Potion Permit Review - cover

Potion Permit Review

September 23, 2022

By: Robert N. Adams

 
 

On the edges of civilization, a small town has had to abandon the old ways and call in a Chemist from the capital to cure the Mayor's sick daughter. You are that Chemist -- and in Potion Permit, it's up to you to do your best job of healing folks in a mash-up of frontier medicine and deadly battles with monsters.

Potion Permit is the second commercial game released on Steam by Indonesian developer MassHive Media (and published by PQube). You've arrived in the town of Moonbury, a small burg that is suspicious of people from the Capital -- and especially suspicious of Chemists for reasons nobody will readily explain. The local Witch Doctor has been unable to successfully treat the Mayor's daughter Rue. Fortunately, you know what you're doing and cure her ailment in just a few short days.

 

Potion Permit Review - Brewing Calming Wind Potion
Brewing potions requires collecting ingredients in the wild and assembling them in the cauldron to fit a unique shape.

Producing Powerful Potions

As one might expect, a central element of Potion Permit is brewing potions. This is a major part of the game and it's split into two distinct pieces.

First, you have to gather ingredients for the potions called materials. These can be medicinal herbs, precious metals, or even Monster parts. You'll get these items by venturing into the wilderness in an action experience that will be well familiar to fans of top-down adventure games like the classic The Legend of Zelda titles.

 
 

Many different combinations are possible, but some are more efficient than others -- and sometimes, you'll have to improvise with whatever ingredients you have on hand.

With materials in hand, your next step is to return home and brew these into useful potions. You don't want to cook up just anything, though; first, you'll have to diagnose any patients laid up at your clinic and make the correct concoction to cure them of their ailments.

Making potions is where Potion Permit really shines. Each ingredient is classified into one of four elements, some of which are banned in certain recipes (and thus, adds to the challenge). Furthermore, each ingredient has a shape comprised of one to four squares. You have to place ingredients into a specific shape for each potion. Many different combinations are possible, but some are more efficient than others -- and sometimes, you'll have to improvise with whatever ingredients you have on hand.

 
 
Potion Permit Review - Exploring Glaze Iceberg
Resources are abundant in the wilderness, but wild monsters are all too happy to attack you. Fortunately, you can fight back.

Repetitively Righting Wrongs

The potion brewing is great, but that's not all there is to see in this game. The citizens of Moonbury have an underlying distrust of Chemists, and you'll gradually learn why as you progress through the story.

A long time ago, Chemists from the Capital sought permission to experiment in the wilderness outside of the town. Unfortunately, many of their experiments went sideways and permanently damaged the land. Part of your mission will be to fix these mistakes by brewing potions to solve the problems that your forebears created.

Sadly, this is one of the weaker parts of the game. There is a total of six damaged areas to repair, and nearly every instance follows the same formula: the old Chemists got something wrong (or couldn't finish in time), something went wrong, and you'll unlock a new plant by fixing it. There's not much in the way of meaningful variation in either gameplay or narrative in this respect.

Potion Permit Review - Research is Too Easy
There is virtually no challenge to research, and that's a shame.

Friendship Follies and Rough Edges

Another core component of Potion Permit is the friendship system. There are 33 people in Moonbury and you can become friends with all of them. You also have the opportunity to date your choice of six eligible bachelors and bachelorettes.

 
 

Potion Permit is a fairly grind-heavy game as it is, and the friendship system is where it's perhaps the most egregious. You can speak with people once per day to raise their friendship meter a sliver. Alternatively, you can elect to give them a bag of Moon Cloves -- a traditional gift in the region -- and get a massive boost to the friendship meter.

Once you max out a level, you'll get a message on the town's bulletin board summoning you to a specific place and time. This will kick off quests of varying difficulty and intrigue. A handful of these quests are multi-stage affairs, but most quests boil down to "watch this cutscene" or "fetch me 20 items, then watch this cutscene." There are no choices to be made by the player.

There are no meaningful rewards in most cases, and the rewards you would actually care about are obscured. For example, you can only unlock some cooking recipes by reaching high levels of friendship with certain characters. I don't expect a game to serve up information on a silver platter, but a hint or two about which people give you useful things would have been nice.

Potion Permit Review - Matheo Does Not Trust Chemists
Matheo's dislike of the Chemist is usually a little more subtle than this.

Many Missed Opportunities

Potion Permit intrigued me as a concept. Unfortunately, the execution left a lot to be desired -- and in many cases, there were opportunities to do something interesting that was left by the wayside.

 
 

Take the potion brewing aspect. While this is a solid part of the game, you'll eventually fall into a fairly predictable gameplay loop: gather ingredients, hold onto them until you need a potion, and brew whatever you need using the fewest ingredients possible. This game could have been a whole lot more interesting if there was an additional layer of challenge, such as shortages of wild plants due to a disease or allergies in certain patients that required alternative strategies.

A handful of quests are multi-stage affairs, but most quests boil down to "watch this cutscene" or "fetch me 20 items, then watch this cutscene." There are no choices to be made by the player.

As with potion brewing, the research gameplay is also weak. You simply have to rotate through elemental symbols until you stumble on the correct one. There is no difficulty other than clicking away at the symbols one by one until you've achieved the correct combination. This could and should have been made more engaging and required more careful experimentation.

Romance is another area of the game that felt a little lackluster -- especially considering the high number of eligible people that cannot be courted. I found myself enamored with the buff blacksmith girl Runeheart, but she's not on the market for whatever reason. Other potential candidates such as the farmer Lucke, the bathhouse proprietress Olive, and the salty tavernkeeper Yorn could all have made for interesting dating possibilities, but alas.

Finally, and perhaps most egregiously, the game's interface is a buggy mess. The cooking menu says I've unlocked recipes that the in-game catalog does not recognize. Items and quests have incorrect information. In the case of potions, the interface completely fails to show which elements are banned in the menu -- you have to go to the cauldron to get the correct information.

Potion Permit Review - A Promising Successor
Most of the quests are somewhat lacking in gameplay depth. It's somewhat balanced out by compelling, heartfelt stories.

Potion Permit Review | Final Thoughts

The gameplay and narrative of Potion Permit would be, in my estimation, immediately appealing to fans of multiple genres -- dungeon crawlers, hack and slash games, puzzle games, and so on. It had the potential to be a fantastic game. And in many respects, it is -- the music is perfectly cozy, the pixel art is crisp, and the animations are delightfully smooth.

While MassHive Media could have done better, there is one upside -- many of the game's weaknesses could be shored up with a little post-launch elbow grease. I could see Potion Permit becoming a great game if some elements were made more engaging and the grinding was cut in half. For now, I'll have to be happy with it simply being good.


TechRaptor reviewed Potion Permit on PC via Steam using a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on PlayStation and Nintendo Switch.

Review Summary

Review Summary

6.5
Potion Permit mixes interesting gameplay and an intriguing story, but it doesn't manage to make the most of a wonderful setting.

Pros

  • Compelling Potion Brewing Puzzles
  • Crisp, Responsive Combat
  • Compelling Story and Wonderful Worldbuilding
  • Vibrant Pixel Art and Smooth Animations

Cons

  • Excessively Grindy at Times
  • Research Minigame Lacks Challenge or Depth
  • Most Friendship Quests Have No Meaningful Rewards
More Info About This Game

In This Article

Developer
MassHive Media
Publisher
PQube
Platforms
PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Release Date
September 22,2022
Genre
Simulation, RPG, Indie
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