by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Ready for Weed?
I don’t touch drugs. Never have, and probably never will. I don’t begrudge others their fun when it comes to the softer stuff though - live and let live. As a business venture however, the idea of growing and selling weed intrigues me. While Cannabis has been around for millenia, its illegality has kept it underground in recent history. It largely bypassed the industrial revolution and ultimately stayed small scale compared to say, the growing and selling of wheat. Now that it is becoming more widely accepted and legal beyond medicinal use in many territories, the plant is ready for primetime. Is the gaming industry ready too?
Weedcraft Inc puts players in control of a Cannabis business. As with any good business simulator, you start small and aim for the skies. In Weedcraft Inc that means starting with a single basement growery held together with MacGyvered growing tools such as makeshift lamps and baby-room-grade humidifiers. Your operations aren’t legal right off the bat either. You peddle your wares at the local truck stop and most of your conversations with potential punters start with “Hey pssstt.”, or at least that’s how this has been playing out in my mind - you’re not actually talking to most of your clients even if they have plenty to say to you.
Expanding your business means keeping track of all areas of your operation. In your basement, you’ll have to figure out what the best growing conditions are for the strain that you are growing. You’ll optimize what goes into the soil, which lights to use, the temperature and humidity, and much more. On the selling end of the perspective, you’ll be studying the wants and needs of your clientele. Not every premise has the same type of customer - bums have a different flavour palette than techies or politicians. Catering to the interests of your buyers is key, especially when the competition arrives. And you may not have the flavours that they want either. If none of your strains have the Earthy flavours that your customers are asking for, you’ll find yourself on the bottom end of the earnings spectrum. A research points based mini-game will let you mix and match flavours to optimise your sales potential.
As you unlock more and more of the city’s business premises, police interest in your activities will increase. This aspect of the game is full of intrigue. Before long you’ll be spying, bribing and extorting your way through your newfound life. I enjoyed this side of the game quite a bit, until I was able to expand into a new territory. Suddenly the intrigue lost its shine, the workload becoming a millstone around my neck as I was trying to cater to my new digs. Fortunately the game lets you go legit, through either a medicinal license, or a recreational one. This brought my original business in calmer waters, allowing me to concentrate on the new.
The ability to adjust the pace of the game keeps the game from becoming overwhelmingly cumbersome. You choose just how much work you want to put in. The tradeoff is that there’s less income on sales but volume can make up for this. That’s not to say the above can be done with a flick of a switch. Not every city has every type of license available, and transitioning to medicinal use means your audience changes too. Your strains may not fit their wishes.
The above merely paints Weedcraft Inc’s outline, but there’s a bit more going on. Adding that second city for instance, was only possible after fulfilling a number of mission objectives in the original city. Also, business empires are not run by a single person - you need staff and your employees can get pretty demanding. Meeting these demands early on is difficult to say the least - lest you want to go bankrupt that is. Leveling up your character gives you access to better management tools, as well as improved research, growing tools and more.
Whack A Mole
On the surface, Weedcraft Inc looks to have quite a bit of variation in its gameplay, but these looks are a bit deceiving. Much of the gameplay revolves around what I came to think of as Whack A Mole. Plants won’t grow in size or quality without a fair bit of watering and trimming. When they are ready to be watered, an icon needs to be clicked to do so. A second icon is held to trim them, and will also pop up only when they are ready to be trimmed. Early on you cannot afford to hire staff to do this for you, so you’re whacking these moles yourself. To sell dope, you switch to the city map and whack the sales-icon moles there, and the research and the reduce-police-interest-icon moles too.
Even gathering dirt on police and other figures in the game is a game of Whack-A-Mole. The icons are shaped differently, but to get to the dirt you’ll be whacking icons nonetheless. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is not unlike almost every lazily built mobile game where you are staring at your phone or tablet screen hoping to whack gems or coin moles.
That comparison not entirely fair on Weedcraft though. Not only does it offer employees to wield the mole-hammer for you (just not as quick or efficient as you), there’s also a lot more meat and creativity on its bones than your average *inhale* mobile-copy-paste-rip-off *breathe* throw-your-money-into-this-bottomless-pit-me-too-game *exhale* (frustrate much?).
In truth, Weedcraft Inc is an enjoyable business management game with some creative ideas as well as decent writing and a thoroughly fitting musical score. If you’ve always wanted to dabble at running a Cannabusiness, it’s a must buy.
A fun take on the business simulation genre.
Can be a bit Whack-A-Mole-y