Devolver Digital as a publisher and gaming company has never really shied away from controversy or outspoken politics. The company openly supports unionization in the games industry for one thing, and with their latest high-profile release, the trend they helped set of being open and honest about the state of the world through gaming is set to continue.
Weedcraft Inc. is the latest game published by Devolver, and developed by Vile Monarch, which seeks to add it’s own voice to the cacophony of noise surrounding the increasingly politicized games industry. And yes reactionary anger mob, games are inherently political, as they both make effective statements about the state of the world, and seek to create change through expression. Games are not just escapism, they never really have been as long as they contain reflections of their creators.
And Weedcraft Inc. clearly contains some of the reflections of the opinions and observations of the developers and publishers, as there is a very clear attempt here to make the player invested in both the game and the message it’s sending out, and the game does this in some pretty clever ways.
When first examining this game, you might be fooled into thinking that Vile Monarch and Devolver just wanted to make a simple game about stoner culture and drug policy, and be done with it. And to some degree that perception is accurate, as the core gameplay loops in Weedcraft Inc. are actually very simple, but just like base perceptions in real life, there is always more to the story.
The core gameplay is split into two parts, each with their own unique challenges and approach.
The gameplay of Weedcraft Inc. is really split into two sections, and the overall trend of business in the cannabis scene is actually decently captured in this game. You go from a grunt growing dirt bud in a rundown backroom, having to manage the growing of different strains and all of their needs, to very quickly scaling up.
As your grows produce product, you then move into the market, trying to sell your produce at various spots around the starting zone in Flint. You can then take your operation to a grander scale, but you must deal with competition at the same time. And the only way to beat said competition is to offer a better quality product. You do this by improving the nutrients and growing conditions for your plants, and this is where the real choice of the game kicks in, and in my opinion, the game hits a major stumbling block.
You can choose to be more hands-on and manage your grows directly, tweaking your strains and their conditions to perfection, or you can take a more top-down managerial approach to your business. If you go the latter route, prepare to hire employees and be forced into a much more interpersonal gameplay loop.
The gameplay transitions into a mode of having to spend all your time talking to people and learning about them in intimate detail. Options open up from here, allowing you to do interesting things like blackmailing the law and your competition. While it can be fun for a time, it’s at this point that the game gets very chaotic and somewhat harder to manage.
The game feels very generic and simple at this point, you very much are reduced to putting in the same random combinations of input, hoping that RNG gives you the output you want. And I suppose this is intentional, after all, selling illicit substances isn’t all fun and games, but some people might not like all of the hustle and bustle.
The art style is actually a little bit charming. Each of the characters look unique and often tend to surprise you. As you interact with them, they will potentially reveal secrets they hold or opinions they cherish, giving you a clearer picture of who they are as a person. And continuing the trend of playing on your expectations, Vile Monarch has managed to create a fairly deep social element to the game that gets the player invested in getting to know the people around them.
The game performs well, and there aren’t too many issues with bugs that I encountered.
Weedcraft Inc. is a relatively cheap bit of fun at only around $17 USD. The gameplay is a simple mix of two core gameplay loops, offering both a basic business sim for the more economically minded, while also serving up some dank interpersonal conflict and tension in an interesting addition to the typical style of “clicker” games.
Weedcraft Inc at it’s core is an interesting game. It not only blends political commentary about US drug policy and the attitude toward drug users into a somewhat enjoyable game, it also manages to bring about some level of introspection through gameplay. You really start to wonder whether the choices you make in this digital pot business are really worth it.
The game is out now for PC and Mac, go check it out on Steam and GOG.