The gaming industry is full of surprises. Long-awaited, almost in absentia, cult games show modest results and are forgotten as soon as the release discounts expire, and modest, unremarkable projects suddenly take over the tops of sales and set trends for the coming years. We remember well, for example, Undertale , House Flipper or Among Us , although they have their own specifics. And now there is a reason to take a look at Potion Craft by the St. Petersburg independent studio niceplay game , which immediately after entering Early Access was at the top of the global Steam chart . And although she did not manage to hold out in the first place for long, she is still ahead of PUBG ,Deathloop , The Detroit: Become Human and Grand Theft the Auto the V . Several thousand people are constantly online, and the community is actively writing guides and sharing their own alchemical recipes – a development team of five people turned lead into gold.
Flask, mortar and furs
While Potion Craft is billed as an alchemist simulator, it is actually more of a puzzle than a simulator. Moreover, the puzzle is very creative, where you can choose many solutions for each problem. She really offers to make up recipes for potions – or rather, to lay routes to them.
The laboratory table of the protagonist, who got the house of the old alchemist, is a map on which you have to travel, moving the flask to the desired points. The final destination is recipes for various potions, but in order to get to them, you need to make a path using reagents: herbs, mushrooms, stones and other ingredients “draw” fragments of the path on the map. Straight lines, broken lines, bizarre loops, short and long segments, up, right, down … Throwing a combination of ingredients into the cauldron, you draw them with a dotted line on the map, and stirring the brew, send the flask forward.
This is how our basement looks at the beginning of the game and after we take the first step towards fixing the alchemical machine.
There are a lot of nuances in this system. For example, if you add crushed grass to the cauldron, the line will turn out to be long, and if you throw the bundle as it is, it will break off in the middle. Or you can also choose how hard to grind the ingredient in a mortar! Yes, and you need to stir the potion carefully so as not to get into trouble and bring the flask to the right place as accurately as possible. If you are slightly mistaken, it doesn’t matter: as soon as you inflate the furs and heat up the equipment, everything will fall into place. But getting a potion of the highest standard by this method will not work. For a quality product, the contours must match 100%, and this will have to be achieved manually: try on other ingredients, add liquid, take into account the eddies, carefully monitor the position of the flask and its routes.
You can come to the desired result in a variety of ways. Based on community discussions, each player has their own recipes for particularly difficult potions – and they rarely repeat each other exactly. The presence of ingredients and ways to bypass dangerous places play a role here: traps that destroy the flask are periodically found on the map – in order to jump over them, you will have to spend rare stones. But there are also potions with a double or triple effect that require very specific lines, weak potions, strong potions, special salts from an alchemical machine …
You get pleasure not only from laying the perfect route to a complex recipe, but also from how the game presents the process itself. In Potion Craft, you need to do almost every step with your own hands: remove the weed from the inventory, throw it in a mortar, twist it with a pestle, throw it into the cauldron, stir, inflate the furs. The prepared potions can be poured into bottles of various shapes, labels can be glued on them and even author’s names can be given. Potion of Explosion “Blast”, Potion of Lightning “Death of an Electrician”, Potion of Invisibility “Where Am I?” – you are limited only by your imagination.
A game about alchemy without a reference to “The Witcher” is considered invalid
By the way, giving out potions to grateful customers and bargaining with them also must be done manually. What did you think? Alchemy is a business, but the customers, fortunately, are not capricious and universally patient. They will calmly wait until you return to the laboratory and try to invent the recipe for the potion, which you first heard about a couple of minutes ago. In trade, everything is tied to karma: successful sales increase your personal reputation and the popularity of the store. If you help respectable townspeople and sell healing cures to wounded adventurers, then life will be much more pleasant: suppliers of raw materials are more willing to cooperate with the famous alchemist and do not skimp on discounts. On the other hand, the sale of deadly poisons or explosives to some robbers is not very welcomed by society: going all out, you will only harm the store’s image.
Often, visitors are rather vague about what exactly they want to buy: maybe they are waiting for a growth potion, and we decide that they meant a libido stimulant. However, the game does not punish for a mistake. If the client, instead of a happy smile, met the bottle with bewilderment, then you can always return to the laboratory and try again, listening to his request. One’s garden is overgrown with weeds, the other has to climb into a dark basement or bypass a terrible monster in the dungeon. In some cases, variations are possible: for example, if someone desperately needs to jump off a high slide, both the jump potion and the levitation elixir will do. The only frustrating thing is that these stories at some point begin to repeat themselves, but with the updates, the situation will surely improve.
For a game just getting into Early Access, Potion Craft makes a very good impression. It is soft, meditative, captivating – but alas, short. In fact, all we have now is one perfectly working mechanic and several more or less interesting dialogues. In a couple of hours, you can discover all the secrets, earn enough money to completely repair an alchemical machine, stock up on ingredients for several years in advance, and enjoy the visual design to your heart’s content.
Fortunately, Potion Craft already has a foundation that allows you to expand the game almost indefinitely: all herbs, mushrooms and stones are fantasy, which means that you can come up with new ones as much as you like. The developers have already promised to improve the shop and garden, expand talents, the ability to take notes in recipes and save the composition of legendary potions, as well as new solvents – and therefore new cards with potions recipes. Therefore, to the question of whether it is worth buying it right now, I will answer this way: it is still very early, but it is high time. Especially if you value non-standard puzzles and love interesting crafting systems that don’t boil down to trivial lumping of ingredients together.