Before we begin this preview in earnest, I have to come clean. After reviewing Potionomics, Potion Craft, and Dungeon Alchemist, I think might be out of potion-based puns. Still, I’m a professional, so let’s take a peek at Alchemist: The Potion Monger together.
I’m sure if you’re like me (and you have my condolences,) upon your 35th run of Skyrim you wondered to yourself, “What if this… but all about making potions?” Well, for those with minds filled with curiosity, we are here to sate your thirst for knowledge. Alchemist: The Potion Monger is a 3D, open-world adventure game that focuses heavily on brewing potions. Pick your race, Cat Person or Snake Person. You get a house, a dog, and a cauldron, and from there you’re on your own to explore the world for ingredients and adventure. It’s all the basic ingredients for a decent game, but just like a delicate potion, it’s all about how you mix them. Done right and it goes down smooth. Done wrong and it blows up in your face!
Alchemist: The Potion Monger will be available in late 2023 on Steam.
Story – The Missing Ingredient
The story, so far, is pretty light. Like many other games in the genre, you’re fresh to town and found an empty house. And, of course, it just so happens the town could really use a good potion maker. Beyond that, though, Alchemist: The Potion Monger doesn’t offer much story. We’re not sure yet why we’re in town. There doesn’t seem to be a big problem the town is having. Just a few people who could use a hand and a couple problems that can be solved with the cunning use of potions.
I have to say the trailer makes the game out to be goofier than it actually comes across. I expected something like a typical potion maker crossed with something wild like Goat Simulator. In reality, it’s much tamer and, dare I say it, serious. There’s a morality system that’s briefly touched upon in-game that could potentially shake up choices later, but for what we’re shown, it’s barely there. The few quests that are available in the preview do little more than ask you to brew a potion to solve a townsperson’s problem. Maybe whack a slime with a stick.
There’s a lot of interesting things in the very small world we’re offered in this preview, from a shrine to a crashed ship to a King Slime. Unfortunately, nothing really seems to set up a larger problem in the world or even a general motivation for the player. There’s a decent amount of people (well, cat and snake people) to meet, but they really do nothing to flesh out the world. All I’ve really learned is Eve has an inconsistent “snake accent.”
Gameplay – Potions, Slimes, and Cat Farmers
The game breaks down into three basic parts: Potion Making, Exploration and Combat, and Quests.
Potion Making – A Bitter Brew
First and foremost, of course, is the potion making. You run around the world gathering ingredients from various sources, then return them to your home. There you can let your pets inspect them to help you understand their elemental natures, then reference your big book of alchemy to know how to prepare them. Once you’ve dried, diluted, or ground your ingredient to satisfaction, you drop it in a cauldron and begin the brewining mini-game. Bubbles float up with shapes on them. Like an old Nintendo DS game, draw the shapes to pop the bubbles and increase the quality of the potion.
This part is pretty simple. The gathering is nothing special or complicated, but I do appreciate the ways to prepare the ingredients. Each recipe requires certain elements to be present in the mixture and you can accomplish that with different potential ingredients so long as you prepare them right. Grind them up to rotate their elements along the element wheel, dry or dilute them to move them closer or further from the center. It makes you think and I actually like puzzling out the ingredients I should use.
Unfortunately the brewing mini-game is hit or miss. I haven’t quite figured out if bigger, more grand gestures get recognized easier or smaller, more compact. It seems to be a crapshoot so far, so hopefully this is something they’ll fix up before release.
Combat and Exploration – The Ancient and Deadly Art of Thwacking Things With Sticks
The next element is exploration and combat, honestly the leanest of the options on offer. You run around the world to gather ingredients, but also to explore the map, fight a few slimes, and gather notebooks and recipes. The combat is… passable. I’m not going to say it’s awful, but it’s also not really fun. Mostly I just circled around and swung my stick a lot. I assumed potions would play a bigger role in this, like poisoning enemies, but the slimes I fought so far didn’t care about my potions. All I could do is whack ’em and drink health potions.
As far as exploration goes, the world is pretty… but also not terribly big. Somehow, I still managed to get lost, though. The map could really do with a directional indicator and the compass, well… it has two “norths” on it and no other directions. There are portals to help you zoom from place to place, which is definitely helpful. Hopefully that means the full game will have a world large enough to warrant more than three of them.
Quests – The Art of Mongering
Your last bit of gameplay lies in dealing with the NPCs. I know Alchemist: The Potion Monger is still just a demo, but there’s really not much here. There were only three real quests I managed to find before I finished my playthrough. I might have discovered more, but the game doesn’t let you save in its current state so…
So far, quests boil down to talking to NPCs and seeing what potion will solve their problem. You don’t actually run a shop like most games in the genre, so this is the only way to earn cash. As stated before, at least one of the quests gives you leeway on how you solve the problem, but it’s always potion based. Listen to their pleas, go back to your cauldron, then return and chuck the potion at the problem. Yes, even the people. Even your dog! Guys! It made me throw a bottle of potion at my dog!
Audio & Graphics – Like a Gleaming PS2
Okay, I know it’s a little mean, but if I’m honest here, neither the graphics nor the audio are anything to write home about. Graphics-wise, the world is empty and the models make me feel like I’m wandering around Elder Scrolls: Morrowind. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re looking for GPU melting graphics, this isn’t going to be the game. Serviceable? Yes. Beautiful? Ehh…
The audio in Alchemist: The Potion Monger doesn’t do much to impress either, yet. The music is okay, nothing amazing, but it’s the sound effects that really bother me. A good portion of the game’s SFX come from audio packages. Footsteps, weapon swings, door openings, etc… But for some reason the dog and especially the cat noises feel like someone just recorded their own cat. They stand out, quality-wise, and really detract from the ambience. Not to mention that both the cat people in game and the cat you own as a pet use the same meowing sound.
Alchemist: The Potion Monger was previewed on PC with review key provided by art-games.com