Potion Craft Is a Charming Game About Exploration
I bought it expecting a business sim, but I was pleasantly surprised
I’m always on the hunt for games to play. Some games I play on my Twitch stream, but some I save for my precious free time. Tycoon games are some of my favorites, anything where you can run a shop or start a business. I’m also drawn to games with a focus on style — any games that really know who they are, you know?
I found Potion Craft in my Steam queue, a content-discovery system that uses your past purchases to recommend games you might enjoy. The store page read “Potion Craft is an alchemist simulator”, and mentioned running every aspect of the shop, so I took that to mean it was a tycoon game of some sort. The visuals are a sketchy “medieval manuscript” style, and grabbed my interest immediately.
I was surprised to find that it’s actually less focused on running the shop and more focused on discovering new effects to put in your potions.
In the game, you immediately get set up in a shop with a storefront, a garden, and a bedroom that overlooks a distant town. Each day, customers come in, one at a time, and explain the problem that they hope a potion will solve.
These are things like, “I got cut by a bandit”, asking for a healing potion, or “My husband is annoying”, asking for poison (you can refuse customers that you find… morally questionable, if you want to preserve your reputation).
One feature that makes this game stand out from typical tycoon-style games is that there’s no time limit to serve customers. You are free to experiment and tootle around in your shop forever.
Your customers will never leave because you took too long, though they may leave if you offer them the wrong potion several times in a row.
Making the potions is where the craft of Potion Craft comes in. The alchemy station has properly magical devices like a cauldron and mortar and pestle, and it’s backed by a huge map of possible potion effects.
Each ingredient, rather than having innate effects like you’d see in a typical crafting system, instead offers a path. Your potion travels down the path created by your ingredients until it reaches an effect on the map. Careful! If you touch the sections of the map that are littered with bones, your potion is destroyed.
Some of these ingredient paths are relatively straight, some zigzag, and others curl in whimsical spirals. You can grind up the ingredient to advance further down its path, or add water to the mixture to bring your potion back toward the starting point.
The map starts off as a parchment-colored mystery. By experimenting with new potions and moving through the map, you discover the effects hidden there. And the map is big, providing plenty of room for surprises even after a couple hours of play.
A gentle acoustic soundtrack and cozy paper-soft artwork sets the scene as you play in your magical laboratory. I’m not usually into the “old parchment” style for user interfaces (I’m looking at you, World of Warcraft), but Potion Craft really makes it work. The game is a delight to the senses.
The attention to detail is really nice, down to the mortar and pestle getting slightly stained with the color of the ingredients you mashed up last.
I picked up Potion Craft expecting one thing, got something completely different, and I love it. I’d recommend this game to anyone who wants a puzzle game with low stakes that still maintains a sense of progression, or to anyone who wants to relax and explore an expansive map without the violent consequences of an open-world action game.
At the time of this writing, Potion Craft is in Early Access — which only means that it’s still in active development — and I’m so excited to see how the rest of the game fills out. To me, it already feels very polished. If you’re skeptical of Early Access because you dislike playing buggy, half-designed games, you don’t have to worry about that here! The game feels very complete, with a few specific features labeled for future release. Everything that is done is done well.
I am so pleased with Potion Craft in its current iteration, and I’m excited to see what the developers add next.
Note: this has not been sponsored, and I was not provided anything for writing this. I just found the game, enjoyed it, and wanted to share.