario modes, there’s more than enough to keep anyone busy for hours or days at a time. Referring mostly to the main mode where I spent most of my time as that’s where the biggest challenge was, as there was no outright objective like in the scenarios, the goal is to both build and operate a school from the ground up starting with nothing more than several construction workers and bushes in your way. So to get started, you can either let the clock run forward, or, if you really want to take your time to get things right, you can pause the game and set out blueprints before slapping down loads of stone, wood and ceramics.
After laying down some groundwork for where you want to put things down, you can then start actually putting down the materials one piece at a time or by the use of a selection tool for larger spaces. Each square will cost a certain amount of money from your budget and once down on the ground your construction crew will get to it in the order that things have been placed. Whether your floors, walls, student desks, doors, lockers or trash cans, each will be treated in time and needs to be in place before you think about opening those main doors.
To be “ready for use”, each room of your school is going to require “four” walls, a full floor, and a door to come in and out of. Without it, whether classroom, cafeteria, washroom or principal’s office, it won’t be ready for use. Thankfully, especially in the beginning with your limited budget or further down the line during expansions, the rest doesn’t need to be fully finished for people to walk in and out of. This was great in the first days as with the default settings, there’s just not enough money for four classrooms, a principal’s office, an administrative one, and the upfront cost of your teachers before even worrying about a washroom so your students can stop going outside in the bushes. Huh… there’s an achievement for that.
From there, it’s really a matter of figuring out exactly what you need to start off and what could wait for a bit. A great example of this is that to start off you need four classrooms each with ten desks and a principal in their office to be set in place. Without an admin though, you won’t be getting any money from the students so you’ll need that too in essence. Otherwise? You “can” admit students without teachers but without that guidance and such, the fights are going to start, the bullying will get out of control, and what’s that? Forgot to research trash removal and janitorial staff? Whelp now things are just a whomping mess everywhere.
Not having realized at first that that certain things had to be researched before being able to be put into place, like the janitorial aid which I thought would have just “happened”, it was easy to see just how hard things could become when trying to run the school, pay salaries, and finish up even just the basics while also having to dish out loads of cash on research before being able to put those services into place. Is it beginner friendly? Not really but that’s why there’s a tutorial mode! Also, even without it as I quite literally dove in without knowing what I was doing, once you actually pause time and start reading through all of your options it becomes a lot easier to manage and everything makes sense within its context.
From this point you either continue moving forward with a bigger school, modify your school to make it “perfect” or head into either the sandbox mode to try out some new things or in the scenario mode for specific challenges that could in turn give you new ideas for the main mode. There’s plenty to do, and with various states of lockdowns? I don’t know when I haven’t dived into a Simulation like this one before now.