Any student of history can tell you there is a myriad of professions that no longer exist due to technological advancement, societal trends, or some combination of the two. One such profession is alchemist, which was a term for the earliest students of chemistry, though they didn’t know it at the time. Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator developed by niceplay games and published by tinyBuild gives a peek into what that lifestyle could have been like in ye olden times.
There’s not much plot to Potion Craft beyond the basics. You’re an alchemist who finds an abandoned alchemy studio and decides to set up shop there, plying your trade to customers who come around and working on improving your skills. The characters who come to your shop occasionally have story threads they carry with them, particularly the merchants whom you buy from, but it’s nothing too deep and that works just fine. The writing is great, allowing your character to ask some interesting questions of your patrons and receive some amusing answers, but the game doesn't really capitalize on the interesting world it's built. Beyond that, you control the simulation and the direction of the story.
Potion Craft gives you several different ways to play through its story and you can change at any time. If you’d like to just stay as a small-time potion brewer, catering to clientele and having fun with the relaxing gameplay without digging too deep into the mechanics, you can absolutely do that. On the other hand, you can also follow the game's goals and progress up the career ladder, mixing up legendary potions on your alchemy machine in the basement. If you care to do some mix of the two, meandering along and working on the alchemy machine while you can, you can do that too! Plus, the game’s full release brings the option of being an evil alchemist, increasing your reputation by doing business with more nefarious clientele.
As far as the difficulty curve goes, there really isn’t much of one in Potion Craft. The tutorial at the start of the game gives you everything you need to know, and recurring NPCs will explain their importance to you when you meet them. There’s no punishment for trying to sell a potion that doesn’t fit the customer’s requirements and given that plants regenerate in your garden every day, you’ll always get more materials so you’ll be able to make something. While your reputation might take a hit, you can always build it back up again.
The gameplay for Potion Craft itself is relaxing, figuring out how to make potions depending on your current materials is a fun, visual puzzle. The potion map is a massive challenge, with effects scattered all around that you need to find, and obstacles at every turn. Every ingredient moves your potion around the map in a particular way but the sheer number of ingredients means that there are an unlimited number of ways to solve any of the puzzles you come across. Matching up potion effects to the customers’ wishes and specifications mixes it up and definitely adds a challenging element, ensuring you can’t just rely on your saved recipes in your book.
While it’s not quite at the historical accuracy of Pentiment, Potion Craft’s art style is an absolute delight, mimicking the style of traditional medieval European manuscripts and paintings and looking like it’s been animated on paper, complete with that browning, aged look. It’s a fun, immersive atmosphere, and the gentle folk music that plays in the background is a wonderful accompaniment, not to mention super relaxing.
For those looking for a laidback simulator experience, or those with interest in straightforward potion-making, Potion Craft is a must-buy. While there’s definitely room to build out the story and the world that it inhabits, a gentle difficulty curve and an abundance of freedom in deciding how you want to play the game more than make up for it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ve been born in the wrong century and need to go finish constructing a time machine so I can live in an idyllic cottage in the woods doing chemistry experiments all day.
TechRaptor reviewed Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator on PC with a copy provided by the publisher/provided by the developer.
- Fun alchemy map and puzzle system
- Laidback atmosphere and gameplay choices
- Immersive medieval-esque art and music styles
- Lacks story, doesn't capitalize on the world its built