Spellcaster University by Sneaky Yak Studio
Spellcaster University is a charming side-on management game that tasks us with building, running, and developing a magical university in a land doomed to be overrun by a dark lord and his minions. Featuring a simple aesthetic and a wealth of surprising depth, this is an opportunity for aspiring school principals to live out their Hogwarts dreams.
The world of Spellcaster University follows some classic fantasy tropes with an irreverent spin. The forces of darkness are on the rise – as they so often are – and while they are usually fought off by noble warriors, this time someone made a calendar error and things are looking dire. In the shadow of these events, you will be tasked with establishing a new university and ensuring that it thrives in the twilight years before the dark lord makes his move.
Magical Mascots and Fantasy Financial Aid
The first decision that needs to be made is to choose a good location for the titular university. Several options are available, and each has pros, cons, and unique visuals. I chose the mountain lake, which came with slightly reduced building area and the prospect of a hidden aquatic monster to find. After this, there’s simply the matter of naming the university and building some foundations.
Progress in Spellcaster University is built around drawing randomly from several decks of cards. Each card can allow a new room to be built, bring more students into the university, activate certain events, or add furniture or unique items or even pets to the university.
The aforementioned decks include a standard deck and five other magical decks; standard cards are bought with gold earned from student enrolments, while the others must be bought with various kinds of mana earned from magical research at the university. Each card is more expensive than the last, forcing some diversification in deck choice.
There is a delightful array of variety and customization options in Spellcaster University. I particularly liked the option to design crests for your own custom school houses; I decided to theme mine around the names of the gods in Tolkien’s mythos, and this ended up coloring my choices for each house and ultimately my entire play-style.
The success of house Yavanna (my nature magic specialists) ended up leading my entire university to become nature-focused, and I ended up producing a whole lot of gardeners. When students graduate, they take on jobs, and these provide boons (such as – in the case of gardeners – nature mana).
The Politics of Higher Education
Multiple choice events regularly occur as time passes, and these often link into a simple but engaging political web built around your university. Local factions include the peasants, the King, orcs, adventurers, and more- each of these will occasionally have requests for your university and each has a relationship status that provides advantages and penalties depending on current relations.
There is plenty of variety and replay value in Spellcaster University; each run finishes with the dark lord’s invasion and the need to abandon the campus. Each run also asks for the selection of both a reward and a “curse” that will change up gameplay for the next attempt. Coupled with the selection of potential campus locations, this ensures there’s plenty to keep you coming back for more.
The design of Spellcaster University is solid enough if a little rough around the edges. I found the overall look of the game to be both varied and thematic, but there are a few areas that could be tidied up a bit. Light piano music serves as a backdrop to the university-building antics, and despite being a little repetitive, it is a soothing accompaniment to the game.
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All in all, Spellcaster University is an excellent simulation game that fills a unique niche. The game is brimming with personality, and there are plenty of secrets to discover and put to use, from a surprisingly diverse alchemy system to an array of hidden events and location-specific characters.
Spellcaster University is certainly worth a look for simulation fans and aspiring Dark Arts teachers alike.
Spellcaster University is available via Steam.
Check out the official Spellcaster University trailer below: