Potions: A Curious Tale – Review
Follow Genre: RPG, adventure
Developer: Stumbling Cat
Publisher: Stumbling Cat, Hawthorn Games
Platform: PC
Tested on: PC

Potions: A Curious Tale – Review

Site Score
Good: Accessible potion crafting system
Bad: Uneven and inconsistent art style
User Score
(1 votes)
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VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.0/10 (1 vote cast)

The release of Potions: A Curious Tale was somewhat overshadowed by Stumbling Cat developer Renee Gittins’ complaints about EA shadow-dropping 11 games on Steam, pushing the indie title out of Steam’s ‘new & trending’ list. There certainly is something to be said about indie developers not getting the same chances to garner attention compared to AAA studios, and fortunately, Gittins’ complaints gained enough traction to draw attention both to her complaints and to the game. As such, you may have heard about the game indirectly, but you may still be wondering whether it’s worth the fuss. Well, we’ve got you covered, of course. Read on for an in-depth look at Potions: A Curious Tale.


When we first meet our protagonist, the young witch Luna, she’s aboard the ship of none other than the legendary Sinbad himself. The ship is under attack by a massive Kraken, but our heroine ends up saving the day. Now, if this opening stage had you hoping for a Shantae-esque swashbuckling adventure, you’re out of luck, as Sinbad is merely offering his services as a ferryman to Luna. The young witch is actually traveling to Old Haven, a quaint little seaside village where her grandmother resides. Granny is Old Haven’s potion master, and Luna wants to follow in her footsteps. As Luna learns everything there is to know about potion brewing, she runs into a wide variety of fairy tale characters, including the nosy Prince Charming as well as rival witch Emily. There isn’t a whole lot of depth to Potions’ story, but the dialogue is cute and well-written.


A gorgeous anime-style opening animation sets the tone for Potions, drawing us into the world of Luna and her familiar Helios, but unfortunately, things go downhill from there. While the art direction is good, with beautiful, hand-drawn character art, said art unfortunately is limited to a single, static pose during dialogue scenes. The barely animated overworld sprites aren’t tonally consistent either, looking like something you’d see in a Flash game from 2004. Monster and NPC designs are also all over the place in terms of design consistency. Given the lengthy development of Potions, it makes sense that the art style evolved over time, but we would’ve preferred seeing some of the older visuals being brought in line with modern stuff. The unevenness of Potions’ visuals detracts from the overall appeal, although the simplistic visuals aren’t too taxing so the game’s performance doesn’t suffer at least.


A full-fledged theme song a la Little Goody Two Shoes wouldn’t have felt out of place in Potions’ anime opening, but instead, cheerful music accompanies the visuals. This is one area where Potions is tonally consistent as there is no voice acting present at all, and the game instead relies on its soundtrack to convey emotions. While voice acting would’ve been a plus, what’s present here is sufficient and sets the right atmosphere for the light-hearted nature of the game.


While playing Potions, we couldn’t help but feel that the game felt like a very watered-down Atelier game, because the core gameplay loop shares a lot of similarities with Koei Tecmo’s successful RPG series. Now, we won’t be outright comparing Potions to Atelier, because of course a one-woman indie project isn’t going to be on the same level as a multi-decade franchise from a large Japanese development studio, but Potions’ aesthetics, setting, and core gameplay loop are close enough to Atelier to at least warrant a mention. You’re gathering ingredients and crafting potions, filling out your bestiary and recipe book, and taking on side quests, with the ultimate aim of becoming Old Haven’s new potions master. There’s combat too, although Potions’ take on this is less straightforward than what you’d typically expect from an adventure RPG like this.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the most fleshed-out mechanics of Potions revolve around the…potions. Stumbling Cat opted for ease of access instead of tacking on a repetitive minigame when it comes to actually crafting potions. All you need to do is select your ingredients, put them in your cauldron, and presto! You’re only given a handful of basic recipes and need to figure out the rest of your recipe book on your own. This approach encourages experimenting and creativity, both with crafting potions and with figuring out a use for them. On her journey, Luna encounters both enemies and obstacles that she needs to overcome, and it’s by using her potions that she is able to do so. It’s a clever way of imbuing Luna with a sense of character growth: early on, her options are limited but by actively working on her potion skills by experimenting, her arsenal grows, and you learn new tricks to deal with what the game throws at you.

This translates into how you deal with combat too. As we mentioned, Potions’ combat isn’t a straightforward affair, and different approaches yield different rewards. You can chuck different potions at enemies, or you can tackle enemy encounters in different ways, with the Kraken battle that opens the game being a good example. Here, Luna tricks the Kraken into covering a tentacle in oil, before setting it alight with fire -all before your first potion is even crafted. Of course, if you’d rather not fight, you can find ways to avoid combat altogether. What you can’t do is brute force your way through enemy encounters in Potions, but there are always out-of-the-box ways to deal with them. The same applies to the game’s Zelda-inspired environmental puzzles that you’ll find scattered across various dungeons. While these are never head-scratchingly difficult, they do add some much-needed variety to Potions’ gameplay, as both the main story and the side quests are very reliant on simple fetch quests.

While Potions’ core loop is well thought out and satisfying, there are still parts where the game drops the ball. Old Haven, for example, is the game’s hub area, but feels surprisingly dead and empty for what is supposed to be a bustling seaside town. There are only four buildings here, and only two of these have an in-game function: Granny’s house and the inn. The vast majority of the potions only have a niche use, and although Potions’ myriad of ways to deal with obstacles is great in theory, in practice you’ll only really use the same four or five concoctions over and over again. It would have been great if there had been more elaborate puzzles that required you to go out of your way to use some of the more niche brewings, just to add more depth to the game.

It’s a bit of a double-edged sword: the potion crafting mechanics are well thought out and experimenting with their applications in the world is genuinely fun. However, the main story is oversimplified, Potions’ puzzles feel too shallow, and the fetch quest-based structure overstays its welcome. Potions isn’t going to pose a challenge to any seasoned player: we didn’t die a single time during our run, and the game can easily be completed over the course of a lazy Sunday afternoon. Granted, Potions isn’t the most expensive title, setting you back €16.99, and for a younger audience or anyone looking for a cozy or relaxed game to play, there definitely are worse options out there. However, we were hoping for something a bit more involved, and Potions simply doesn’t brew that up.


It’s clear that Potions is a passion project for Stumbling Cat, and that a lot of hard work has gone into the game. A significant chunk of that hard work has come to fruition as well, with an accessible potion crafting system that invites creativity and encourages experimentation. It’s in this aspect that Potions truly shines. However, the game does drop the ball in other areas, particularly the lack of depth when it comes to the puzzles, fleshing out the world, and the very uneven art style. The result definitely has its high points, but Potions is ultimately a mixed bag.

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Rating: 7.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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Potions: A Curious Tale - Review, 7.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

1 Comment

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