Back in the day, I was a nerd. I still am a nerd, but a very different kind of nerd. But, for a time, I was an avid player of MUDs. For those of you who don’t know, MUD stands for Multi-User Dungeon. They were known for their text-based interface that was almost like an interactive story. Most of you would recognize a MUD by its huge wall of text that described what was going on in the game. “You find yourself in a room. There is a broken shield and a rusty dagger on the floor. What do you wish to do?” that kind of stuff, yeah, the REAL nerdy role playing. That was me. I tell you all of this in preparation; I am reviewing a PC game called Academagia. This game is essentially, a MUD.
Academagia places you in the role of a young wizard that is about to go spend a year at a wizard school learning spells, meeting new people, and going on adventures. Everything is entirely up to the player, from the beginning stat placement to the background of your character, to the beginning skills. The beginning of the game is very complex. You will choose over 20 different items that will affect your abilities, stats, and how others will view you. All depending on what you want, you can choose your upbringing, your previous education, and what academy you want to go to.
After all that, it’s time for you to head off to school. Here you can take classes, talk to people, go exploring, find adventures, and a ton of other stuff. This is all done by adding and substituting activities on a weekly calendar. There is enough time in one day for three activities. You can choose to skip class altogether and just go exploring. Keep in mind, there will usually be consequences to what you choose to do with your day, whether it is a boost in your stats, obtaining an item, or getting into a unique event. There are actually quite a few things to do.
Now, if you remember correctly, at the beginning of the review I mentioned that Academagia is a MUD. Well, this is where I tell you that all of these things are complex and very extensive, but are all unfortunately in the form of a text-based design. Now, I know you can look at the screenshots and see things other than text. “Look! There’s a picture of a landscape!” Oh, but look, I see an avatar of a person.” Yes you do see those things, but don’t let this game trick you. This is a text-based game where everything you do from what options you choose to the descriptions of the environment around you, are all in text and you have to read them, obviously.
You see, there’s a reason I said I’m a different kind of nerd nowadays. That’s because I got out of text-based RPG’s when I was 15 years-old. Truth be told, the game works, but it is honestly just too boring to play. Example: I decided to hang out with my mentor instead of going to class. You know, play a little hooky. Well, some adventure we had! I read about how we walked around the school grounds and talked about the different locations and the history behind them. Then, we decided to go back to the dorms after touring the campus. All in about a 15 page essay. Man, I should have gone to class…
Another problem with the game is that you really don’t know what is going on when you choose to do something. So, I was in a situation where a fight was breaking out at the local restaurant. I had the choice of, “A. Do nothing and just stand there and hopefully they won’t notice you. B. Cast a cloaking spell on yourself so that you become invisible. Or C. Try to talk it out with the fighters and calm them down.” Well, I AM a wizard; why not finally try casting a spell? I choose B. “Oh the spell didn’t work. You feel the rock hard knuckles collide with your face right before hitting the ground. End of Monday.” Seriously?
You just really never have a good grasp on what you are supposed to do and what has happened after you have done it. The other problem is the fact that there really is no combat. You don’t have any hit points, and besides the small fights here and there, there is no real combat. You’re just in for a lot of reading descriptions. One of the more hilarious things about the game is when you’re choosing your avatar picture. There are two choices. You can be the kid with the dark hair, or his identical twin brother who dyed his hair blonde. The game boasts classical music that I can actually recognize, but in the end, you’ll totally forget it’s there.
I’m still trying to figure out what kind of player this game would appeal to. You can’t really call it a MUD because there is no multiplayer. It’s just a text-based game. You can’t really call it a full on RPG because there is no real combat. You know what this game reminds me of? It’s a very obscure reference, but I will mention it anyway. There was a quiz/dungeon exploration game that came with Encarta 97 where you walked around answering quiz questions about certain topics. The interface and descriptions remind me of that. Yes, a game that is priced at $24.95 reminds me of a game that came with encyclopedia software.
In the end, Academagia is a completely text-based choose-your-own adventure game that makes good on its options, but brings itself down with mediocrity. The content is not bad; it’s just not very compelling. Even hardcore MUD and choose-your-own-adventure players will have a difficult time with this game due to a confusing interface, ambiguous choices with vague consequences, and down-right boring game progression.
Review copy provided by publisher.