Academagia:
The Making of Mages


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Rating: 4.6/5 (27 votes)
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Academagia: The Making of Mages

DoraAcademagia: The Making of Mages is a text-based RPG/life simulator from Black Chicken Studios that's all about... you! Well, not you as you are, but you as you might be if you were a fresh-faced new student at a school for mages in the land of Minetia. Throw yourself into your studies, make friends and rivals, go on adventures, or any of dozens of activities in this mammoth adventure. Just make sure you don't neglect your schoolwork; you are still at a school, and you'll need to attend class at least often enough to pass your exams. You don't want to know what happens to mages who flunk out. (Where do you think Wal-mart Greeters come from?)

Academagia: The Making of MagesAcademagia has a surprisingly robust character creation set-up, with loads of options that grant bonuses, but the bulk of your skills will grow from everyday activity in the game. If you try to make someone who's the best at everything across the board, you're only going to find yourself mediocre and be frustrated as a result. Instead, focus on a set of skills that suits the character you're trying to build; a skilled enchanter with a golden tongue, or a reserved botanist with a secret passion for music. The main things you'll want to keep an eye on are your vitality and your stress. Certain events can raise or lower either one; if your stress gets too high or your vitality runs out, you'll find yourself unable to participate in any events for a day or so while you recover.

Like most life simulators, Academagia has you use a calender to decide what you're doing at points throughout the day, scheduled up to a week in advance, occasionally throwing up random encounters along the way. You can get into a fair amount of excitement (and detention) just by wandering the hallways and exploring, but specific plot lines can be triggered by going on "Adventures". How well you do at any event is determined by your various skills; you'll be presented with a set of options to decide how you want to deal with a situation, each of which relies on a certain skill or ability, and they'll be colour-coded to show your likelihood of success. You'll probably never be 100% equipped to handle every random event the game throws at you, but nobody's perfect, and in Academagia even failure will teach you a thing or two.

Analysis: Being of the generation that grew up with a certain bespectacled wizard, I expected Academagia to be awesome, and to let me play out my wizardly fantasies, and it is, and it does... mostly. I just wasn't prepared for how gargantuan it is. There's a massive amount of world building making up the mortar of this fantasy world. You could probably spend hours combing through the descriptions for people, places, spells, items, and historical events if you were so inclined. Moreover, starting over with a new character and choosing different options at creation frequently yields vastly different results that make an impact on the game, leading to a lot of replay value.

Academagia: The Making of MagesPerhaps the biggest flaw in the game is its tendency to drown you in information, but withold the tidbits you actually need. I shouldn't need to research to understand most of what's going on within a game. It's sorely in need of a tutorial to ease you into the basics rather than the avalanche of text screens you get. Why isn't the manual more in-depth to contend with the gameplay? As it stands, it's not going to be for everyone, and the amount of times your character will do poorly at events early on can be discouraging.

Of course, it's also a testament to the game's depth and immersion as to how infrequently I cared about any of the above complaints once I figured things out. The writing is in general very well done, and of course there are the dozens upon dozens of little events that crop up randomly throughout the game. Take a stroll through town and you may find yourself confronted with a hysterical foreign student overwhelmed by the bustling marketplace, or unwittingly stumbling across the dangerous thieve's guild. While it definitely requires some patience and experimentation, once you get the hang of things you'll start succeeding left and right, making loads of progress.

The game only encompasses a year in your magical education, with the promise of more content to come, and you'll find a lot of replay value to be had. With a bit more streamlining and perhaps a paring knife taken to the bloated list of skills and abilities, it would have been much more user friendly. Academagia is the sort of game that's made for people who enjoy losing themselves in a good book, exploring, and experimenting. It's an impressive title with a load of love behind it, and the immense replay value should serve to keep mage nerds occupied for a good long while.

WindowsWindows:
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Mac OS XMac OS X:
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Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.

8 Comments

I am a little wary to jump in with both feet when there is no way to test the waters before hand. Any word on a demo or flash version coming?

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I know a friend who is a reviewer, and tried his copy.

I would not recommend this purchase at this point in time. Unlike Dora, I found that the flood of largely useless information drowned out the story and any immersion in the game. There were other flaws that weren't touched on in the review, either.

One flaw is how the game starts out. The concept of being a student at a Hogwarts-esque school is a fantastic one, but the game, early on, doesn't make you feel like you've just entered such a place. Your skills bite, and the game will throw random events at you which you will have very little chance of completing successfully, because your skills are so poor. The end result is that your character gets stressed, hurt or even loses skills.

So in large part, you're expected to spend a good portion of the initial game just going to classes, maybe socializing a little after class (and the basic socializing function is apparently called 'gossip', which is misleading), training the skills you won't pick up in class (stuff like observation, manipulation, climb), embarass yourself in the events that crop up 0-3 times a day and basically wait two-three weeks before you can actually do anything.

Touched on in the review is the fact that the game is so opaque. There's some six hundred skills, and each random event will give you an option of several actions; each action, in turn, has a success chance depending on how much you've trained the appropriate skill. (You're stuck in a hole; do you use climb, animal husbandry or observation?) - there's no way of knowing what skills are important to train, and training is abysmally slow. You'll rarely depend on stuff you learn in class, either, so you'll likely devote your one free time slot after classes to getting a single point in a skill you hope will be important.

There's a mess of other problems and balance issues and whatnot, but ultimately, it just doesn't sell the experience.

(And no, there's no demo as of yet).

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wow, Hyudra, that sounds exactly like what being a student would be like, and is like in reality.

I'll have to check out the game for myself and decide. I appreciate the recommendations that jayisgames gives knowing that they wouldnt write about it if the game wasnt good, even if not every game is a type I enjoy playing.

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I believe that the developers said that there won't be a demo. There is a youtube video which you can watch of the game. I've not watched it so I'm not sure how well it serves to sell it.

If I had played a demo I wouldn't have purchased the game and that would have been a great pity.
I plunged in without even having read the manual (since it wasn't initially available on Impulse) and it did take some getting used to.

Initially you'll fail at pretty much everything, which can be disheartening. You're stuck going to class and training up your skills, maybe making a few friends. By the end of the first hour I was frustrated and complaining that I shouldn't have purchased the game. I'd bought it, was stuck with it, and so kept on playing and I'm glad I did.

I kept playing and another hour slipped by and at some point the game got good. When you have a competent character it's a lot of fun and it's just so huge.

For example, there are 84 NPC students at the Academagia. Every single student has their own description, personality and an adventure. You have a choice of familiars, of which there are 26 in total, each familiar comes with two adventures. That's not counting the numerous other adventures that are available and the random events.

There's so many skills, so many things to do and admittedly the sheer amount of choice can be overwhelming. You won't do everything in your first playthrough, or even your second. There's a huge amount of replayability. I've been playing since it was released and I've still barely scratched the surface.

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Played for some minutes and don't like it. The texts too small to read and it just too much shoveled to me at the beginning esp the character creation. I wish I dont have to rearrange the week again and again too or confused of what academy I was entering. And right, it got no helpful straight forward tutorial either. I think it is better if a lot of actions just not exist at the start since they just give headaches.

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There is a tutorial of sorts, if you follow the 'meeting with your mentor' adventure path. The game will introduce some of the actions & whatnot to you.

Issue I had, though, was that progress through that tutorial was the same as any adventure/event (if a tad easier) - you'll fail more often than you'll succeed. Leading to two-three days investment to get an introduction to socializing, or training your familiar.

I think the game would flow a lot better if you could do stuff while you were in class. It isn't ridiculous to assume you could befriend someone with note passing or whispered comments during your Rhetoric class, or bully someone in Gym. It would make the game move a lot more smoothly in many respects.

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Actually I like this game quite a bit. Yes there's a lot of reading, but I really like how deep in lore this game is. It's not that hard to filter out the noise. Also, even if you can't make some of the skill checks in the beginning I've seen the game open up paths and even given some starter points in some lines for just trying something. Yeah you get hurt, but that's nothing a single Rest session can't fix.

After reading through the forums, I really like the UI improvements they have made and have planned.

Treat it a bit like a roguelike. You'll make mistakes, but nothing is stopping you from restarting with the knowledge you have gained for diving into the deep end. If you're diligent with your studies you start to find things easier and easier.

Using magic is very interesting. Apparently for the next game you'll be able to be more reactionary using magic. For now it's a lot of trial and error. I got sick due to stress overload, and was going to get sidelined for 6 days. I managed to tweak a spell using components I've learned to give myself just enough Fitness to weather the illness and continue to make class. There are a LOT of creative solutions to the problems of campus life.

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This is one of my favourite games, I really wish there were more like it.
It is a bit tricky when you first start, but so are a lot of games.

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