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Update: This review mentions a bug that causes quests to disappear. The developer has since fixed this bug and quests no longer disappear.
There are a lot of slice-of-life sims out there that give players different opportunities to live a small life that offers new opportunities. Whether it succeeds in this is demonstrated by its ability to deliver consistently good content over long periods of time. Any game can fill itself with content, but that doesn’t make it better by itself.
MassHive Media is a studio with 11 developers and three games currently. Potion Permit will be MassiveHive’s second game on Steam, where the first is Azure Saga: Pathfinder games and subsequent DLCs. Azure Saga was released in 2018, which points to a three- to four-year development cycle on Potion Permission.
After creating a JRPG, it seems the developer wanted to take a crack at another one, this time in the same vein as popular games like Stardew Valley’s aesthetic. Potion Permission can be a lot of fun at first, trying to figure out the mechanics of the diagnosis and potion minigames. Once you get through the tutorial and the prologue, the game kind of grinds to a halt.
When you start, you are 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 mess and earn the trust of the villagers by healing them. As you further prove your achievements, you will 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 this go, which doesn’t make much sense considering they were ready to run you out of town ten minutes ago. However, the local faith healer does not let it go so easily and turns out to be the antagonist himself.
The mechanics of Potion Permission are really fun at first, but they quickly get boring the more you have to do them. For example, one of the diagnosis mini-games is nothing more than a rhythm game without music. Another requires the player to memorize a sequence of four directions, with no variation in mechanics whatsoever beyond that. The player is expected to do these multiple times each time they wake up.
The potion minigame is also fun at first, but it’s surprisingly easy to piece together a potion even if you don’t necessarily have the upgrades. Doing it felt really cool and like you finally unlocked something, but having to make the same potions all the time 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 over time, healing patients with multiple ailments will be your main source of income. Unfortunately, in the beginning this means that if you are able to get a patient every day, you won’t earn more than 200 in game currency per day. This makes the early upgrades unavailable, which then makes the early part of the game take even longer.
To get upgrades, you need to collect a lot of the game’s two building resources: rocks and stones. If you are trying to move on Permission to potion, you better believe you’re going to spend several days just harvesting wood and stone for upgrades. It’s better to just collect it passively while looking for other ingredients so you have a lot when you need it.
If you gather enough ingredients, you’ll pretty much never have to worry about what potions to make. Every time you run through the wild area, collect every potion ingredient you see and you’ll never run out of handy potions. There is a downside though, because the ingredients usually don’t dictate what 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 it’s fine to have the other two. While this raises the challenge, it’s still not enough to make it feel like a real problem. This can get 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 small mistakes that are easier to forgive, like when the main character’s dog gets stuck in a weird animation in the middle of the grave. Nothing is more disturbing than walking out of a building and seeing your dog writhing on the ground. There seemed to be no fix for this until I turned the game off and came back to it a little later.
The dog itself is really kind of annoying, and this is coming from someone who loves dogs more than anything else. The constant need to feed it is so exhausting and maybe wouldn’t need to happen if it didn’t literally follow you everywhere. There is no use for this dog beyond digging a hole occasionally to give you resources that have minimal benefits.
The worst bug is the one that somehow causes your quests to completely disappear from your game. You can be 10 hours in and playing the game normally when something breaks and you suddenly have no idea what to do. This naturally prevents the player from progressing and leaves the player stuck in an endless cycle of days.
One would hope that a bug of that magnitude would not have escaped playtesting because of the anger it is likely to incite even among those who enjoy Potion Permission. While this isn’t likely to happen to everyone, it’s frustrating enough to make someone want to quit the game forever. Hopefully MassHive will be able to issue a fix before more players lose hours of progress.
Overall, Potion Permission is an okay game at best. From someone who has been 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 falls short of most of them. Players should wait for this title until it has received the necessary fixes and balancing changes, if any.
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