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  • Writer's pictureL. Sahara McGirt

Review: Potionomics

Developer: Voracious Games

Publisher: XSEED Games

Available on: PC (Steam)

I've played a few potion games this year, such as Potion Permit & Potion Craft. Each were addictive in their own way, and I was curious as to how Potionomics would compare in its take on the potion-brewing set of games that have been coming out. I checked out Potionomics earlier this year at PAX East at the XSEED Games booth, and I will say by initial impressions, I wasn't quite sure of the game and how it would work out.

You take on the role of Sylvia, who has inherited a potions shop in the town of Rafta after her Uncle Oswald died. What Sylvia doesn't know is that along with inheriting his shop, she's also inherited his rather substantial debt, a debt Sylvia cannot get out of, as a lawyer (witch) quite literally soul-binds his contract to her. You heard that right; she is soul-bound to pay off her uncle's debt.

Now, potion-making itself is not going to pay off the ridiculously high 7 figure sum, but there are competitions every 10 days in Rafta that will allow Sylvia the chance to pay off a larger amount of her debt. Each prize pool larger than the next. Every 10 days culminating in a competition creates stages to the game that make the game quite challenging as you have to manage the shop, buy ingredients, brew potions, make connections with vendors & heroes, and make sales.

Potionomics, when it comes down to it, is not just about making potions. It's about the economy of managing a potion shop. The game boasts a complex combination of systems to challenge you as you play. It's one part time management simulator as you only get 6 time slots a day to brew potions, make sales, and go into town and visit vendors who sell you ingredients and heroes who gather ingredients at your investment. It's another part puzzle game as brewing potions requires calculating and mixing ingredients based on the number of colored magimins each has. Further, it uses deck-building card game mechanics to make sales in a mini-game that determines how much of a markup Sylvia can make on selling a particular potion. Finally, it's a visual novel in Sylvia's interactions with local vendors and heroes. Some of whom she can even romance.

This combination of systems would seem like it would all clash and end terribly from a distance. But once playing the game, I couldn't put it down until I completed the first competition. The interweaving systems force you to consider what ingredients you're buying; limited time slots mean you're thinking about what potions you can brew while you open shop and make sales and/or go into town to meet up with vendors and heroes. You must limit your interactions with heroes and vendors based on your available time slots. Which also makes you decide who to prioritize. Spending time with heroes and vendors gains their affection for you, and as you rank up your relationship with them, they offer discounts and new cards to play in your sales deck.

Competition tip: focus on brewing at least 2 of the potions for the competition. You only need to win 2 out of 3 rounds. However, by interacting with vendors and heroes and gaining cards for Sylvia's sales deck, you can easily outdo your opponent in sales chutzpah and make up for any shortfalls in your potion-brewing skills.

While discounts and new sales strategies are great incentives to interact with the heroes and vendors of the game beyond buying ingredients and hiring them to gather, the cast of characters are unique and interesting enough to make you want to get to know them more. Romanceable characters are not only aesthetically pleasing, but each have unique enough personalities that there's definitely someone for everyone across the spectrum of preferences. At times, I often wondered if a dev team of bisexuals were making this game, and frankly, I'm quite pleased by it.

The visuals of Potionomics are colorful and different from many of the games I've experienced. While in the shop, there's a sort of top-down cartoonish 3-D aesthetic going, when interacting with heroes and vendors, there's a lovely 3-dimensional visual novel-esque look happening, and when traveling town, a cool map of Rafta shows potential heroes and vendors to visit. The cards in Sylvia's sales deck make me want to buy physical versions of them.

The soundtrack of the game isn't particularly flashy, but it is calming. Needed as the game can get stressful in figuring out how to manage each day so that you're prepared for the next stage.

I don't know who I want to romance more of all of my choices!

Somehow, Potionomics makes its potion economy both challenging and enjoyable. There were points in the game when I would have to restart to make sure I could make the potions I needed for competition; This is something that would have been otherwise frustrating. However, Potionomics autosaves by day, so you can choose which day to restart from. Which is quite nifty when you realize if you'd started working on something 10 time slots ago, you'd have a better chance of winning the next competition. My only real gripes about Potionomics are the lack of a sorting system when buying ingredients from vendors and the short loading screens, which become more bearable as you get into the game.

I wasn't quite sure of Potionomics at PAX East, but after playing it this past week, sometimes addictively for hours, I can say, Potionomics is well worth the play if you're looking for a unique and terribly challenging take on potion-brewing games.

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