High as a Kite in a Hurricane
When I first heard about Weedcraft Inc, my expectation was that it was going to be a totally comical management sim – I mean come on: the name sounds like it’s a Warcraft parody made by Snoop Dogg! However, Weedcraft Inc surprised me in its more down-to-earth depiction of its subject matter. Weedcraft Inc’s first campaign casts the player as Johnny: a young college dropout who has returned home to the famously hard done by locale of Flint, Michigan to attend the funeral of his father. Meeting up with his dope-smoking brother, he decides to bring the family back together by starting a business selling that sweet Mary Jane. On his journey, he ends up both sides of the law, and often in between. Weedcraft Inc, much like its titular intoxicant, is much more complex than it first appears.
The Stickiest of the Icky
Johnny starts off in his run down family home in Flint growing a few plants of the most basic variety. Weedcraft Inc does a good job of simulating the rise from rags to riches of its protagonist as at first it’s vital to train and water the plants yourself. Regularly clicking the water icon when the plants are parched will keep them healthy and of a higher quality and holding down the trim icon with the right timing will help the plants grow faster. After that it’s a quick click to harvest the product so it’s ready to sell. I enjoyed the growing aspect of Weedcraft Inc and how well it blends blends strategy with arcadey whack-a-mole style clicker gameplay when you choose to be hands-on with the grow.
Profit can be gained by setting up a dealer’s spot and selling some whacky backy to the various punters around. Different types of customers like different things. Addicts like the stronger skunk, randy students like libido-enhancing effects and your regular average joes just enjoy something you can space out to. Your competition in the area you’ve set up in will sell their own varieties of weed to the people there and you’ll have to compete with their offerings to get your goods sold. Lowering the price is one option to make your product rank higher for consumers, but this will eat into profits, making it harder to pay the monthly bills on your various properties, making you slide closer to bankruptcy.
Beating your competitors and driving them out of the areas you deal in requires you to have the highest quality weed of a type catering to the people in that region, and this is where the game’s mechanics reward meticulousness. Putting up bright LED lights will ensure you grow bigger batches, but will also heat up the temperature of the room, meaning you might have to use precious space to buy a fan to cool things down. Likewise, different types of soil have different effects on the humidity of the grow room, so if you’re clever you can avoid having to buy an expensive humidifier. Getting the right temperature and humidity for each strain of weed is essential for it to grow well, but all the tinkering you have to do to get your goods to the highest level of quality is quite entertaining – as the campaign progressed I found myself such an expert on nurturing my crop of cannabinoids it would make Ricky from Trailer Park Boys positively green with envy!
Homies and Haters
One of the best parts about Weedcraft Inc is the intricate social system. Virtually every character who’s relevant can be chatted to. It won’t take long before the legwork of clicking away through all the watering, trimming and dope selling yourself becomes too much for you, and you’ll need to hire some employees to do some of the work. Employees can be befriended by having a chat with them and talking about various topics they’re interested in, though you’d best be careful not to broach more intimate topics too quickly or ramble on about the same topics too much and risk boring them to tears. How you handle your relations with your employees will effect their motivation and how well they perform various tasks you’ve assigned them. Conversation reveals information about a person, which you can use to befriend them… or blackmail them.
This is another way you can defeat competitors if you’re finding it difficult to defeat them in a honorable contest of simply selling the stickiest icky. Once you’ve gathered enough dirt on your foes through conversation or by asking some of your less scrupulous employees, you can hire a private investigator to dig deeper and find what you can really use to bend someone over the barrel. You can bring up embarrassing blackmail to make a competitor stop dealing on your turf. This is also particularly gratifying later in the game when you can start exerting political influence. Nothing like forcing a Republican politician to vote for looser laws on marijuana by bringing up their connections to shady, wealthy donors!
Growing and selling illegally will accrue vigilance from the cops, making events where they disrupt your business more likely – sending employees off to jail or confiscating all the plants in a grow house for example. These can often be dealt with by offering a bribe to the relevant officer or bringing up one of the networking perks you’ve bought ( such as mentioning to the officer you’re a contributor to the police veteran’s fund). Purchasing an expensive license allows you to grow, sell and research weed legally, evading police attention entirely (though some cities you can only sell to medical patients whereas others let you sell legally to everyone). However, each legal sale levies a substantial tax which eats into your profits and can restrict your clientele. Figuring out which direction to veer on the legal tightrope is one of Weedcraft Inc’s most interesting mechanics. The variety of ways you can confound both the police and your drug dealing adversaries really make Weedcraft Inc a much deeper and enjoyably complex management sim (or dope-em-up)
One issue is the mishaps your employees experience can get a bit samey. I found myself getting tired very quickly with the same events where employees would complain about being followed or being blocked by inconveniently parked trucks. It really is a shame that there couldn’t have been more variety to these events or any more interesting sidequests to do. Sidequests like these could have added more depth to the conversations you have with your employees – which tend to be on the perfunctory and superficial side with many of the same lines being repeated between different characters. It’s also a shame because the lack of more in-depth sidequests misses the opportunity to delve more deeply into various social issues Weedcraft Inc touches upon in the main story of the campaigns.
One of the most brilliantly entertaining parts of Weedcraft Inc is creating new strains of weed to target specific types of customers. Creating new strains is done through adding some of the varieties you currently have and adding them to an amusing slot machine interface. Pulling the lever will spin the slots containing different types of effects, allowing you to create a perfect crossbreed. Each spin of the wheel requires research beakers accrued from your labs so it behooves you to pick the just the right strains to combine to get the desired effects. I made a particular strain that was perfect to ease the suffering of cancer patients, combining a sweet flavour, painkilling and anti-nausea effects (then I proceeded to jack up the price like a real Martin Shkreli bastard). Purchasing an expensive license allows you to sell
You can also manipulate your existing stocks, either concentrating the product to make it purer and higher quality, or diluting it to stretch it futher, growing your stock. Clever micro-management like this is especially important early on when you’re fighting street to street and every dollar counts.
The campaigns also put a reasonable degree of effort into exploring the social issues around its controversial titular drug. There’s no shying away from the fact those in the drug trade use force and intimidation to meet their ends. However, there’s also plenty of touting of the more positive side of the much maligned marijuana.
Personally, I’ve seen a lot of horrible stories of what happens to those using skunk or synthetic marijuana and I find their effects to be horrifying. However, many missions in Weedcraft Inc’s campaigns show the more positive side of natural, legal, medicinal marijuana and how it can help people, particularly as a way of easing many off their opiate addiction and onto something less addictive and damaging. Not to spoil anything, but how the two brothers in the first campaign both pay tribute to their deceased father, while helping others who are still among the living was really heartwarming and it made me reconsider some of my own prejudices against weed.
The Straight Dope
Weedcraft Inc succeeds not only as an intensely addictive management sim, but also as an educational PSA about marijuana itself. It rewards creativity and cunning on the part of the player, and is intensely satisfying when you create an intricate strategy to out do your rivals, whether it’s creating the perfect strain of Mary Jane to steal their customers or digging up dirt to force them out of business. Once you’ve tinkered and carefully adjusted your empire to peak efficiency it’s just awesome when you can watch your empire of illicit substances piling up cash, listening to the beautiful melody of plants being harvested as your bank account swells. So if you’re looking for a chill time, get rollin’ rolllin’ rollin’ on down to the Steam store to pick up Weedcraft Inc; the dopest narcotics management sim ever made.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Devolver Digital ; Vile Monarch ; Players: 1 ; Released: April 11th 2019 ;
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Weedcraft Inc given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.