If you’ve ever wanted to play a version of Stardew Valley where everyone immediately treats you with contempt, then Potion Permit has you covered. Do not worry; it’s not personal. Moonbury had a bad experience with the former chemists from the capital and they are willing to take it out on you. You won’t find the immediate good vibes of Pelican Town here.
Like Stardew Valley before it, Potion Permit is surprisingly robust, filled to the brim with areas to explore and characters to befriend. You will grind for materials, heal the sick and pet your very good dog. Deciding which of these two relaxing 16-bit adventures is better is a fool’s errand. But hey, someone has to try.
9/9 Core Mechanics: Potion Permit’s Puzzles
Potion Permit is not a farming sim, which immediately sets it apart from Stardew Valley. Still, it shares many of the same appeals as Stardew Valley – namely feeding materials. In both games, many of these items are used in crafting, but it’s only in Potion Permit that it feels crucial.
You wander into the forest and chop down trees, smash rocks and tackle some aggressive creatures to get the materials you need for your concoctions. You never know when you’ll wake up with a new patient next to you. So even though you may collect things without measure, the items never feel superfluous. In addition, you get to do a little puzzle every time you make a potion, which makes the whole loop a little more weighty.
8/9 Romance: Marital bliss in Pelican Town
The bright lights of a sprawling city may have several options, but not for our farmer or our chemist. Potion Permit gives you a variety of romance options to choose from. From Xiao to Leano, if you’re looking for some love, someone on this little island can give it to you. Unfortunately, the romance mechanic isn’t as robust as Stardew Valley’s, which covered everything from dating to marriage to having kids to, potentially, divorce.
There is no possibility of marriage for our chemist, so the whole experience feels more casual. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; you moved to the city after all. Unfortunately, Potion Permit lacks the heartfelt milestones that define your relationship with Pelican Town’s most eligible singletons, whether they share insecurities or their deepest dreams. Of course, Stardew Valley’s romances evolved over updates; we may see some changes for our chemist in the future. Until then, Stardew Valley has this on lock.
7/9 Location: The Evolving Moonbury
It seems a bit unfair to compare the locations of Stardew Valley and Potion Permit. Pelican Town has had years to make us love it, while Potion Permit has had less than a fraction of that time. We know Pelican Town inside and out, but we need a little more time to unravel Moonbury completely.
That said, Moonbury makes a good impression, big in a way Pelican Town could never be. In addition, you make Moonbury noticeably better with your actions – new lights are installed, areas are cleaned up, and it goes from run-down to welcoming, all because you put in the work. Pelican Town’s only original changes were to the community center, the renovation of which was the main objective. And while that was good and all, Moonbury’s changes consistently reward you. It feels special.
6/9 Time management: Stardew Valley’s dynamic calendar
The Potion Permit has an internal clock and schedule that you must follow to get the things you want. In Potion Permit, the days act as a timeline for your alchemist tasks – each patient has a maximum amount of time they can stay, so time management is essential. Characters have their own daily and weekly schedules that you also need to consider.
Yet Stardew Valley’s use of time was more thorough. We had full calendars to consider, with birthdays, seasons, events and dynamic weather. No day has been the same, and deviations from the routine always had to be taken into account. You never quite knew what tomorrow would bring. Time management in Stardew Valley is more difficult, but so much more alive.
5/9 Battle: Stardew Valley’s Caverns, Caves, And Gauntlets
It’s easier to understand Stardew Valley as a game that uses combat rather than a game that focuses on it. Unless you choose to have your farm be monster-infested when you start a new game, the only places you’ll find yourself fighting are in the mines.
Potion Permit uses combat much more aggressively – as you explore the wilds around Moonbury, you’ll come face to face with all manner of beasts. Some are aggressive on purpose, while some only attack when provoked. There are no actual, defined weapons, just the tools you already have at your disposal. Stardew Valley’s battlegrounds, with cooler creature designs and dedicated combat mechanics, leave a stronger impression.
4/9 Characters: Pelican Town’s exciting cast
The people of Pelican Town in Stardew Valley have a history, and it’s immediately apparent the first time you wander into their midst. There’s friendship, rivalry, family drama and everything in between. It feels like you’ve wandered into the thick of a living, breathing place.
Although Moonbury has many characters to get to know, they don’t have the same immediate sense of community. Charming though they are, they are not that lived in. This improves over time, but they never reach the height of Pelican Town’s residents.
3/9 Story: Potion Permit Has Stakes
While Potion Permit has a central plot around you, Stardew Valley is all about new stories. Creating the best farm ever may be your main goal, but it doesn’t add much in the way of storytelling. Instead, what makes Stardew Valley so exciting is everything around that main goal – who you befriend, whether you marry, and how you choose to deal with the dusty community center.
Potion Permit has a stronger target. Solve the problems surrounding Moonbury, the remnants of the chemists before you, and heal people. You have a point to prove, people to heal and a city to save. Your time at Moonbury is explicitly a test of your competence; there is effort for your success. Everything else is background noise.
2/9 Minigame: They Matter In Potion Permit
Potion Permit has a minigame that is central to one of its main mechanics – potion brewing. Everything from part-time jobs (for extra money and possibly some praise) to diagnosing patients at your clinic has a small mini-game component. And, like Stardew Valley, you can also fish. However, it is much more relaxing than Stardew’s notoriously difficult version.
There aren’t a ton of mini-games in Stardew Valley other than the highly addictive Journey of the Prairie King and fishing. Potion Permit wins simply because its minigames feel weighty – they all give you something, whether it’s a new potion, some extra cash, or a hard-won diagnosis.
1/9 Pets: Noxe is your partner
We all love dogs, don’t we guys? Stardew Valley gave us the choice of a dog or a cat to hang around our yard, and blessed us with four-legged friends running around our yards. Unfortunately, other than filling their water bowls and “petting” them once a day, we didn’t get any quality time with our special little guys.
Fortunately, Potion Permit’s dog, who goes by the default name of Noxe, is a character in his own right. He is your constant companion, with his own mechanics. He can dig up ingredients for you and help you track down NPCs. But the important thing is that you can actively take care of him. Who cares about mechanical value when you can give your best boy so many pets and steaks?
NEXT: Changes to make the potion permission go from good to good