I’m a big fan of the crafting genre. I love the diversity in games and this is one of those gaming styles that can be taken in so many different directions. I’m not talking about games with a crafting element, there are a ton of RPG offerings that do that now. I’m talking about games where crafting is part of the core gameplay mechanic and this is very much the case with the title we’ll be looking at today. I’ve been spending some time with a new RPG called Potion Permit. In this instance, crafting is front and center, the RPG part just pulls it all together. Let’s see whether they’ve got the mix right, so to speak.
In Potion Permit you take on the role of a chemist sent to a small town to become its resident healer/alchemist. From the get-go, you get the impression that you’re not really welcome thanks to certain transgressions made by your predecessor. You’ll have your work cut out if you’re going to make the towns folk warm to you. It might be wise to figure out what happened to sour relationships in the first place, too. This is just a rough outline of the plot, there are plenty of character-centric sub-stories and other side quests to follow and take part in. This means that there’s far too much plot to even begin to go over. I’m enjoying meeting the folk of Moonbury, though, and getting them to like me is just all part of the fun.
You aren’t just going to be Moonbury‘s physician, if you’re going to fit into the town you’ll quickly realize you’re going to need to be a jack of all trades as well. You’d think being able to, you know, stop people dropping dead would be enough, but no. You’ll be taking on a part-time job in either the post office, church, or police station to earn those extra gold coins. You’re also going to have to run errands for literally all the towns folk and befriend everyone in the process. Lastly, you can’t just buy your ingredients so you’ll need to scavenge for material and hope you don’t get eaten in the process. Your to-do list is massive and this is all simply to be taken as a generally useful member of society. All because someone you didn’t know upset an entire town.
This is the sort of game where you can really do what you want. You can follow the main plotline or just while away an afternoon completing side quests and helping folk out. This game is broken into days, (as it probably should be,) so you can literally spend your day as you wish. If you want to go foraging, go for it, if it’s potion brewing your fancy, you can do that too, and if you want to take a cheeky trip to the bathhouse, you’ve probably more than earned it. As long as you’re treating your patients the rest is really up to you. I’m actually loving the sandbox elements in Potion Permit, there’s a real play-your-way vibe that’s great. Time is something that you need to take into account in a bigger way than just deciding what to do on what day. Certain buildings are only open between set times on set days. This means that you might need to wait to complete a few objectives. There’s plenty to do, though, so I never really felt that I was kicking my heels for long.
Many of your tasks are completed by winning various mini-games and this is one of the few elements of Potion Permit that I’m a little bit on the fence about. I don’t have any problems with the method, in fact, it’s actually quite fun. My issue is that these games aren’t anything we haven’t seen before. For example wound diagnosis sees us hitting buttons in order as they hit a target on a scrolling bar. Potion brewing is fun but it’s a block puzzle. Others see us playing Simon Says or button-bashing. I like the idea but a bit of ingenuity in this aspect of the game would have gone a long way for me. This isn’t a huge complaint, the mini-games are still fun, they just aren’t new. Notice I haven’t said they’re easy. These puzzles start easy but you get the impression that as your tasks get more complex, so will these mini-games. This is great because it means everything is sticking to a similar difficulty curve.
Something that takes a little getting used to is the way materials work in Potion Permit. By this, I mean that shopping and bartering aren’t done in a fashion that you’d find in most other RPGs. Getting items is relatively simple. The merchants around town sell both goods and upgrades for your gear and your home. This is all very straightforward and that’s fine. You don’t sell goods as such, though, which forces you to think slightly differently about how you’re earning gold. Gold is earned by treating the sick, you can also earn it by doing various jobs, and finally by selling off potions if you have an excess. You don’t sell your potions to the townsfolk, though, these go back to the medical association you work for. The idea is that you won’t need to sell raw ingredients because you’ll use them in potion brewing and sell those off instead. I don’t have an issue with any of this, it actually makes you respect the ingredients you’ve worked for even more. This is just something I was musing on.
Potion Permit plays out very much like any 90s RPG, think something like Zelda: A Link to the Past in terms of the direction that’s been taken graphically. This title is bright, colorful, and very attractive. Musically Potion Permit sounds great too. Audibly you have that retro feel that’s always really welcome for games of this style. Dialogue is nonsense bleeps with text boxes but in this particular scenario, it’s still very fitting for the art direction. If the NPCs started talking to you in full voice-over it’d be jarring so I completely get why they don’t. To finish this little note on the nuts and bolts everything controls like a charm, so no worries there either.
This isn’t the kind of game I can go into too deeply with you. There are a lot of different facets to gameplay, all of which weave together very nicely. If I went into every aspect of what Potion Permit does, (and 90% of the time does really well,) I’d be writing a walkthrough, not a review. Let’s just say I’m having a lot of fun with this game and that I keep going back. There’s definitely going to be a good number of hours you can punch in here and this title is addictive enough to make you want to stay with the game for the whole ride. This being said, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth if you find yourself hooked like I am. If you like classic RPGs and fancy a bit of a crack at a game with crafting in its soul Potion Permit might be a really nice way for you to go.
Mixing things up
Potion Permit is bringing back all the things we loved about 90s RPGs and giving them a crafting twist. The story is great and there are tonnes to do so don’t expect boredom to set in too quickly. Aside from a few very minor wrinkles that are more choice over substance, this is a really respectable entry into the library of any fan of retro gaming or the crafting genre as a whole.