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[Keywords] Potion Permit and Trust

Potion Permit will be available on Steam and most major consoles in 2022.

A code for this game was provided by PQube Games

I love watching games as they develop.

Seeing Untitled Goose Game go from funny little Twitter gifs to a dark-horse smash-hit .

Beta-testing Final Fantasy XIV, then coming back years later to find the most welcoming MMORPG on the market.

Even watching the ill-fated Lego Universe crash and burn was interesting in its own way.

And I'm super-excited to see how Potion Permit develops after my brief peek at the alpha last week – even and especially seeing how far it has yet to go.

Brewing Up Interest

Potion Permit had my attention almost immediately.

Charming pixel art. Vibrant colors. A premise I so rarely see elsewhere. Developer MassHive was aiming this game straight up my alley.

And I really want to latch onto that premise. I can count on one hand the number of games where the main character is an apothecary. Not as part of a tacked-on crafting system, and not one of your quirky party members. The game puts you in the healer seat full-time, and treats that role with an earnest and appreciative spotlight.

Yes, you slay monsters, like in every RPG under the sun. But it's just a little bit of combat, as a snack, and with the express purpose of picking up ingredients. Ingredients for – get this – potions. It's even reflected in how you don't carry a weapon, making crude swipes at slimes with a wood-axe.

That's just not where the fun is.

Rather, all the love and attention went into other things. A cast of characters you're meant to care for, both physically and emotionally. Puzzle-y systems for crafting salves and antidotes. A snazzy overlay for diagnosing illness.

All things that, surprise surprise, feed directly into your job description as the town doctor.

It's not just that so much of Potion Permit is fleshed-out even in the alpha stage. Which parts of the game are well-developed comes across as a declaration of intent. “This game, first and foremost, is about potions.”

And that kind of messaging will buy a lot of trust from me.

First Do No Harm

It's kind of funny that I'm consciously putting so much trust in this game's future, since trust is more-or-less its central theme so far.

From the moment you step foot into town, you have a very unfriendly “thumbs-down” indicator on the left-hand side of your screen. Even the game's UI makes it clear: the townsfolk do not want you here. It's a very weird dynamic for a game playing in the same space as Rune Factory and Stardew Valley. Usually there's an awkward settling-in phase, sure; but almost never are most of your new neighbors actively hostile.

And worse yet, most of them distrust your very profession.

Judging by how put-together it looked late last year, Potion Permit almost certainly wasn't conceived because of the still-ongoing global pandemic. Skepticism around medical science certainly isn't a new phenomenon, either. But a game that pivots around both, releasing in a world still dominated by the presence of a rampant virus?

There's no way on Earth that Potion Permit isn't, at least in part, a response to the last year-and-a-half.

When the villain of the game is more-or-less an advocate for folk remedies over tested chemistry, it's hard to argue otherwise.

<em>Careful Consideration is a pillar of good science<em>

Vetting the System

To the game's credit, it feels just sympathetic enough to the townsfolk for being hesitant. They allude to a previous case of malpractice, and a resident poisoned by a wrong dose of a medicine. Things that certainly happen, and are scary, and would understandably make somebody think twice about what pills and potions they put in their body.

But Potion Permit also comes down firmly against using anecdotes to dismiss antidotes. Slowly, and over the course of time, the game sets that path out in front of you. Little by little, you need to win the townsfolk back over. Prove to them, hands-on, that the system works.

Earn their trust, protect their health.

And maybe that's a rosy and overly-optimistic way of looking at things – that with enough elbow grease and good intent, you can get everybody on the same page. That all people have a better nature to appeal to.

But I thrive on overly-optimistic stories, so I'm right there with it, whether or not Potion Permit is trying to coax a real-world moral out of its fantasy setting.

<em>Just in case you doubt how crystal clear the game is on this point<em>

Permitting a Little Faith

After a powerful first impression, Potion Permit itself didn't have do to much to win me over. But it's still got some way to go – certain quality-of-life features are conspicuously absent, technical glitches are common, and a good chunk of activities are still on the “work in progress” list. All of which are perfectly normal for a still-in-development game, to be sure.

But “indie town-life game with throwback graphics” is a super-crowded field now, and I've seen plenty that just aren't fleshed out.

Luckily, Potion Permit is anything but half-baked. You only have to look at how the developers chose to pump the brakes on its release after a wave of well-intentioned, constructive feedback. Even the level of visual polish on the game would skyrocket the game to “must-play” if the same care gets applied to tuning its mechanics and dialogue. And, from what I've seen, that's certainly not out of the question.

This is the kind of project where the creators are clearly invested in crafting the best version of the game that it can possibly be.

And I trust them to get pretty darn close.

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