I’m on another month of Gamepass, and you know what that means: it’s time to try all sorts of titles. The cost of a 1 month subscription is, presently, lower than the cost of 2 titles, so I always try to make the most of my time by playing a variety of games on the service. This is what led to me playing Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator this past weekend.

Why Potion Craft?

If you’re scratching your head, don’t worry, Miranda was too. Potion Craft doesn’t exactly fit the Venn diagram for games I’d typically be into. It’s a game built around a very involved crafting mechanic, and I tend to despise games that prominently feature crafting.

screenshot of haggling in Potion Craft

Thing is – I was curious. Do I really hate crafting systems, or do I just hate the way that most games choose to implement them? Potion Craft having a much more fleshed out system seemed like the perfect petri dish to test this theory. Either way, I’d get exposure to some new ideas, and that’s always a worthwhile pursuit.

After spending a few hours with Potion Craft, I can say with confidence that I don’t actually hate crafting systems. I just really hate the way most games choose to implement them. By contrast, Potion Craft’s handful of neat ideas make the act of brewing potions way more interesting than it has any right to be.

How Does Crafting in Potion Craft Work?

Unlike in a lot of other games, in Potion Craft the crafting is fluid. What I mean by that, is that you don’t always have to combine the same set of ingredients to reach a specific outcome. There’s a lot of flexibility in how to brew many of the game’s potions, which is a natural consequence of the way the crafting system is designed.

screenshot of map in Potion Craft

When you start, the contents of your pot is represented by a map with a potion icon in the centre. Your goal is to guide this icon to one of several markers littered throughout the map. Each of these markers will bestow a different effect onto the potion you’re mixing. For example, if you want a healing potion, then you need to scoot the potion icon over to the healing marker.

You move the icon by adding ingredients, and stirring them into your mystery brew. Each type of root, or herb has a different dotted line path it will add to the map. By default, only about half of this path will be added if you throw the your ingredients in raw. You can extend the path to its full length by using your mortar and pestle. As you crush your herbs into a fine paste, the path they provide will extend to its full length. This gives players a ton of control over how they’ll navigate the map.

Once you’ve set your desired path, you’ll have to stir your dubious soup to follow it. It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to create your full whole route all at once. Making potions in Potion Craft is a lot like cooking – you can change course by adding additional ingredients. You’re never completely committed to your path.

As soon as you reach the desired effect bubble, all you need to do is add some heat, and boom – you’ve got yourself a potion. The first time you discover a new effect it will be a blank circle, but in all future attempts, it’ll be marked clearly on the map.

What I love so much about this whole system is how much flexibility it provides players with. There’s never a single correct answer to any given problem. Players are given a variety of tools, and several potential solutions. What they ultimately choose to do comes down to their own intuition.

This is what Potion Craft does that I think so many other games miss. You’re not simply following a blueprint – you’re creating something based on your knowledge, and available supplies. You feel like an active participant in the process.

I Wish There Was More

That said, I wish Potion Craft had more meat on its bones. For as novel as I find it, the crafting does still get tedious because it’s the only thing you’re doing. There’s a bit of light writing thrown in there for good measure, but the bulk of your time is going to be spent mucking around with potion brewing. I’m sure this kind of thing can sustain certain players, but not me.

Still – I really appreciate what Potion Craft brought to the table. I’d love to see other games learn from, or outright steal Potion Craft’s solution. It’s so damn compelling compared to the rudimentary crafting systems seen in other games.