Potion Craft is an alchemist simulator designed by indie game developer ‘niceplay games’ and is currently available on the Xbox Game Pass. It has a very simple premise coupled with a medieval graphics/audio theme. The goal of the game is creating potions by combining ingredients that move you over a map. These potions are sold to customers or used to create interesting substances.
With a smattering of additional features, like haggling for prices and avoiding death spots on the alchemy map, at the core this is a very simple game. Oh, and it is highly addictive.
Regular readers know that detailed yet simple games with highly stylised graphics and a trillion things to collect is what I love. Indie games like Spiritfarer and any game that features recipes and collecting (Stardew Valley holds a special place in my heart) are what I crave. So, let me explain why I fell for Potion Craft and why I ultimately stopped playing before I reached the end with 100% completion (a deadly sin, in my book).
Potion Craft – Why I Loved It
This small indie game was on my ‘must-play’ list for a long while. First, the graphics and audio are simple yet artful with an alchemy theme. That’s a huge draw for me.
As for the purpose of the game, creating potions, I love that creative element. I finished Moonglow Bay, created every single recipe in Stardew Valley, and completely filled the compendium in Red Dead Redemption 2. I blame a childhood of hearing ‘gotta catch em all’ for this complexion.
If you enjoy this simplistic style of gameplay, with a set list of things that you can collect or create, then this is a game you will love. It really is satisfying when you create a potion that’s perfect and sell it to a customer.
Now, if that had been the only thing to do in Potion Craft, I would have been very happy but given the game 4-stars overall. But no. This is a 5-star game thanks to the addition of in-game challenges and achievements. You can work through chapters of a book, creating certain potions and reaching higher levels. You can also brew potions to combine and make other substances in the basement, with the final goal of completing ‘The Alchemist’s Path’.
With the themed graphics and satisfying creation basis, coupled with a journey of unlocking achievements and challenging recipes, this game had me hooked.
So, what went wrong? Let me take you through the best things and the worst things about this game to explain why I couldn’t finish it.
Great Things About Potion Craft
There are some brilliant things about this game:
- The alchemist map is varied and vast enough to require constant exploring. Even after 60 hours playing the game, there were areas unexplored and book points to gather.
- The list of ingredients and potion combinations is extensive. Gathering a vast array of ingredients to create potions was a treat and really scratched my itch for collecting.
- You can cut down the monotonous parts of the game. Using the recipe book, you can save your most commonly created potions to make them in seconds. This allows you to spend more time on new potions, which helps the game stay fresh despite being very simple.
- The customers you serve are funny! Each customer that comes to the alchemist for a potion has a little story of why they need it. Some are rife with innuendo and they make the game a little more adult when you need to brew the hallucination or libido potion. In a game with no story or even a narrator, this really helps to liven it up.
Potion Craft requires you to be precise, strategic, and patient. This is a game that needed my full focus but was also slow paced – there are no time limits whatsoever. As a result, it was a certain kind of relaxing. It reminded me of colouring or painting – a hobby that requires focus and precision but is also a chance to slow down and smell the flowers (or alchemist herbs).
Terrible Things About Potion Craft
Although there is a lot that’s good about Potion Craft, there are some errors. Note that these issues are all things to do with the technical aspects of the game. There are no problems whatsoever with the story (or lack of it), graphics, music, or just general enjoyment when the game is working as it should.
That also means that these issues can (hopefully) be fixed with patches from the developer in the future.
- Things will go wrong if you don’t Google them or use Potion Craft Wiki as a resource. There are customers with vague requests and a few too many things left unexplained within the game. It frustrated me that I had to rely on the internet a little too much for my liking.
- The controls are awkward and frustrating. Too often I would fling my ingredients across the screen instead of dropping them into the cauldron. In a game where the slightest touch of the thumbstick is the difference between a 2-star and 3-star potion, the controls were far too clumsy on Xbox – I can’t speak for the PC version, however.
- The game has serious bugs. Once you get past a certain number of hours and have a backlog of previous saves, the game just won’t open. It’s a super common problem. Just Google ‘won’t load’ or ‘stuck on load screen’ and you’ll find endless forums of people with this issue.
Why I Stopped Playing
That last issue is the big one. After spending 60+ hours playing and achieving everything except the last chapter of ‘The Alchemist’s Path’, the game will no longer load. After spending some time deleting and redownloading to no avail, I realised that the only fix was to delete my saves and start again.
While I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Potion Craft, the thought of going through all those recipes and achievements again but without the mystery of the unknown and surprise when something new unlocks, was daunting. It would mean another 60 hours of mind-numbing repetition. No, thank you.
Final Thoughts – Should You Play It?
Ultimately, I have no regrets. Those 60 hours spent playing Potion Craft were super relaxing and very enjoyable. I would be lying if I didn’t end my Potion Craft review by saying otherwise. But in the current state, with glaring errors with how the game creates a backlog of saves plus the erratic controls, I am wary of recommending it.
If you are like me and cannot put a game down until you’ve reached 100% completion, this game could tear a hole in your heart. On the other hand, if you just want to waste a few hours creating some potions and don’t mind leaving a game unfinished, knock yourself out. You won’t regret your time playing this.
Perhaps in a few years, if the developers fix those issues, I will give the game another go. In the meantime, I will continue my exploration of indie games on Game Pass. Next up is Tunic, but I’m also considering Old Man’s Journey after reading Jon’s short video game review.