Academagia - The Making of Mages Video Game Review
Buying the game
This weekend, on August 13th, I picked an interesting little RPG/text adventure called Academagia. It cost me 25$ on Stardocks "Impulse" game delivery service.
The game's features section was promising, offering hundreds of skills and text based quests in a wizard academy setting. Because I had never heard about the game, I checked out some of the other Academagia reviews, and took my chances with the game.
Academagia is a beefy game for a text based adventure - about 700 mb. There's certainly a lot of content and mystery hidden there.
The game downloaded and installed within an hour without issues. One of the first thing I noticed is a lack of game manual. There's also very little information available online to figure out what the skills and attributes mean. This is not a major issue, as the game has a lot of in-game tooltips once you start playing and a series of "mentor" adventures do a good job at explaining the finer points of a game.
Academagia is all about being a young wizard attending a magic school called Academagia. The game is heavily influenced by Harry Potter, and one can expect to find a variety of fairy tale creatures here. Talking creatures and objects, magic, stern professors, dusty libraries and fun adventures.
As a young wizard, you are expected to attend classes and eventually pass exams. This is accomplished through planning your actions on a calendar. Any given week has 5 schooldays with 10 classes and 2 weekend days, when you can do fun stuff.
Attending classes is mandatory, and you can even learn something. Most skil learning is done outside the class though.
The game features a dazzling array of skills and actions - from baking to war to magic to spying to bullying and war. Most of these have to be discovered and/or trained though attending classes, adventure and training. Skills are organized into "parent" categories and "child" subskills. For example incantation magic is made up of theory, phemes, spells and methods. Learn all these skills to a sufficient level and you raise the parent skill.
What good are these skills anyway? The game is a text based adventure and allows you to go on adventures or just throw random encounters at you. Each encounter can be dealt with in a variety of ways, and this is where the skills come into play. I was very impressed at the sheer number of options to overcoming a challenge.
For example upon encountering a locked door in an abandoned warehouse, a player may choose to recall how to deal with such situation, search for clues, bash the door down with a sturdy beam, use magic to unlock it, or search and reason with the door's guardian.
The success of each action depends on the player's skill level and some other factors. The difficulty of each action is indicated by reply's color - from red (hard) to green (easy).
The game has a lot to offer in terms of exploring. There's a lot of lore to uncover through learning skills. There are a lot of people to interact with, both professors and faculty. Each one has distinct personality, although certain archetypes (bully/nerd/flower child) exist.
A game about wizards would not be fun without magic, and Academagia delivers plenty of it. A player starts with virtually no knowledge of magic or spells, but quickly becomes a capable spellcaster. Every spell in Academagia requires certain phemes (building blocks) to cast. These can be learned by attending classes, exploring or learning skills. Upon finding the necessary phemes, a spell can be cast.
The game offers a variety of spells for exploration, combat, along with a lot of buffs/debuffs. Every spell can be customized by adding extra phemes. This makes casting such spells harder. Quite a lot of my spells failed, even after maxing out the corresponding skill.
On top of pure spellcasting there's an artificing system which allows you to create various magical items. Unfortunately a lot of these do not have icons yet, and I found the whole shop system to be a bit too clunky for my taste. Still, the game plays out pretty well without this.
Academagia is a remarkably interesting game if you have no preconceptions about it. Most people would realize the game as being heavily influenced by Harry Potter franchise, but this does not detract from the fun of playing. Entire game can be finished in 24 hours or so.
The game allows only 3 actions in any given day, and after a while, a player has ~50-60 different actions, spells and abilities to choose from. This may be confusing to some players and helps create the illusion of "I'll do this next year". Unfortunately, the game offers only one year of gameplay in the current release of Academagia. The game was clearly intended as a 5 year series, and seeing game credits after completing the first year is a bit disappointing.
Still, the game is a very good text adventure, with a lot of skills to learn and places to explore. It accurately captures the spirit of a wizard school and child's creativity. There's a lot of reading material in the game. The game is definitely geared towards younger crowds, but the RPG system is enough to keep a serious RPG fan entertained :)