Spellcaster University is a cute, addictive management sim + deck building game in which you run a magic school by placing rooms, choosing staff and students, deciding what types of magic to prioritize, and cultivating relationships with local factions in order to meet your objectives and defeat the Lord of Evil.
In Spellcaster University, you take on the role of the director of a magic university in a colourful world of heroic fantasy. Build your school, manage your budget, recruit teachers. Will you turn it into a black magic academy, with the best professors of necromancy and demonology? Or a place in harmony with nature to train druids and shamans? Or why not train adventurous mages, offering them options to learn how to fight and be stealthy? But this will require surviving the ruthless attacks of the orc tribes and the controls of the education authorities.
When I realized this was a management sim + deck building game, rather than something more focused on building and characters, I was disappointed, but I ended up having so much fun! It’s such an addictive game.
This game reminded me how fun magic schools could be. I loved all the fun and cute detail, like all the different job options students get when they graduate (based on skill, personality, and species requirements). And the adorable messenger guinea pigs that get launched via catapult. It was even fun to just zoom in sometimes and watch what all the little characters were doing. Cute art style too. (It looks much better than in my pictures since I had to size them down, trust me!)
I’ll try to explain the basic gameplay. Talk of fighting orcs and exploring dungeons and defeating evil had me worried it would be a stressful game and that I’d have to do combat, but it’s not like that. You need to build a school to train mages. In order to do that, you get cards from decks and play them. The cards have rooms, items, and other helpful things. The only sort of building you do is deciding where to place each new room (on top of or next to existing rooms). You also get to decide which types of magic to focus on based on what rooms you have and what you tell students to prioritize. You get to choose from two teachers each time you add a new classroom (they have different traits, teaching abilities, etc.). You get to choose whether to accept or reject new students. You get to create houses and sort students into them. The students and teachers then learn, teach, and take care of their needs all on their own. If you do get attacked (which isn’t often), they also take care of that on their own. In the meantime, you can cultivate relationships with nearby factions that can benefit you, and you can send students to explore dungeons for loot (optional), but both of those things are simple text selection. Even the dungeon combat is automated. And all the while, there’s a progress bar that shows how close the Lord of Evil is; once he gets there, that level ends, and you start over with a new school. And in the last level of the campaign, you have more specific things to accomplish in order to defeat the Lord of Evil, and if you do so in time, you win. There’s a little more to the game than that, more details you can adjust or that affect gameplay, but that’s the gist.
I love that there are difficulty levels, challenges (which give bonuses in future games), and game length options. You can choose a higher difficulty and do a lot of strategizing and micromanaging. Or you can do like me, choose a lower difficulty, strategize enough to get by, and just enjoy the vibes and cuteness and detail of the game. There’s also a non-campaign mode in which you can have endless gameplay without having to keep starting new schools.
I found this job assignment particularly entertaining. I love that this werewolf with skeletal wings is a prince charming.
It’s sort of a grind, in the way that most management sims are a grind, but it has so many cute things to discover and enjoy before it starts to feel repetitive, the challenge aspect keeps it fun, it’s addictive and sucks you in, and you can easily lose hours to it.
There were a few frustrating things:
1) Once you place a room, you can’t move or delete it. Also, it’s clear enough where the edges of the build space are and which few rooms can’t be built on top of. But where rooms can be placed also depends on where the doors are, and that’s a lot harder to keep track of. So it was a pain when I was trying to plan out the layout.
2) You have objectives, and one of them is always based on getting x number of students into a certain career, which requires focusing on those classrooms, but you don’t get that objective until partway into the level. And it seems random, which means you might not get any options relating to whatever rooms you’ve already placed. So in harder games, you basically have to do nothing until you get the objective so that you don’t end up with students wasting time in other rooms or paying teachers you’re not going to use.
3) I don’t like that one of the bad traits for students is “deaf” and it makes them learn magic slower. Such a small thing, but that almost makes it worse because why even include that bit of ableism?
Some tips I have are:
1) Read through the help book in the game. The tutorial leaves a lot out.
2) In case you don’t read it: If you get a card for a room you already have, you can play it again in the same spot to make that room more efficient and/or get special benefits.
3) There are two ways to win the last level (a series of quests, or collecting all the turtle cards). You don’t need both. Each has a different ending. (I reloaded my manual save and was able to do both without replaying, but when I tried to load a manual save in another game, it had auto saved over it, so maybe the game is just set up to let you reopen midway through the last level in order to see both endings.)
It took me about 15 hours to finish a campaign on novice difficulty and normal length. But I’ve played 30 hours total so far because seriously, it’s addictive!
Overall, I love how cute and detailed this is, I love that the difficulty and gameplay options make it so customizable, and I’ve had so much fun playing!
*My review is for version 1.02 and does not include more recent updates.*
Source/Cost: I played this on Utomik with a monthly subscription.
– Deck building + management sim
– Customizable difficulty, including endless play
– Lots of cute and fun details
– Cute art style
– Addictive and fun!
(May not include everything)
– Not accessible for blind / visually impaired players.
– Multiple difficulty options, including an endless mode with the option to have no time limit.