The beauty of Potion Craft is that it lays out a fog of discovery in front of you and lets you try anything you want to clear it. The fun of discovery reminds me of those science kits you’d get as a child from grandparents being education and fun at the same time. Potion Craft brings this to the alchemist shop and its Early Access gameplay loop is an excellent base.
You start with a base substance, in this case water, and a collection of ingredients that grow overnight in your garden. Each ingredient maps out a dotted line across the alchemist paper like a treasure map, showing you where the ingredients will take the potion. Each ingredient can be crushed with a pestle and mortar to extend its dotted line length or it can be put directly into the cauldron. The early hours of Potion Craft will see you mixing and matching to uncover the fog of war so-to-speak, uncovering the map of alchemy in front of you. Discover a potion outline and you’ll want to aim for it and discover a new thing to brew. There’s about 20 different types of potion you can brew. Every ingredient has its own quirky pattern and if you veer into the skull and crossbones, your potion will explode. It’s a fantastic way to add in puzzle, skill and knowledge into potion crafting and I found it fascinating working out what your favourite mushrooms and herbs will be for certain bends or twists.
Customers will come to your shop each day with demands for certain potions. You’ll need to brew them. You can do this all manually but you can save potions with step by step ingredients into your recipe book (although you have to buy new papers for the privilege to short cut). Potions can be brewed in 3 tiers of strength and tier 3 potions sell for massively more money than the others, but they require exact precision in mixing. This brings in the water pouring mechanic where you’ll brew something slightly too strong and then add some water to bring it back to centre slightly. It’s tricky and takes practice.
Your shop gains more customers and wider needs as you gain rep. Rep is gained by serving good potions consecutively but you won’t always have the exact ingredients around to do this easily. Potion Craft requires a real balance of step by step precision and then trying to hamfist it with what you’ve got in times of need. You do get travelling sellers visit daily too for mushrooms, herbs, crystals and salts (teased at in the future) so you can buy what doesn’t grow in your garden. It’s expensive though and prices vary greatly from store to store. The economy really punishes you for only brewing tier 1 potions and not playing the haggle mini game. Haggling is a quick time event, clicking the orange boxes on a slider to reduce the purchase price for you or increase your sales price to customers. It did seem to annoy customers doing this though so perhaps this needs a little more balancing over time.
Potion Craft is engrossing in an odd way. I found myself thinking I’d play a quick 10 minutes and then I’d lost an hour just exploring ingredients and trying new things. I did find that my progression through the rep levels and story chapters wildly yo-yoed about though. When you move up a tier, if you get two customers that ask for potions that you can’t provide immediately, you drop back down again but the rep tiers purposely expand the types of potions you ask as you go up them. It can lead to you finally getting to a new rep level and then immediately tanking back down. I found myself doing this often and whilst it didn’t make me mad at the game, it did make me realise this game could potentially be a massive grind for gamers. If you don’t want to create pixel perfect potions, your progress will be very slow. Thankfully you can gain XP by making potions on your treasure map and when you level up you can spend skill points to improve the sale prices of your potions and the impact of your haggling.
Whilst lots of things are promised in the future such as different bases, new potions and effects, other types of ingredients, shop and garden upgrades and dynamic customer queues, there’s a ton here already to enjoy. I really liked the ability to customise my potion bottles and colours easily too – making my shop feel a little more personable. This is a fantastically addictive start to Potion Craft and I’d be shocked if this game veers from its clear hit to a miss from this base. I don’t often give the all clear for an Early Access title but this is one I do. Dive in.
Review copy provided by publisher.
A fantastic start to the game which is engrossing as it is and promises to deliver more variety of things to do in the future.
Engrossing main gameplay loop.
Plenty of ways to make your potions and get the end result.
Customers and merchants give more of their story the more they return, making the world outside feel more interesting.
The economy tightness means that you have to constantly haggle and brew perfect potions to make good progress without it becoming a huge grind.
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