Astrologaster is a story-driven astrological comedy game set in Shakespeare’s London. Take on the role of the notorious Doctor Simon Forman and use Astrology to treat his patients. Will you win their favour or ruin their lives?
I started playing Astrologaster with very little prior knowledge about the game. About 20 minutes after first opening the app and beginning the game, I had to do some research to find out what the heck I was playing! Astrologaster is one heck of an experience.
London, 1592. A great plague sweeps through the capital. When doctors flee the city in fear, a hero rises. His name is Simon Forman, “Doctor” of Astrology and Physick. Not only does he have the power to cure the sick, he can find their lost pets or even predict their futures, by reading the movements of the stars!
But when the plague ends, Forman’s problems begin. The real doctors return to London and they will stop at nothing to expose Forman as a fraud and bring him down. But Doctor Forman is determined to prove them wrong!
The first thing that really stood out to me, early on, was the quality of every aspect of this game. The art, the game design, the UI, the voice actors, the music and the characters are all superb. It is very clear that this was a passion project, a bizarre spark of inspiration that Jennifer Schneidereit followed through on – to perfection.
The gameplay is fairly straight-forward. You play as Dr. Forman and are visited by one patient after another, with occasional historical updates, announcements etc, in between. As well as having highly amusing or rather disturbing conversations with Dr. Forman (which continue to improve as your relationships with each patient develop), each patient will present a problem for the Doctor to consult the stars about.
Each zodiac opens up to give you a further idea of what they mean and help you ‘read the stars’. Not having read much about it before diving into the game, it did take me an embarrassingly long amount of time to properly understand what was going on, and that I could be strategic about my choices.
The crazy thing is, the game is using a simplified version of Forman’s ACTUAL METHOD. Based on his ACTUAL WRITING. The game can be used to teach beginners Horary Astrology! His clients, their illnesses, his diagnosis and other historical details are, for the most part, taken directly from his real-life client records, his own personal writings and via historical consultants. Many of the patients you meet throughout the game are real-life historical figures, like the Archbishop of Cantebury and the feminist poet Emilia Lanier (who is working on a play with William Shakespeare-no biggie). As the same clients visit you several times, you get to witness (and have influence over) their life events unfolding. From the intolerable Mary Payne to the hilarious Lancelot Moore, getting to know the characters and the utterly ridiculous situations they get themselves into (again, based on actual people and their lives), is what makes this game so fun! Each time a client visits you, you also unlock a new verse to their character song – which is performed spectacularly by classically trained, professional vocalists (DO NOT EVER SKIP THESE – REAL MASTERPIECES).
Astrologaster has the feeling of a very well-written, but not overly gripping book. It’s a game that you might play a whole hour of, in one sitting, and then be alright with not going back to for a couple of days. I very much enjoyed playing it for 30 minutes or so each evening before I went to bed, and had a couple of lazy weekend afternoons where I spent a couple of hours lying in the sun, throwing out a reckless diagnosis here, seducing a patient there – living the life of Dr. Forman. I also genuinely can’t wait to jump back in for a replay! I made some choices that I definitely want to go back and change and see how much the outcome differs. There are many parts of the game that I think would be even more interesting/ fun on a second playthrough – once you have more knowledge about what’s going on historically and have uncovered some twists along the way! The language used in the game is also very hard to shake after a decent session – It has become tricky to not use the word ‘verily’ in my daily life.
If you’re looking for an utterly pleasant experience – the pop-up-book style of Astrologaster will please the eye and satisfy the finger (That is an unfortunate sounding sentence – but I can’t think of any other way to describe it). You get to literally turn the pages of Dr Forman’s life and see a new story unfold on the other side. Astrologaster will both entertain and educate you. Make you laugh and make you cringe. Have you turning to Wikipedia to learn more about Forman and wondering why you’ve never heard of this bizarre individual before.
I’ve never played anything quite like it and I can’t think of anything I would change to improve it. I take my hat off to you Nyamyam. Beautiful work.