There are some games that take me longer to review than others, catching a quick 20 minutes on Hob during my lunch Break might not raise too many eyebrows, but like so many of Devolvers back catalog Weedcraft is definitely going to grab your attention.
Whether it’s a bullet time banana totting assassin or a bloody E3 showcase, Devolver has never been afraid of breaking the mold. Weedcraft pushes that envelope with a title that takes a decidedly dicey spin on the traditional management sim. In Weedcraft you won’t find yourself founding a food empire or running a Two Point Hospital. Instead, Weedcraft puts players in the shoes of a college drop out with nothing much but an incomplete MBA, an empty basement, and a wad of weed to his name. Yes, Weedcraft is a weed management simulator. Developer Vile Monarch’s sim challenges players to take their business credentials and build the best narcotics empire their local block has ever seen.
While I might not be able to boot up into Weedcraft in specific office spaces, the game has a great deal more in common with many simulations and strategy games that you will have played in the past. Like Planet Coaster, Weedcarft contains some very broad goals. Peek through the leaves and you’ll spot that the main aims are to produce goods and sell to happy customers, all for a tidy profit. Thankfully Weedcraft does a very good job of introducing the weed business to anybody who is still a bit green. New players will find two potential scenarios and while you can jump in at the ground floor with half an MBA and an empty basement, Weedcraft also presents the option of an ex-con with nothing but his wits and life of crime behind him.
In either scenario, the goals remain the same and Weedcraft does do a sufficient job of introducing the basics. Starting with a very simple space, players are given just enough information to begin growing their green goods for the market, interacting with their customer base and shifting goods in an ever-changing market. Weedcraft does play host to a huge range of layered decisions and micromanagement can go right the way down to the very roots of your plants. Thankfully, this doesn’t occur immediately and the narrative goals slowly drip feed the various systems such as soil management, temperature, ventilation, as well as trimming and watering plants.
As players begin to get their street creds and build a basic customer base things grow gradually more complex. Customers of various varieties make demands on product quality, soil makeup can produce better quality plants, prices fluctuate, and a range of new plants unlock. The overall difficulty of the opening levels feels well paced with the sub-goals and progression tasks that feed in the mechanics never quite overwhelming me during my business ventures.
As enhancements to your grow lab unlock, new equipment, customer demands, and strain samples make production much more complex, forcing players to delegate some of their more menial tasks to other NPCs. Branching out of your own home into other spaces, crafting a network, hiring staff, managing HR problems, evading the eyes of the authorities, and dealing with your business rivals all start to compete for your time, gradually making Weedcraft an increasingly complex scenario. Each of these factors is surprisingly in-depth for a game that initially catches the eye because of its niche subject matter. However, you will need to get to grips with the competing factors that threaten your business and make ample use of the simple technology trees that you can invest precious profit into. By the time I’d sunk several hours into the game, I became acutely aware that Weedcraft requires a slow and steady hand to accurately navigate these problems. If you are looking for a quick hit, you’re going to be sadly disappointed. Weedcraft’s challenge is going to take some time to overcome.
While things can get quite deep, dealing with the micromanagement of farming weed is consistently simple. The point n click interface makes for an engaging start to growing, ensuring that players without broader goals are actively engaged with watering and trimming their produce. However, this repetitive mini-game can sometimes detract from the broader goal of conquering the market. The introduction of staff, later on, does not really fully delegate this activity and I still found myself coming back to help the underlings trim some weed.
Weedcraft might be a satisfying and deep strategy title but it does lack some of the pay off that games like Planet Coaster and even Starcraft include. There is no option to see your enemy crushed underfoot and watch their efforts explode, or even ride exciting rollercoasters. It has a humorous edge to it but feels a little muted compared to the outlandish charm of something like Two Point Hospital. This taste is a bit of a counterpoint to Weedcraft’s wonderful visuals. Looking like it has been ripped straight out of a graphic novel, the cells of Weedcraft are fantastic to look at and one of the things that kept me hooked through. However, you might want to bring your own soundtrack as the repetitive and very limited urban landscape doesn’t seem to have much to say for itself as you go about your business.
Devolver’s new strategy title is an interesting distraction that takes a good stab at building a different type of business. It has fantastic visuals, a deep and different set of strategies that you will need to learn and doesn’t fall into a passive mediocrity. Weedcraft is unlike any strategy game I’ve had the pleasure to play. It definitely gets a high score despite the mediocre soundtrack and farming mechanics that can prove tiresome in the long run. If you’re not ready to submit to the man and run Two Point Hospital, then Weedcraft is definitely an option you could consider. Weedcraft is out now on Steam and GoG now.