The small town of Moonbury doesn’t get newcomers very often, and so to win over the residents, you’re going to have to prove yourself.
That’s the basic opening plot of Potion Permit, an open-ended RPG from MassHive Media and PQube that casts you as a chemist. Arriving in Moonbury from the city, its residents are wary of you at first. It’s going to take a lot to win them over – though when the mayor’s daughter gets sick and only your medicine can cure her, it’s the perfect opportunity to show them what you’re capable of.
Crafting your medicines means using your cauldron, and gathering necessary ingredients. It feels quite a lot like Koei Tecmo’s Atelier series in that regard, albeit a 2D pixelated version. Gathering items means heading out into the forest and using the necessary tools to collect items. You’ve got an axe to chop trees, a scythe to gather plants, and a hammer to gather rocks and ore, with each item giving you valuable resources. You’ll also encounter various beasties while out exploring, which can be taken down with any of your tools. Your hammer hits the hardest, but it’s slow, so quick attacks with your scythe may be the most effective combat technique. But that’s up to you.
Potion Permit isn’t a combat-heavy game, and there’s no real nuance to battling the creatures you find yourself up against. Simply swing your weapon, and dodge out of the way of incoming attacks. It’s as simple as that. You can lose all your health (or run out of stamina), but this isn’t a game where death is punished. You’ll simply find yourself back at your house, ready to head out on a new journey.
While having a range of resources is important, crafting potions and medicines doesn’t require exact ingredients. Rather, crafting them is a Tetris-like minigame. Each resource in your inventory has its own shape and elemental colour, and you need to use them to fill the shape of the potion you’re crafting. Some potions also have a limit on what elements you can use, and how many different ingredients can be put into it. It’s a novel take on crafting, and it means the process never gets boring (well, as long as you enjoy that type of puzzle – and we do).
There are plenty of residents in Moonbury for you to get to know and befriend, many of whom will have tasks for you to complete as you progress through the game. Forging friendships is important, and taking to each resident every day – and occasionally giving them gifts – will improve your relationships with them. Some residents will be more standoffish to you than others, but give it time, and they’ll all be welcoming you with open arms.
There are some life sim elements to Potion Permit, such as the ability to decorate your bedroom, and upgrade your lab and clinic. Elsewhere, you can go fishing, or even take on a part-time job in the local church, police station or town hall. Or all three if you want. These jobs simply play out as straightforward minigames, and reward you with coins – useful for buying various upgrades as you progress through the game.
Progressing also allows you to access new areas of the world, where you’ll find new resources and new creatures to go up against. And so while the area you have to explore may initially be rather small, as you play more of Potion Permit, you’ll unlock more of the world around you, giving you a larger playground to explore. There’s a handy fast travel system, too, meaning you’ll never have to travel far on foot if you want to simply get on with a task at hand.
Potion Permit is the sort of cosy, welcoming game we can find ourselves playing for hours on end, its satisfying gameplay loop never getting old or repetitive. It won’t be for everyone, but if you love games like the Atelier series and Stardew Valley, and can somehow imagine a marrying of the two, you’re going to find yourself right at home here.