Potion Craft is a charming alchemy simulation game that demonstrates how simplicity can create rich puzzles that reward experimentation. We tried out its demo prior to the Early Access launch to give you a glimpse into the world of Potion Craft. Hopefully the recipe survives Early Access and continues to deliver on its premise, and promise.
Anything that is worth doing is also worth simulating – or, so the thinking goes when it comes to simulation games.
From roller-coasters to space colonies, farming to being a goat, simulation games have branched out into all walks of life - realistic, fantastical, or otherwise.
So, if you’d like to spend some time in the shoes of someone who SELLS the potions instead of using them for a change, Potion Craft has you covered.
Potion Craft calls upon its players to develop their potion-brewing capabilities and rejuvenate a dilapidated potion shop by selling potions to villagers, earning gold, and then spending it to buy upgrades which allow them to explore advanced alchemy recipes.
Over the course of the game, you will be made to plan brews, problem-solve when they inevitably go wrong, and manage resources and earnings.
In comparison to the more extensive simulation games, it sounds simple. And it really is.
Mastering a Brew
Potions are brewed by adding ingredients into a cauldron: an action which plots out a path on the game’s fog-covered brewing map. Stirring the cauldron’s contents then moves the potion icon along this path, revealing the areas around the potion icon as it moves.
Once the potion icon is aligned with any of the effect bubbles littered across the map, these effects can be added into the potion by bringing the potion to a boil.
The game truly shines in its finer moments, such as when you interact with tools like the mortar and pestle to ground ingredients, which increases the pathing effects of said ingredient.
Players can also dilute the potion to inch the potion icon closer to starting point or make use of advanced alchemical additives which have varying effects.
These potions do not get sold to faceless customers, though, but a range of RPG-types, which helps to offer the game much of its quirky charm through its homage to medieval fantasy characters and narratives that you might find familiar.
Reading the customers’ stories about how they were beaten up by monsters or how they require extra libido also tapped on our innate desire to piece together a head-canon of events occurring beyond the walls of the shop.
While it is a no-brainer to provide customers with Healing, things become a little dicier when considering a customer request for Poison. Sometimes, the customers offer reasonable motivations, such as the need to kill off a rat infestation. Other times, however, become a test of your need to balance ethics, reputation, standing, and gold.
The act of selling potions to unsavoury types naturally draws the ire of the townsfolk, and negatively impacts your reputation. Turn them away, however, and you gain a reputation boost.
It’s a system that shows promise because, as in games like Papers, Please, the player could be presented with problematic situations where differentiating between right and wrong may not be as clear-cut.
Because of the game’s use of the brewing map, there are infinite ways in which one could brew any potion.
Though there are preferred or optimal routes to take toward making a specific potion, there is nothing preventing madlads from charting their potion icon across the map before finally settling on an effect.
Potions can also be completed or discarded at any point of time during the process, on anywhere on the brewing map, allowing for players to make a range of interesting concoctions.
While concoctions which combine Healing and Poison have no practical use to customers, certain combinations may prove useful either in the shopfront, or behind the scenes.
Eventually, players would oscillate between creative pathfinding and making use of preferred or optimal recipes when earning dough.
In short, its mechanics successfully simulate what it would feel like for a budding alchemist who must deal with customers and an inner curiosity to learn more about the art of potion-making.
As a result, mixing and matching ingredients becomes a rewarding game of puzzle-solving by leveraging on fixed paths in order to reach a destination.
The game’s focus on building a path, instead of arriving at a destination, makes the trial-and-error of brewing feel more like experimentation than inelegant brute force.
Then the charm is firm and good
Ultimately, Potion Craft is equal parts simple charm and tricky nuance. It provides a nice, repetitive distraction for days where you simply focus on fulfilling customer requests while watching Twitch (the game ran perfectly on my Surface Pro!).
On the other hand, more advanced recipes, and a desire to haggle for every piece of gold in your trades, will demand of you more commitment and attention.
It is a recipe that has worked well with games like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing, and it works incredibly well here, too.
Eventually, though, as in those games, it may feel as if there is nothing else to see or do - which is not necessarily a problem.
While the game could benefit from adding a variety of experiences, such as fishing, farming, or making friends, it would be important for the team at niceplay to carefully ensure the inclusion of any such mechanics add to the robustness of the core gameplay, which continues to be potion-brewing.
As a demo for an Early Access title, the game does look promising and enjoyable to play, and we'll be looking forward to sharing more about what we think in due course. Stay tuned!
Potion Craft will be launching on Steam Early Access on the 21st September, 2021.
Last Updated: 19th September 2021
This article will be updated live with Early Access impressions. If you'd like to see live gameplay, hop on over to our Twitch channel, where we will be trying out the game in the coming weeks!