Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator lets me live out my apothecary fantasies
One of Bailey Sarian’s most iconic Murder, Mystery, and Makeup Mondays (sa na sa, sa na sa, sa na SA SA sa na… SAAAAAAAA) dives deep into the scandalous and sordid life of alchemist Giulia Tofana, who “turned her makeup business into a poison factory” in the 17th century. By combining arsenic, lead, and belladonna, Giulia Tofana created a poison that looked like regular cosmetics and sold it to women who, in an effort to escape an abusive marriage, would administer a drop every few nights in their husband/victim’s food. They’d soon fall ill and eventually pass due to this concoction, with coroners none the wiser, finding no evidence of poison in their systems. Appropriately called “Aqua Tofana,” this product directly lead to the deaths of at least 600 men before Giulia was eventually discovered and executed.
Which, naturally, begs the question — who actually is responsible for the deaths of those 600 men? Giulia Tofana, who sold the poison, or the abused women looking to escape their marriages?
Surprisingly, that’s a question Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator wants you to ponder as well while selling both healthy and harmful tinctures to customers. Currently in development by niceplay games with publishing being handled by tinyBuild, Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator was released on Steam Early Access on September 21, 2021 for an introductory price of $13.49 (regularly $14.99). Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator boasts physical interaction between tools and alchemist, promising players they’re in “full control of the whole shop: invent new recipes, attract customers and experiment to your heart’s content.” Just remember you’re responsible for the health and safety of the entire village.
Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator has a pretty straightforward premise: you’ve stumbled upon a derelict apothecary, and since nobody’s home, you figure you can put it to good use. After cleaning up cobwebs and setting up shop, you start getting a handful of customers who need potions for various reasons. A woman comes in for her husband, saying he’s injured himself in the fields and needs a healing tincture for his hand. A man shops for poison and tells you not to worry about it. A witch drops by and asks for something that’ll help her broom levitate. A knight requests something to coat his sword in to give it fire power against an ice fiend. All of these requests and more must be answered one way or another — will you fulfill their orders and accept their offered price? Will you haggle for something better? Or will you turn them down for the greater good?
When it comes to actually crafting the potions, Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator handled recipes in a pretty unique and interesting way. Armed with a mortar and pestle, bellows, and cauldron, players can take the herbs and mushrooms picked from their garden each morning and use them to make their concoctions. Dropping dried ingredients into the pot is all well and good, but they’ll become twice as effective if you ground them into dust first with the mortar and pestle. Once the correct ingredients have been added to the cauldron, it’s time to stoke the flames; after the potion has been created, it can be named and saved into the recipe book — choose a good bottle shape and color to complete the look!
When it comes to creating the actual potions, players will need to use the ingredients against the recipe “map,” so to speak, to eventually land on the potion they’re trying to create. Starting in the center, players will need to clear the fog of uncharted territory to discover what potions they can make with which ingredients. One flower might make them go several paces left, while another will take them a pace or two upwards. Some mushrooms might create a zig-zag or swirl pattern, while others create odd shapes that can help avoid dangerous areas on the map that would otherwise cause potions to fail. By traversing this map with the correct ingredients, players compose a roadmap that ultimately ends up translating directly to a recipe. It’s brilliantly creative, and I’m really in love with this pretty genius system.
Of course, ingredients don’t grow on trees… okay well, maybe they do, but they’re limited. On occasion, merchants will stop by your little shop and offer to sell various ingredients you may need. Their prices change daily, and they can be haggled with. Using a meter, players will need to time the icon going from one end to the other, clicking on the yellow areas to get the price to go down. Miss, and the price goes up. Do this enough times to save the maximum amount of money; miss enough times and you’ll end up paying a premium.
This haggling system can also be applied to customers, but this is where things get a bit tricky — if you haggle with customers, you’ll squeeze a bit more coin out of them, but your reputation will take a tumble in return. Additionally, there are some jobs that you may not want to take if reputation matters to you. Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator asks players to consider the morality of their customers’ requests, so fulfilling a poison order may not be in your best interest. However, you’ll lose out on money and marketing if you don’t take every order that comes your way, so striking a careful balance becomes key. It’s this moment where I’m reminded of Giulia Tofana: am I merely a shopkeeper providing goods to a paying customer, or am I ultimately responsible for what my patrons do with my wares?
Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator is already a blast to play, but I think some improvements can be made to help with quality of life efforts. I kept hovering over the potion icons on the map to remind myself exactly what each potion did, only for no further information to be revealed. I also have no idea if monitoring my reputation even matters yet, although I suspect that, if it’s there, it will soon. Additionally, I really wish my customers were less vague about what they needed; too many times I’d make the wrong potion, only to be forced to send the customer away due to lack of ingredients. With all that being said, the dev team is actively working on making the game the best it can be, so it’s almost certain these issues will be a thing of the past come Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator’s full release. As it stands, Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator is already an extremely fun game, and one that definitely deserves to be in your library if it’s already calling to you.
Be sure to check out Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator on Steam Early Access today!