Hands-on with Appy's freemium iOS SpellCraft School of Magic
By Jon Jordan 07 December 2011
Game Name: SpellCraft School of Magic | Developer: Appy Entertainment | Format: iPhone, iPad | Genre: Arcade, Card/ board game, RPG
It's taken a year or so, but finally some developers are looking beyond the Ville-style of time-based free-to-play mobile games to come up with something a little bit different.

Once such as US developer Appy Entertainment, which is best known for its paid games Trucks & Skulls and Face Fighter.

Its first proper freemium game is SpellCraft School of Magic, which combines some interesting elements, notably a Harry Potter-esque atmosphere with mini-games and card-based combat.

How it plays

The easiest way to explain it is via the menu screen, which breakdowns the separate gameplay elements.

The Dormitory is where you customise your wizard avatar, adding items and equipment that will improve your stats.

The Spell Library is a big caldron where you mix the plant ingredients you've grown in the Greenhouse. You do this by stirring the pot, although you have stir it at the correct speed - shown by a helpful meter - in order to create the spells of maximum potency.

The Greenhouse is where you grow your ingredients. This is the most Ville part of the game as you have to buy most of the plants you'll grow using the in-game gold currency.

They each have a specific grow time, which you can speed up by buying fertiliser. As you expect, if you leave your mature plants unharvested for too long, they will wither. You can improve your growing capacity by unlocking additional pots, and upgrading them through bronze, silver and gold stages to get better harvests.

The Bestiary is where you keep and nurture creatures you've captured and Dueling is the head-to-head multiplayer combat mode - available if you're running iOS 5.

Shuffle the pack

The key part of the game, however, is the Dungeon. This works through a topdown map view, whereby you tap on rooms, attacking the monsters therein, and moving onto the next room. This combat is card-based, with each creature characterised by a specific element - Fire, Water, Earth and the wildcard Chaos.

They will attack you, lowering your health, while you have to pick the correct elemental spell card you want to attack with, also tapping as the spell effect, which moves up and down your wand, reaches the tip to fire off the most powerful spell.

Basically, you keep going until you've defeated the monsters, or you've run out of health, or gold to buy more health. At any time, you can flee from the dungeon although you'll likely drop some loot along the way.

Rinse and repeat

In this way, the game revolves around you battling in the Dungeon to level up, gain gold and the hard currency - gems - as well as items etc, returning once defeated to grow more plants and create stronger spells.

As with all freemium games, SpellCraft starts off quite smoothly, but after a couple of hours, you'll have to decide whether you want to spend real money to speed up progress or start to grind.

Yet, because the game is different to the typical freemium game, also being much better presented in terms of graphics and audio, at least it feels like you're getting a good experience for your cash, rather than being hooked into a semi-addicted state.

Alternatively, you are rewarded with gold if you come back and play every day, and there will likely be various incentivised actions such as watching videos if you're really against spending cash for in-game currency.

SpellCraft School of Magic is a free-to-play game for iPhone and iPad. It's due to be released on 8 December.

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