Healing potions, flasks with fire magic or ice, exploding violas and much more: Without these tools, many boss fights are just not possible. Half of all role-playing heroes would turn back halfway and hunt rats again in their home village. But that’s what these potions are for. But have you ever wondered how it actually works?
Sure, if you know the recipe inside out, you simply stir together the Lebensblatt and Gutbeere, add a little water and you can drink, uh… give first aid. But how do you represent that – in a simulation, mind you? After all, in Potion Craft you don’t just click on the ingredients, you have to be very careful, especially with complicated formulas, not to stir too much at that point, just heat the mixture a little here and add the right amount of crystal dust later. How do you imitate this fine touch of intuition and craftsmanship in a video game?
Well, when it comes to Potion Craft, it’s symbolized using a map that has numerous markers on it, each representing an effect. These include healing, fire, sleep, poison, light and much more. And these marks have to be reached in order to give a potion the corresponding effect.
Each ingredient that you put in the cauldron follows a predetermined path across the map, which is why the herbs or mushrooms used always dictate the direction in which you move. Of course there are variations, as different herbs lead to a similar path – the healing potion mentioned above can also be mixed in a thousand other ways. However, since Mud Mushroom leads to the symbolic south, you will probably never use it to create the explosive mixture in the northwest.
So the real challenge is to line up the fixed paths of the ingredients in such a way that they lead to the goal while “avoiding” those dangerous places where the potion degenerates into mop water. And the beauty is how much it actually feels like real brewing.
After all, you grind the ingredients first by placing them in the mortar and then working them with the pestle. Then you throw them into the cauldron and stir, which pushes the potion along the mapped path. If necessary, you add water to pull it back as far as you like towards the starting point (logical), and finally pump the bellows to heat the fireplace. Because that only releases the desired effect.
You can put the herbs anywhere next to the mortar if you want to save them for later. The pestle and spoon can fall out if you swing too wildly. In some places, you can move the potion across the map just by stoking the fire. And sometimes it is even enough to throw the last ingredient into the cauldron with a quick swing without first grinding it. The point is, this fiddling… “real” is the wrong word, but it feels amazingly believable.
You can feel this at the latest when you get close to the marking of a desired effect on the map. The quality of the potion depends on how precisely you position it there. And that’s where this mix of intuition and skill comes into play, because because the ingredients lead along wildly meandering paths, in circles or even zigzags, you can’t always say with video game-typical certainty where exactly the mixing will lead.
You have to anticipate as best you can, correct it carefully by adding water and occasionally throw in a mushroom that takes the potion on a slightly different path. And when the potion finally lands exactly in the center of the mark when you stir it very slowly, it’s almost as if you had tasted it perfectly with a lot of skill.
The question remains, why do you do it at all, and the answer is the small shop that you run, and in the morning there are customers with different wishes. One needs a remedy to sleep better, the other is looking for something against a stomach ache (“Am I going to die now?”), the next one wants to pick a lock, another wants to poison his neighbor and then at some point this white-haired man stood in front of me, who should expel the monsters from a neighboring village. I asked him if he could brew the potion himself, which he agreed. But then he would have less time for women and games of dice.
So you brew what’s asked for and save recipes so you don’t have to start from scratch every time. Only special requests sometimes require custom-made products, for example if you shouldn’t use more than two types of ingredients, which of course makes “path finding” more difficult, or if a potion should have several effects at the same time. Occasionally there are also vendors who sell various mushrooms, herbs or crystals, as well as kitchen supplements.
Bit by bit you also expand the alchemy machine in the basement in order to eventually create the philosopher’s stone and your own masterpiece, for which you need particularly complex mixtures. However, I haven’t gotten that far yet. Because as wonderful as the brewing is and as stylish as the old-fashioned presentation is: In terms of content, there is disappointingly little in Potion Craft, especially in the long run.
Among other things, you cannot buy the ingredients at your own discretion or request resources, but always have to wait for the appropriate dealers. You are also not allowed to invent potions, advertise them and sell them freely: there are always only the customers with their acute wishes that you have to fulfill exactly. You could, at least theoretically, solve some problems in different ways – maybe with a potion at a cheaper price because you don’t have better ingredients in the house at the moment. But that is not intended at all.
And so, after a few hours, the actually great mixing unfortunately becomes rather stale, which is why I lost interest in it surprisingly quickly. As good as the mixing feels, you quickly learn the steps and unwind them in quite monotonous loops.
Why can’t you talk to customers while you’re busy in the kitchen, similar to VA-11 Hall-A? In general, I miss interesting characters or stories. The dealers in particular reveal a little bit about themselves, but in the sense of an entertaining story, this is far from worth mentioning.
I wish they would pursue a bigger goal, namely the economical and relatively free expansion of the shop. Or how about choosing between a career at court, as a specialized supplier to a heroes’ guild, or access to particularly rare ingredients should you embrace a dark force – with a consequent loss of clientele? Approaches of it exist, but are not really played out. Something like this could have been the icing on the cake, pardon me: the potion.
Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator Review – Conclusion
It’s so unfortunate: For a while I had great fun handing my customers a high-quality mixture of careful brewing after the brief retreat to my kitchen. Crushing, stirring and occasionally refining the potions feels incredibly good. But the game around it is a rather boring series of procedural micro-tasks that are constantly repeated. You can’t expand the store freely, you don’t have a big goal in mind apart from the constant mixing and you don’t even get to know an exciting world with interesting characters. Potion Craft is definitely worth a look. Just don’t expect it to keep you tied to its cauldron for long.
Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator – Rating: 6/10
Pros and cons
- Challenging mixing and finding potions
- Constantly expanding the tools and recipes
- Good mix of working through pre-made recipes and special requests…
- … all in all, however, very profane customer requests
- No conversations and always the same music during tedious mixing
- Potions cannot be invented and sold
- You cannot visit other traders yourself, for example to request certain resources
- No interesting stories about world or characters
Developer: nice play games Publishers: tinyBuild – Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X – release: 12/13/22 – Genre: simulation – Price (RRP): about ten euros