Update: This review mentions a bug that causes quests to disappear. The developer has since patched this bug and quests no longer disappear.
There are a lot of slice-of-life sims out there, providing players with various opportunities to live out a little life that provides new opportunities. Whether or not it succeeds in that is shown in its ability to provide consistently good content over extended periods of time. Any game can fill itself with content, but that doesn’t make it any better by itself.
MassHive Media is a studio with 11 developers and three games currently under its belt. Potion Permit will be MassiveHive’s second game on Steam, with the first being the Azure Saga: Pathfinder game and subsequent DLCs. Azure Saga was released in 2018, pointing to a three to four-year development cycle on Potion Permit.
After creating one JRPG, it seems that the developer wanted to take a crack at another, this time in the same vein of popular games like Stardew Valley’s aesthetic. Potion Permit can be a lot of fun at first, trying to figure out the mechanics in the diagnosis and potion minigames. After you get through the tutorial and prologue, the game kind of grinds to a halt.
When you start out, you’re brought into the small town of Moonbury, whose residents are distrustful of any chemists after one nearly destroyed the surrounding ecosystem. Now it’s up to the player to clean up the messes and earn the villagers’ trust by healing them. As you further prove your accomplishments, you’ll be rewarded with new badges that show your level of skill and the town’s faith in you.
Shortly after the intro though, most of the townspeople seem to let go of this, which doesn’t make much sense considering they were ready to run you out of town ten minutes ago. The local faith healer doesn’t let it go so easily though, proving himself to be the antagonist.
The mechanics in Potion Permit are really fun at first, but they quickly become tedious the more you have to do them. For instance, one of the diagnosis minigames is nothing more than a rhythm game without music. Another requires that the player memorize a sequence of four directions, with no variation in the mechanic at all beyond that. The player is expected to do these multiple times every time they wake up.
The potion minigame is also fun at first, but it’s surprisingly easy to puzzle together a potion, even if you don’t necessarily have the upgrades. Doing that felt really cool and like you finally unlocked something, but constantly having to remake the same potions ruins the fun. You can save a recipe, which is cool, but you’ll quickly run out of those ingredients if you abuse it.
While you can do other things around time, curing patients with multiple ailments will be your main source of income. Unfortunately, in the beginning, this means that you won’t make more than 200 in the game’s currency per day if you’re able to get a patient each day. This makes the early upgrades inaccessible, which then makes the early part of the game take even longer.
To get upgrades, you’ll need to collect a lot of the game’s two building resources: rocks and stone. If you’re trying to progress in Potion Permit, you better believe that you’re going to spend multiple days just harvesting wood and stone for upgrades. It’s better to just collect it passively while you’re looking for other ingredients so that you’ll have a lot when you need it.
If you collect enough ingredients, you pretty much never have to worry about what potions you’re going to make. Every time you run through the wild area, collect every potion ingredient you see and you’ll never run out of craftable potions. However, there’s a downside because the ingredients don’t usually dictate which potions you can make.
Sometimes the game will limit the player to specific elemental ingredients like a potion can’t have fire or water ingredients but is fine to have the other two. While this elevates the challenge, it’s still not enough to make it feel like a real issue. This may become harder in the later game, but it’s hard to get to that point thanks to the myriad of bugs that plague this game.
There were some minor bugs that are easier to forgive, like when the main character’s dog gets stuck in a weird mid-dig animation. Nothing is more unsettling than walking out of a building and seeing your dog contorted into the ground. It seemed like there was no fix for this until I turned off the game and came back to it a little while later.
The dog itself is really kind of annoying, and that’s coming from someone who loves dogs more than anything. The constant need to feed it is so exhausting and maybe wouldn’t need to happen if it didn’t follow you literally everywhere. There’s no use for this dog outside of digging the occasional hole to provide you with resources that have minimal benefits.
The worst bug is the one that somehow makes your quests disappear from your game completely. You can be 10 hours in, playing the game normally, when something breaks and suddenly you have no idea what you’re supposed to be doing. This obviously prevents the player from progressing and leaves the player stuck in an endless cycle of days.
One would hope a bug of that magnitude wouldn’t have made it out of playtesting due to the anger it is likely to incite even amongst those who enjoy Potion Permit. While it’s not likely to happen to everyone, it’s frustrating enough to make someone want to quit the game for good. Hopefully, MassHive will be able to issue a fix before more players lost several hours of progress.
The Final Word
Overall, Potion Permit is at best an okay game. From someone who was looking forward to this game for a while, it hurts to say, but it just doesn’t live up to what it’s selling. MassHive tries a lot of different things in this RPG slice-of-life game, but it doesn’t reach the mark on most of them. Players should wait on this title until it has received the necessary fixes and balancing changes, if then.
Try Hard Guides was provided with a PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!