Potion Craft is quite possibly the most relaxing game I’ve played this year. There’s something about the soft two dimensional visuals, lovingly rendered in the style of medieval manuscripts. They work alongside a thoughtful yet elegantly simple gameplay loop to brew up something engaging yet soporific, slowly reeling you in before you’ve realised how many hours have passed just learning your craft.
After a fairly successful demo, developers niceplay games believe the game is now in a decent enough state to release in Early Access. Now, I’ve played a lot of Early Access games this year, and some of them have been great – some, not so much. Thankfully, Potion Craft is actually in a pretty good way. For the humble price of £11.39 (which will inevitably change at full release) you’re getting an extremely functional sandbox game with tons of ways to play.
With ingredients you harvest from your garden or buy from wandering merchants, you can create potions with a huge variety of effects. You can combine them in interesting ways (like a potion that heals and induces sleep at the same time) or make utterly pointless creations that conjure fire, ice, lightning and healing effects all at once (I named that potion “Fustercluck”). Throughout the day, customers will wander in and out of your shop, looking for alchemical solutions to various problems – how you deal with them is up to you,
It’s a really tactile experience. Even little things like picking up the pestle to grind a mushroom feels really good, and looks beautiful in Potion Craft‘s medieval art style. The crafting system is a work of art, too – I haven’t enjoyed crafting this much since, well, ever. Placing ingredients in your cauldron determines where on a map your potion will travel, and the path it will take to get there. Grinding the ingredient can increase the length your potion travels, potentially decreasing the amount of resources you need to use.
By exploring the map in this way, you’ll earn experience, which can be used to upgrade your abilities, and uncover effect nodes on the map. Heating the cauldron while your potion is hovering over an effect node will apply that effect to your creation, and you can keep wandering around the map for as long as your ingredients last. Bump into the ominous bones littered everywhere and your potion will fail, though – so don’t be too carefree.
If you’ve got a potion a customer wants, you can haggle with them to increase the price. I found this to be a little hit and miss out of all the game’s features. It explains how it’s supposed to work, but I never figured out how to swing the odds in my favour. I always ended up talking the customer into paying less for their potion, and I’m not sure that’s how haggling is supposed to work.
If you’re looking for a linear experience, Potion Craft can offer that too. Despite the freedom it offers, it’s possible to follow a straight line to the “end” of the game by following The Alchemist’s Path, a set of objectives and challenges that will eventually lead you to creating the Philosopher’s Stone. Honestly, while I enjoyed having set tasks to complete from time to time, I had the most fun just kinda chilling out with the crafting system, chatting to customers, not questioning how much poison they needed today.
Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator Early Access – is it worth it?
If you already like the look of Potion Craft, this is definitely the meat of the experience in an extremely playable form. Pick this up without hesitation – it’s only going to get better as they continue to build in the incoming features and refine what’s already there.