Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator Review – Potion seller, I want only your strongest potions

Gare – Monday, January 9, 2023 5:41 PM
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Have you ever wanted to manage your own potion shop? Actually, I’ll go a step further: have you ever wanted to brew and sell your own potions? If the answer is yes, you’ll be happy to hear that Potion Craft is a game all about doing everything I’ve just described – though not without some caveats. For now, let me just say that developer niceplay games’ project is a sufficiently chill alchemist simulator that lets you take it easy and experiment, all the while providing potion brewing mechanics that are easy to learn but can be hard to master. All in all, it’s a fun time – for a while.

But let’s start with the basics. PotionCraft goes fairly minimalistic with its interface, opting for a cleaner, somewhat medieval-style UI and menu system instead of something flashy or colorful. Every aspect of your alchemistic career – that is, potion brewing, haggling, ingredient gathering and so on – is shown through separate windows that you can easily hop between with the click of a button, and it’s generally up to you to decide how to spend each day before deciding to hit the sack. That said, the majority of your time will be focused on the alchemical map, a metaphorical map that you can, and indeed should, explore by mixing different ingredients.

The art of alchemy

So, here’s how it works: on the aforementioned alchemical map, you start in the middle and have to chart your course by mixing ingredients, stirring your pot or even adding a bit of water to dilute the mixture. The little potion bottle representing your progress will move across the map as you stir the pot (or move backwards if you add water), and the icons you touch along the way – such as healing, poison, strength, etc. – will determine the kind of potion you’ll eventually brew once you decide you’re done. The closer you are to the icon representing a certain effect, the stronger the potion will be, with the strongest concoctions requiring you to precisely match up your own potion bottle with the circular outline of the effect you’re trying to add to the mix.

Here’s where things get interesting: depending on the ingredients you combine and toss into your brewing pot, the pathways you map out will be wildly different. Some ingredients send you in a spiral pattern, others go criss-crossing across the map, and again others take wild, sharp turns to try and make your job even more difficult; it’s up to you to find the right combinations in order to create a long and complex route that lets you snatch up a great number of bonuses and extra effects on your path. There are, of course, obstacles along the way as well: for instance, literal death zones represented by bones and skulls that, when touched, will rapidly ruin your potion and make you start over from the beginning. With all this in mind, you can probably understand why reaching certain effects, let alone creating the strongest version of said effect can be a challenging yet also quite fascinating task; navigating the map in various ways by adding this or that ingredient, then carefully mapping out a course in order to get the desired result isn’t always as easy as it may seem (a bit of stirring here, a splash of added water there), especially if you’re going for the highest quality potion. Trust me, you really do have to be pixel perfect with it, but when you do finally make your first “strong” potion, it feels pretty satisfying.

Deal or no deal

Keep in mind that you do also have a business to run, which means interacting with customers every day and brewing exactly the kind of potion they want depending on their needs – this is something you’ll generally have to figure out for yourself based on your conversations with them. At first, this is a simple enough matter, but later on, customers will have specific demands: some will only want the strongest of your potions, others will specify which ingredient you should or shouldn’t use, and so on. Meeting their demands will yield a higher selling price and bolster your reputation… or tank it, in case you sell potions to shady customers. A bit of healthy haggling is similarly worth engaging in, although this particular aspect of the project more or less just comes down to a simplistic mini-game where you have to press buttons at the right time. You’ll also have to differentiate between customers: an average farmer, for example, might not pay as much for the same potion as a wealthy nobleman, so you may want to think twice before using valuable resources to create a powerful concoction for someone who might only pay you pennies.

Dealing with customers is also where the game’s dark sense of humor comes into play: the local villagers will display absolutely zero hesitation when talking about their potion-related needs, so get ready to meet various “upstanding” members of society who will openly admit that they need a potion to beat up or outright poison someone. I can only assume they have blind faith in the fact that you won’t rat them out. Or maybe I’ve just been selling too many potions to the wrong kind of customer and it completely destroyed my reputation… but hey, a profit’s a profit, right? Right. Still, this never failed to give me a chuckle… and maybe a bit of a guilty conscience as well.

Closing thoughts

Despite my overall enjoyment of Potion Craft, though, it’s a game I could only really play in short bursts. It’s not without charm, and the core mechanics – especially the way potion-brewing works – are most certainly fun to mess around with for a bit, but the daily routine of whipping up various concoctions and haggling with customers did get a touch too repetitive for my tastes. I can easily see how someone could spend a great deal of time diving into the nitty-gritties of the game, exploring every possible potion effect in order to meet the increasingly picky demands of customers that don’t always have particularly lawful intentions in mind, but it certainly won’t be for every kind of gamer. It’s still worth a try if the premise sounds intriguing to you, though.

If you'd like to try your hand at a bit of potion brewing yourself, the game is out now on Steam, the Epic Games Store, GOG, Xbox (including Xbox Game Pass) and the Microsoft Store.

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