A month or two back, I ran across a mention of the game Magic Research; my replaying of Kittens Game had reminded me that I like clicker games, and Magic Research looked interesting, so I decided to give it a try.

And it’s good! It’s no Kittens Game, but it’s solid, and there’s stuff in there that was new to me. As is unsurprising given the name, there’s a lot of spell stuff going on: so while you do have buildings that produce various materials (wood, stone, etc.), you also have a magic level (in fact a bunch of different levels, corresponding to different schools of magic), and that has you casting spells; sometimes those spells also produce materials, sometimes those spells make your buildings more efficient, etc. Which would get unmanageable pretty quickly if you had to cast those spells all the time; but hey, you’re in charge of a school, so you’ve got a bunch of apprentices around to put to work casting spells on regular intervals for you, to keep your buildings working at peak efficiency.


And then there’s the combat aspect of Magic Research. I guess the term here is “auto battler”; that’s not a genre that I’ve played any games in, so I don’t how how much Magic Research is like other games in that genre. But at any rate you’re off exploring dungeons while you’re running the school, defeating monsters and getting items. Which works well in the clicker genre, certainly: it’s another way to gradually acquire resources over time, and it lends itself to crafting items to improve your ability to explore dungeons, so it also adds in a resource sink. And it motivates some of the schools of magic: there’s an Evocation school for offensive spells and a Protection school for defensive spells, etc.

Each level of the dungeon has a boss; those battles are tough enough that you probably want to monitor the battle and cast your attack spells yourself. This is the one part of the game that doesn’t feel like a clicker game, but that’s fine: it gives you something to pay a little more attention to every so often in a way that remains in conversation with clicker mechanics. And also, one aspect of this sort of clicker game is where the walls are going to be; just hitting a wall because it’ll take a week to gather enough material for one more building gets old after a while, so it’s nice that, in Magic Research, the walls take the form of bosses that you can’t beat even after trying out a few strategies against them.


Which brings us to rebirth mechanics. In Magic Research, it’s themed via retirement, which works well. But then the question is: what will be different next time? And, to that end, the game has mixed in some plot elements: there are various events that happen, sometimes randomly (once you’ve satisfied certain conditions), and sometimes based on triggering certain specific events (e.g. defeating some of the tougher bosses). When you hit those plot elements, you generally don’t just get narration, you get something that affects gameplay, e.g. by making it easier to produce some kind of resource or to store some kinds of resources or level up in one of the schools of magic. And some of those gameplay changes take effect immediately, but some of them only take effect on retirement; so generally each time you retire, you’ll have unlocked a handful of different changes that will speed up your next run. (And the plot elements also give an overall goal / arc to the game, to try to win a big magic tournament.)

Also, on each run, you pick a school of magic to specialize in; you can level up faster in that school, but also, when you retire, the game looks at your overall collection of maximum level you’ve reached in the various schools, and gives you a production boost based on that. So that gives you an accellerant to help you make it a little farther on subsequent runs; and also it’s designed in a way that gives you an active incentive to change schools every time you retire, which makes the different runs feel a little less repetitive.


So: solid game. Some mechanics that I’d seen before that I liked; some mechanics that I either hadn’t seen in the genre or hadn’t seen at all, and I liked those mechanics too and thought they worked well in the genre. Respectful of my time: it ate up a little more of my time while playing it than I was comfortable with, but that’s the way the genre works, and it was totally manageable in this case. And the game didn’t outstay its welcome; I don’t remember exactly how long I spent on it, but if I had to guess I’d say two weeks, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t as much as a month.

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