They say anything is possible, and that is certainly correct when it comes to Simulation games. 2022 has seen it all, from Bus, Power washer, to Lawnmower, and now we have a Potion Craft simulator. Yes, it really is possible to go to Potions class now. Who knew? Well, me. I know now, so lets get into it.
Potion Craft is a simulation game that allows players to collect ingredients, use tools to combine those ingredients and make interesting juices not suitable for children. That isn’t all. Players will run a shop where they can sell goods to patrons who may need potion wares, and tend to a garden where ingredients grow to keep you stocked. Each day brings a different number and variety of ingredients so it is not always the same restock each day. After you have finished serving all your customers, players can hit the hay, and restart a new day at the cauldron. The game gives players a very brief tutorial on how to mix potions and stir. Using a pestle and mortar will make ingredient go further, both literally and metaphorically.
Have no clue what I mean? Don’t worry, I had no idea what I was doing to begin with either. After what essentially turned into me being a child, chucking ingredients into the cauldron like chucking left over food in a casserole hoping nobody notices, I finally got the essentials down. Potion Craft Simulator is less potion mixing, more geography class. Players are presented with a hidden map to explore and each ingredient is really only as important as the direction it allows you to travel on your map. You see, patrons will ask for certain potions for certain situations they find themselves in. It is then up to you to navigate which area of the map might actually have that potion in. Each ingredient is a mixture of mushrooms, flowers, plants, shrubs and they all carry a different directional pull.
When added to the cauldron and stirred players will see an icon represented as the current potion you be a brewin’. Potions will travel the route that has been crafted. Situated around the map are tiny books, representing points to collect, and then bottles representing different main elements to your potion, whether that be healing, strength etc. To attach that element to your potion you will need to stoke the fire to activate it. Adding water will bring the potion back to the central point to the map and in the later game customers will start to ask for potions that serve different ailments at once.
You will need to be sparing with your ingredients and clever with your crafting. Collecting points adds to a skill tree where players will be able to choose whether they prefer to haggle more efficiently, see more of the map when traversing along it, and other skills.
Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble
This game does take the word ‘casual’ seriously. I appreciate that in any simulation game. There is no time limit to serve customers in, and you can explore the map at your own pace; as long as you have the ingredients. The game runs in chapters, giving the player goals to attain too. There is no story, but more an exploration of goals through these chapters allowing the game to give depth and breadth to the player as they become more skilled. It will start off with simple potion requirements to begin with. These don’t ask the player to travel far, keeping you close to the centre of the map, such as healing, or frost potions.
Players will need to work out what the customer is asking for, as they won’t always be up front with what they need. The customer normally arrives with some sort of story about how they got lost in the woods, or how they need to open a chest they found. By placing potions on the ‘scales’ customers will then let you know if that was the right potion. It is a three strike rule, and customers will leave if you do not give them the right potion.
I found sometimes, that due to not having all of the map open at once, I had no idea what they might be referring too. It then resulted in me asking them to leave, because I didn’t yet have the resources to explore the map, thus wasting product. This of course, affects the way the town views your shop, and can bring your reputation down. Players can however, gain and lose reputation quite quickly I found with not that much reward to pick a side.
So far I haven’t seen the map or game drastically change in any way, due to me either aiding the thieves of the world, or rewarding a happy farmer. I have not seen the idea of getting access to darker materials after being nefarious. It does look as if the only thing that can ‘change’ is the type of customer you get more frequently. Reputation will change how much customers are willing to pay for your goods also. Potions can also come in varying strengths depending on how accurate you were able to traverse into the potion icon. Each strength will allow the potion to be sold at a higher price.
What does progress the game forward is finishing chapters. Chapters open up the possibility of new rewards for points, new bases, and different customer types. Although this game is casual in a lot of areas, eventually some skill and strategy will be required. Customers become more picky with their ingredients, i.e. don’t use this witch mushroom and I will pay you more, or only use two ingredients to make this potion. There is a handy trick where you are able to ‘save’ the potions you may have created. This allows you to craft potions without having to go through the whole map again, instead using the recipe you have made it with before and automatically selecting it. There are only so many recipes you can save unless you buy more parchment paper for your recipe book so use this sparingly.
Additionally, it can become more of a hassle to sell potions. Often, I would shoo customers away because I didn’t have the ingredients to automatically make it from my pre-saves and ‘wasting’ ingredients to try and get to the other side of the map felt like far too much effort and more of a disadvantage than just sending them away. I would send them away at times until I was stocked up enough to explore. If the ingredients you need have not grown in your garden that morning, then you will have to wait and hope the merchant that stops by has it in stock.
Each merchant can carry a range of different things, This is an interesting depth to the game, as it will never be one size fits all for the potions all of the time. This can however lead to feeling a bit lacklustre in regards to gameplay at times if you are needing money or awaiting certain ingredients.
The Leaky Cauldron
Although you are not able to ‘die’ or have your cauldron blow up as such, there are temporary failure conditions. There are areas on the map that if hit with your glass potion, will destroy the potion rendering it and the ingredients you’ve used useless. Add that to the different directional ingredients, there is a real cost-benefit analysis when exploring the map or trying to make different types of potions with multiple elements. It sometimes can feel like one of those electrified wire and hoop games. Hit the wire, start again. It’s the same premise here with patches of skull interrupting your route.
If players want that extra challenge alongside, there is an alchemy machine, that creates crystalline and advanced recipes to eventually create the Philosophers Stone (Don’t threaten me with a Potter good time!). This requires players to have multiple potions and differing strengths and sometimes multiple elements all at once. I personally dipped in and out of this, as it does become part of the chapter goals, but it is possible to ignore for a long time. To me it felt added for challenge to the player, and not much else. It is a while before you can even begin to use it, and by that time I was happy with just the aim of the game. It felt unnecessary to introduce within the game at that point.
The art style of Potion Craft Simulator is really lovely, and by that I mean it completely fits the vibe of the game. All areas look torn out of a Book of Shadows, or illustrated as if it was in one. There is a real fun element to all of the different ingredient designs and colours used. It does feel like you are working your way around a treasure map. Customers are all illustrated as how you would imagine from a town in Salem. There is even a tongue in cheek Witcher who pops by occasionally.
Players can completely customise the look of the potions, down to the label size. From colour of liquid, to bottle shape, to label shape, even picking an appropriate icon for your bottle to naming the potion. It is completely possible to have a completely custom made shop where every potion is hand chosen by the player. Background music plays a sort of folk like tune, one that would likely be played in a Tavern. It fits the genre well, isn’t distracting and doesn’t play a role in the ‘story’ at all.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed my time with Potion Craft Simulator. The goals are really fun to achieve, the design is simple yet fitting and the casual element, mixed with deeper strategy should you seek it, is one that is not usually seen within the simulator genre. I think there is potential to feel quite bored at times when making the harder potions or not knowing what an earth a customer is talking about. Or knowing what they may be referring too, and not knowing where it could be on the map, as you are yet to uncover this. Especially as there is not too much reward or consequence for not completing something.
However, that being said there is a personally satisfying element to completing those challenges. I think its certainly possible to sink 10’s of hours into this game. Especially when new bases are offered to open a new map. If you do like your hand at casual or strategy games, this is likely something you will find quite enjoyable. For a retail price between 10-15 pounds, I would certainly say this is worth the money.
Potion Craft is yet another addition to the simulation genre but manages to set itself out from the crowd by blending relaxing vibes with engaging strategy. It’s visually appealing and has the potential to steal an evening without you noticing, but it can get repetitive and frustrating at times.
Potion Craft : Alchemist Simulator is out now on PC (review platform) and Xbox.
Developers: NicePlay Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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