Astrologaster - Brutal Backlog

April 11, 2022
BACKLOG
PC

Brutal Backlog is a semi-regular feature where the JDR team plough through some of the unplayed games on their shelves (both digital and physical), disregarding their age or the technical limitations of their era. Only the very best titles will stand up to scrutiny today. 

Astrologaster was released in 2019 and ended up on several “best of” lists for that year. A game based on a real-life Elizabethan astrologer physician piqued my historical interest— I remember buying it with the best intentions, but like so many games in my Steam library it sat untouched and ignored.

But the Brutal Backlog is all about giving old games a chance, so I consulted my star charts and decided it was time for me to check Astrologaster out and see if it’s still worth playing in 2022.

Twenty Minutes In


OK, this is actually pretty cool. I’m playing as a doctor called Simon Forman who diagnoses his patients through astrology. At the moment I’m not sure what the aim of the game is - people come to my house and I give them some advice, that’s it.

This is where all the action happens


I’m not getting any clues to how to choose the ‘right’ answer though. At the moment all I’m doing is guessing choices and I’m not sure if they even make any difference.

The game seems to be a sort of visual novel — this is compounded by the fact that the game is played within the pages of a big book, and I move the game forward by virtually turning the pages, complete with lovely ASMR crinkly sounds as you do so.

In actual fact, the whole presentation of the game is first class. The voice acting is great and the script is hilarious. I’m not an Elizabethan scholar but the language used seems to be authentically ye olde English as well.  

The other really entertaining thing is that all the patients who visit me get their own theme tune complete with funny lyrics that actually made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion.


One Hour In


I'm starting to get the hang of this now. It seems to be that I listen for clues in the conversations with my patients and work out the correct answers from the astrological charts.  

There isn’t much variation in the gameplay though. Mostly the game involves listening to a conversation between me and the patient, deciding the advice to give them and then waiting to see if they like what I tell them or not. That said, the game chugs along at a decent speed and each patient’s visit only takes a few minutes so it doesn’t get tedious.  

Your visitors ask about everything from physical ailments to reading the future


I'm also starting to see the same patients again and what I told them during the last visit seems to have an effect on how they act around me. Despite the monotonous gameplay, the storylines of each patient are interesting enough to make me want to keep playing and see how things work out for them.   

The other really cool thing is that everyone has a new song with new lyrics every time they come to see me. The songs aren’t just for show either; they actually reveal more about the patients and their lives.

Two Hours In

The game has finally got around to giving me something to work towards. Apparently I’ve been practising medicine without a licence. I need to get letters of recommendation from my patients, and once I have enough I will be rewarded with the coveted licence and get the Royal College of Physicians off my case.

The way it works is that each patient has a slider - if they are happy with their consultation it moves closer to getting my recommendation; if they aren’t it moves farther away.

Surely it can't be the doggie?


Since discovering the actual aim of the game all the careful calculations I made on how to select the correct prognosis have gone out the window - all I’m doing is telling them what they want to hear so it gets me closer to my doctor’s licence.  

I’ve also had affairs with a few of my patients and managed to kill a couple of them as well. But thankfully this is the 1600s and Trustpilot hasn’t been invented yet, so people seem happy to keep visiting the clinic.  

Look for answers in the sky… then just pick whichever one suits you

Six Hours In


Well, that’s the game done and dusted. I got my medical licence and I can continue to scam the gullible for the foreseeable future. In retrospect, I’m STILL unsure if there even is a ‘correct’ way to play the game. As soon as it became clear that I needed to get letters of recommendation from my patients I just told them what they wanted to hear to make them happy.

I’m actually wondering if the game is a comment on how useless medical science was 400 years ago, but how at the time people took the whole thing seriously.

Final Verdict


Astrologaster is a unique and fun game, but its major failing is that for a six-hour game there just wasn’t enough variety in gameplay to keep me interested. 

The game was becoming a grind after a couple of hours; as enjoyable as it was to start with, by the end I just wanted to get it over and done with so I could write my article and play something else.

I’d imagine that most people never make it to the end of the game - unless you happen to be really invested in the subject or the story I think you’d probably get bored well before the end of the game.

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Worth playing? MAYBE - if there's nothing better on your shelf.
Iain Blank

PC gamer with an Xbox controller. As long as they keep making games I'll keep playing them.