Potionomics review – colourful adventures in magical capitalism
Voracious Games/XSEED Games; PCRunning a struggling potion shop, sourcing ingredients, haggling with customers and fending off the bank is all charming and stressful work in equal measureSomeone has to make all those potions that heroes quaff as they fight th…
Someone has to make all those potions that heroes quaff as they fight their way through dungeons, and in Potionomics, you’re that person. You play as Sylvia, who has inherited a debt-ridden potion shop from her uncle, and your job is to turn around its fortunes by brewing better and better potions, selling them for a profit and keeping on top of the repayments to stop the bank from repossessing your business.
This isn’t the first time a game has tasked players with running a shop or brewing potions, but rarely has it been done with such gorgeous presentation and charm. The vibrant colour palette and fluid animations are a delight to behold, and the quirky characters are a joy to spend time with. Roxanne, your voluptuous and catty potion-making rival, is particularly fun, and she’s just one member of a colourful cast that also includes a rockstar bard cum hero, a cauldron-making walrus man and a chilled-out carpenter faun, among others. You can even date them if you build up enough rapport.
Brewing potions is a complex process, as you might expect. Every ingredient contains a certain number of “magimins”, with more of them equating to a stronger brew. But magimins come in five types and you need the right balance to brew particular potions. In addition, some ingredients have positive or negative effects that can add to or detract from the value of the finished product. To source the ingredients, you’ll need to send out a member of the heroes’ guild on an expedition, and equip them with various potions to help them on their way – though the things they find might not necessarily be the things you need.
But that’s only half the game: selling the potions involves haggling with customers to up the price, which you do with card battles. Developing relationships with other characters unlocks new cards, and tweaking your deck to discover more powerful card combinations is an involved and thoughtful process.
Brewing, haggling, dating and gradually upgrading your shop are all thoroughly enjoyable pursuits, but the game is hobbled by an unnecessarily punitive structure that drains the fun from everything you do. Every 10 days there’s a potion competition you need to win to pay off the bank. Fail that and it’s game over, forcing you to reload an earlier save. The competition requires you to brew specific potions of a minimum quality, but just getting hold of the right ingredients can be arduous. Everything from going shopping to selling potions takes precious time, and the days leading up to the contest are filled with nervous panic as you desperately try to secure the necessary goods, knowing that failure will send you back hours. For such a cheerful-looking game, Potionomics has a remarkably cruel capitalist heart.