Potion Permit is a brand new IP from the team at PQube. While many, myself included, looked at it and instantly thought of Stardew Valley, the current reigning champion of the cozy genre, Potion Permit brings it own unique spin on the genre. For this review the categories we will focus on are
In Potion Permit you are a chemist from the Capitol and the Mayor of Moonbury, Myer, has requested a chemist come to the village to help aid in healing his sick daughter. Moonbury has it's own "witch doctor" but they've been unable to heal Myer's daughter.
When you first arrive, none of the villagers want to be seen with you let alone actually speak to you. As you progress in the early days of the game you'll explore the forest, gather resources, and come to find a cure for your patient. This sets the stage for everything else that is to play out in Potion Permit. From helping the townsfolk any time they fall ill to assisting in fixing up local issues.
Potion Permit has a lot to bring to the table. The gameplay is straightforward and easy for any to pick up but also brings just enough to spin to give even the most seasoned player turning their head as they think through some things.
The most important aspect of the title, aside from making potions and treating patients, is the actual characters themselves. Every villager has been crafted with such care and attention to details. Whether you see Runeheart arguing with her mother, to throwing darts at the tavern, or just strolling along town with her hammer. Every character has so much personality and depth. You'll need to chat daily and give gifts to max out their friendship. Once done you cannot raise their friendship again until you've completed the needed relationship quest. As you develop these bonds with folks there are some you be able to romance as well!
Potion creation is the key element of this game. Not only will you need to craft different potions to help your patients. You'll also need to craft and sell potions in order to bring in additional gold. Beside those two items you will also be called upon to help out with various pests or environmental issues. Whether it's crafting unique potions to dissolve a substance or learning about bugs in order to produce a repellant that is safe for the plant life. At various points through the story you'll also need to research tasks in order to craft the appropriate potions. Each ingredient used for potion creation offers a different opportunity to solve the potion's "requirement" for being brewed.
When crafting you'll be presented with an empty shape of blocks. Each ingredient can fill a certain amount of blocks. Once all blocks are filled you craft the potion. However, each ingredient brings a different set of blocks that can be filled. Additionally in the early stages of the game your cauldron can only use a maximum of 5 ingredients for any potion. Over time though you will be able to upgrade it. Which will unlock serums and allow you to use 1 additional ingredient in potion creation.
While this isn't mandatory and comes as an optional thing to do once you've upgraded your house once. It can be highly beneficial as it heals HP and stamina. I recommend taking advantage if you are in quick need of resources.
Near your house is the clinic. When a patient is dropped off an alarm will sound in the morning letting you know you have a patient. There you'll need to speak with them, examine and diagnose their ailments via four different mini games. Whether its memory, a DDR like game, or dodge the icon you'll have something different to do each time. Don't worry though, none of them are overly difficult as long as you pay attention. Be warned though, if you make too many mistakes it will impact the patient experience and you may misdiagnosis them. Though, I never encountered this. Once done you will know their ailment and be able to create a handy potion to solve the issue. At some point as you upgrade your cauldron you will also gain access to recipes for, essentially, shots that let you skip the mini game step and go right into treatment.
As you make your way through the game you'll find bigger and better resources. Trees will be bigger and give more wood when chopped down. You'll find silver and gold and even be able to upgrade the Blacksmith and Carpentry shops. Which give you more access to upgrades for your house, tools, health, and more!
Unlike many of the games residing in the cozy genre Potion Permit actually has a very compelling and interesting story. And not just for the main campaign either. The side stories, aka the relationship quests, are deep and fantastic experiences! You'll learn more and more about each villager and unlock additional information for them in the journal. But the real treat is getting the unique individual cut scenes for them.
Foraging for Ingredients
Making potions is going to require a variety of ingredients. From plant leaves to bear paws there is a wide selection available as you progress through the game's various regions. Some items come directly from the environment. Others are drops from the wild life. Some further can only be obtained after completing a main scenario quest and solving an environmental problem.
Comparison to other Cozy Games
While at first glance Potion Permit looks to be a peer of Stardew Valley, I was surprised to learn that it's actually a distant cousin. While Potion Permit does feature a day of the week and night/day system, it does not have a calendar or season system. Which means no birthdays and no holiday events. While you do not get to experience a changing season you will find wild life and plants that are native to the three unique biomes. Even similar enemies don't always drop the same items. Such as bears in the meadow will drop a bear claw and honey, but bears in the glacier region drop thick black fur.
It also lacks the ability to make choices. In other cozy games such as My Time at Portia, Harvest Moon, and Stardew your player is given the opportunity to answer events in a unique way. Which typically impacts your relationship with said character. In Potion Permit there are no choices and instead the story for your character and any villager is already decided.
Potion Permit also features a stamina bar and tools for chopping down trees or smashing rocks. However, there is no stat based system to go with it. You will always use a flat amount of stamina for using the tools. Even when upgrading they don't use less stamina, but do more damage to the resource. With the first biome, the meadow, being level 1 resources and the wasteland being level 3. Having upgraded tools makes it easier to break them down, but, you can break all resources will the default rusted level. It will just take a lot of stamina to do so.
Gift giving is present as well, but instead of requiring you to learn someone's favorite items and risk giving them something they dislike, you are only able to give Moonbury gifts. A unique bag that is seen as a part of the city's culture. Everyone is always happy to one because of that.
While you can romance some characters there is no marriage option. You can date anyone that is romancable and according to the developers your free to date anyone, that you can romance, and multiple people at once.
Passing out is back as well with the 2 a.m. deadline. But if you don't make it you don't lose anything. You just sleep until 12 p.m. vs 6 a.m. Also if your HP hits 0 you instantly move to the next day and wake up at 12 p.m. but lose nothing.
During my time with the game I encountered a handful of inconvenient / odd bugs. None of which were game breaking. I reported them to the team and was told a patch would be released before release addressing the issues! But for the sake of transparency I want to just point out some of the "major" ones I encountered.
Wack-A-Mole was completely unplayable. I was assured by the team this would absolutely work on release day though.
There is a fast travel spot near the town square and the beach that would keep switching "off" any time I closed the game. It also turned off when I played for more than 4 hours one time.
Consuming food replenishes stamina, however, my next tool swing would instantly drain about 80% of whatever I just healed making food consumption broken.
I had a couple events freeze when they started to play and I had to turn off the game.
Near the end of the main story my journal stopped showing the quest. So I was unable to pin it, or review it for information. I was still able to find the quest points and finish the main story.
The profile card displayed and tracked playtime incorrectly and said my story progression was always 0%.
A Word from PQube
The folks developing this wonderful title wanted me to let all players know that if they encounter any bugs or issues to feel encouraged to report it to the team with video or screen shots at their official discord. They're focusing all their effort on release but are excited for you all to experience their newest project!
I personally had a blast playing Potion Permit. Being able to experience such depth in all the characters and the game itself having an easy to follow and enjoyable main story was such a treat. I spend a lot of my time either playing JRPGs or playing cozy games. For me, this was an interesting blend of fantastic story telling, from every direction, to the cozy gameplay we've all come to know and love. While I bumped into a couple bugs here or there, nothing ruined the experience for me nor did it soft lock me anywhere or break the game. In fact, when reporting them the team always received them with grace and was grateful I took the time to share the issues. That was huge for me and I loved that.
Potion Permit has so much charm to it and I hope if you're a fan of cozy games you'll give it a try! You can play Potion Permit on Thursday September 22nd, 2022 digitally on PS4, PS5, Xbox, Steam, and Nintendo Switch for $20.
Thank you reader for taking the time to read my thoughts, I hope they were useful to you!
Lastly, thank you PQube team for allowing me the opportunity to play Potion Permit! I'll be day dreaming of voyaging the high seas with Leona for days to come!