I am going to TRY and keep this spoiler free...but please, if you are looking to avoid spoilers, in case I make a mistake just...go away. I'll even pay for your train ticket.
So after making my, oh, 15th character (I have this annoying habit of seeing my results for midterms and saying "I can do better!" and restarting a new character...or missing an adventure I wanted to play with. I restart a great deal) I finally got to a point where I think I can say what I do and don't like about Academagia. Much to my surprise, I probably end up playing it more than I should...but more on that in a moment.
Academagia does a fantastic job of pulling us into a fantasy universe, but I had to do a lot of hunting on the forums and the wiki to actually learn about the world. Sure, we know about dragons, and a bunch of other little things...but, for example, the differences between Swashbucklers and Pirates. Magicians and Wizards are covered very briefly, but I have never seen them again. Nemesis characters like Ilaro, Asad the Lion, and others are mentioned with fear, hatred, and/or awe - but I've never heard of them before that moment. There is a vast amount of lore for the game that is amazingly easy to get lost in. At the same time, I am torn between wanting to get lost and not caring, simply because the lore is so present and so massive but so completely foreign to me that I find it difficult to sit there and learn all of this. Essentially, when it comes to lore, my only complaint is that we have no knowledge of anything about the world until we're thrust into it, and that kind of dampens the roleplaying. It's hard to feel awestruck at the name Ilaro when this is the first time I've heard of him, and that makes me sad. I want to have that name strike fear into my heart!
Honestly, I really think my only complaint about the game is how easy it is to get lost in the sheer amount of information that is available. From the scores of phemes and dozens of spells and probably hundreds of lore tidbits that I accumulate, trying to find one specific article/pheme/spell becomes a chore and hardly worth the effort. Early on, I attached phemes to every spell I could. Now, since it takes 15 seconds to scroll to find the "Fire" pheme so I can make my nemesis suffer (Burn, Cosetta...burn...) I simply stopped caring. It would be fantastic if we could sort phemes/spells/articles. Let us do phemes by what causes damage, or boosts skills, or just alphabetically (type in 'fi' and get anything starting with 'fi', or use the first letter alone - anything would help). Spells can be sorted by their effects tags, such as damage, reduce money, etc. and articles sorted by their governing trait, such as negation, religion, etc. It would go a long way to cleaning up the interface.
Speaking of Cosetta, early on I didn't care about any of the characters. But as my games went on, they became more and more interesting. I love Durand from the event when you have the option of teaming up with him. Zorzi amuses me. Phillipe I want to smack with a heavy object. Cosetta I make friends with frequently or ruin her life until I can duel her and be rid of her. Professor Briardi is probably my favorite, followed closely by Lisle (Revision), and I find myself actively working to improve relations with them and cash in on the rewards.
Speaking of Briardi, I love the magic system, and gleefully grin whenever I get Negation maxed out. I almost always go with a pure magical character, and seeing that magic is not always (and in fact only sometimes is) the way to go really makes the game more interesting. As much as I love the idea of being a magical powerhouse, I like failing some of these random events just because it feels so...real. I also love it when I can cast a spell and my character's thoughts/comments/chatbox basically says "this is the best spell I've ever cast" or "it goes off perfectly" or something like that - a real sense of accomplishment, so that I may be horrible at the other activities the school provides but my magic is top of the class, gorram it!
I do wish that the colleges were a bit more defined. Perhaps college robes (an item, versus just the picture, such as Godina getting incantation-boosting robes, Avila getting astrology-boosting robes, etc.) or, beyond any doubt, more quests for the colleges. Mostly, we just get a little blip about the college - more would be wonderful! Include the blip, and then give us more to make us want to be in that house. Godina has great battlemages - tell us more about them. Avila has seers? Tell us about a famous prophecy made by one of that college's wizard. Maybe include a 'welcome gift' spell based on a famous wizard. IE, if Godina had the famous wizard Yammer, then give all Godina students Yammer's Illumination, a weak light spell (that, say, increases chance of being discovered but boosts a few other subskills by a small amount). I don't feel like I'm part of a unique college, merely another major in a university in real life, and even then I get into arguments with other majors frequently about major-related things.
Cliques usually don't strike me as that important, sadly. I end up getting recruited by someone or another into their clique and don't give it much thought beyond that. As useful as clique members are for adventures, I just can't find myself wanting to work on making them better, or improving relations, or what have you. They are faceless stat boosts, and since I'm sure that they were intended to be more that makes me sad. Honestly, though, I have no idea how one might improve the system for this game, and will hope that they are more alive(?) come year two.
Adventures are my favorite part of the game, really. The stories they tell are fantastic, and I have actually restarted a game because I didn't get one of the stories I wanted ("A Meeting in the Tavern"? The Captain's story) or I took a parallel story and cancelled it out. I've learned most of the lore through these adventures, though my only qualm with them is that you can repeat a stage you fail. Now, I'm not saying that I hate that I can repeat them (if that were so, bad things would have happened in 90% of my adventures and I'd be a horrible, horrible adventurer) but it seems somewhat jarring. For example, if I fail a Voice check and end up being gnawed upon by angry music-loving ants, I take damage but can come back the next day to try again. Or I can improve my Voice skill and try that when it's better. But the end result "you are attacked by the ants, who steal your precious ring and put you in the infirmary to recover" doesn't take the lost ring into account. Perhaps a failed check, which would cause an exit, could be masked by something. IE, instead of losing to the ants, I'm told that it was just a dream - I take stress or damage for failing, but the actual failure never happens. Or I'm put on a separate track for the quest (hunting down the ring versus trying again). There's an example I want to give quite badly but won't out of fear of spoilers.
Also, adventures are easy to lose (despite being in the same place) since they change name and often have no information attached to them. A little blurb about each quest (using "A Meeting in the Tavern" for an example: 'A chance encounter with one of Mineta's finest leads on a whirlwind adventure throughout the city and beyond') would give us something to look forward to, and a bit of understanding. Further, if the adventures were moved to the top of the list when they begin, or are highlighted, or something, they would be easier to pick out and keep track of. Really, though, these are just minor gripes. I still spend most of my time trying and failing at adventures, just for the story.
The only thing I feel this game really, truly needs is a sort of New Game+ feature. That is, at the end of the year, we can restart with the same character in their current state. Now, for the sake of continuity, I know that carrying over the adventures we did, test scores, classes taken, etc. would be difficult. So instead of letting us start over wholly with everything, simply let us restart with our stats, skills, and study levels at their current stage. Drop anything else, and basically allow for this character to dive right in to adventures, exploration, jobs, and other routes. As much as I understand the value for roleplaying, having to spend so much time training and studying and exploring makes the first half of the game more tedious the third, fourth, or fifth time around. I've started relying on the Cheat Mod to attain this purpose, simply because I don't want to sit around and study again, I want to get in to the adventures.
Granted, a New Game+ feature would probably allow for people to make their characters superbly flawless. I'm of the mind that if someone really wants to do that, then it is their decision...but the choice of allowing a New Game+ is not mine to make, so my opinion there is rather moot. If nothing else, just think about it. Since year two will rely so heavily on what we've done in the past year, it would be wonderful to make a character exactly as we want, and to take that character to see things in upcoming DLC packs without having to start anew.
Finally, I will say this - despite all of the minor gripes I have with the game, I am horribly addicted to it. Academagia is the game that I will sit down on a Saturday (and in fact did this yesterday) and play for a few hours without even realizing that a few hours have passed. I think that if Impulse had a means of telling me how many hours I have logged into this game, it would be over 100. When I first saw the price ($25, not sure what it is now) I thought the game wasn't worth it. In reality, I can't say that it is to most people. But I don't care - I play this game constantly, wanting to see what each adventure brings, wanting to make new friends and new enemies, wanting to learn more about the world and its inhabitants, and always wanting to expand my character for the coming year. I might not touch it for a few weeks, or a few months, but I always come back to Academagia.
Thanks for a great game. I look forward to seeing what else you all create...and, my next goal, to playing with the mod maker and creating several devious stories. Mwahaha.