Playing Weedcraft Inc. gave me a serious case of the anxiety sweats.
Sweating is how my body reacts to high-risk situations, which is exactly what it chose to do while I played Weedcraft Inc., the drug-based business tycoon/management simulator game.
Developed by Vile Monarch and published by Devolver Digital, it’s out April 11 on Steam.
Weedcraft Inc. Preview
I’ve spent the past week playing Weedcraft Inc. and have had a surprising amount of fun with it. For a game with a seemingly dumb premise, it’s executed in an intelligent and clever way.
Weedcraft Inc. challenges you to build a business empire through the growing and selling of weed. As owner and operator, you have the power to sell marijuana either legally or through illicit means. By opening up these options to the player, Weedcraft Inc. throws itself into the politically and emotionally charged debate of legalisation.
Vile Monarch achieves this by anchoring the gameplay to various narrative-driven scenarios. The two playable scenarios in the build we played basically equate to Weedcraft Inc.‘s easy and hard modes.
The ‘easy’ option, as it were, casts you as a business school dropout who returns home following his father’s untimely death. You then join up with your brother to start growing and selling cannabis. It’s your responsibility to manage the operation from its humble beginnings, overseeing the growth of your product, to the hiring of employees, to expand into new markets to grow you burgeoning drug empire.
There’s a lot going on in Weedcraft Inc., but thankfully this first scenario helps to ease you into its various gameplay elements and systems. For starters, you’ll be guided through the basic mechanics of growing your Hashish.
He’s Just Gonna Break Bad?
Growing ganja essentially boils down to two basic steps; select the strain, or type, of weed you want to grow; then choose the ‘growth medium’ you want to use, which is basically the soil quality and receptacle used to grow your Bobo Bush.
Once those are selected then it’s a matter of waiting for time to pass until your Devil’s Lettuce is ready to harvest. As you wait, you can perform a number of actions to help it on its way; water your bud and/or train it.
Watering your Dope means exactly what it sounds like; helping to maintain, as well as increase, its overall quality. Gunja quality is determined by two factors; the growth medium used and the nutritional level of that respective strain of weed. Adjusting the nutritional levels requires a fair amount of trial and error. Thankfully, Weedcraft Inc. gives you some indication of whether you’re on the right track to help you along
Meanwhile, ‘training’ your Dinkie Dow reduces the time needed to wait before it can be harvested by trimming its leaves. Definitely an odd choice of word for this purpose, why not ‘prune’ or ‘clip’? In any event, this feature is entirely optional, as you can, like any tycoon/simulator game, speed up the in-game time.
Once your first batch of Hooch is harvested it’s time to start selling. The business side of Weedcraft Inc. is introduced at a reasonable pace to allow you room to experiment and adjust to the various underlining game mechanics.
Selling your El Gallo involves selecting a location on the world map and purchasing a ‘dealer spot’. Once that’s done you then select the Laughing Grass you want to sling and off you go.
The price of your product determines the types of customer it attracts. For instance, the first strain you grow, Reggie, is the go-to Skunk of choice for three of Weedcraft Inc.’s customer types; Vagrants, Regular Joes and Jocks. Each customer type has a threshold he/she is willing to spend, which in turn determines the overall rating of your product in the marketplace.
I spoke about quality in relation to growing your weed, but once it’s in the marketplace quality relates instead to a number of differing factors. Whilst the actual quality of your weed will play a role, things like the price will also factor in, as well.
Sell your Whacky Tabacky for too much money you risk turning away customers like vagrants. On the flipside, however, upping the price of your product might also make it more attractive to other customers; Jocks are, for example, happy to pay, providing the quality of your Aunt Mary.
Stay out of My Territory
With the basics of selling covered, other gameplay elements, such as hiring employees, dealing with competition from other dealers, buying front businesses and a police meter are introduced.
Weedcraft Inc.’s police meter is its most terrifying feature; and the one that gave me the most anxiety. This in-game bar measures the level of police attention your operation is attracting. Keeping this bar as low as possible is both costly and time-consuming.
Once all of these basic elements were introduced I was finally set free. My first challenge? See whether I could manage to earn a profit of $3,000 a month for three consecutive months. At this point I started to grow by hiring employees, expanding my growing and selling operations and opening front businesses to detract attention.
However, I quickly began bleeding money at a rapid rate. I’d sprung the trap so many start-ups fall into; I’d expanded too quickly. Like Walter White in Breaking Bad, I too thought I could have it all and paid the price.
Unable to fight off my competition, avoid police attention and sustain my business, everything collapsed under the severe financial strain I’d place on my operation. Broken and bruised, the game simply ended on a harrowing scene of my business in ruins.
A Man Provides
The second available scenario casts you as an ex-con looking for work. Unable to secure one legally, you turn to an old mate who is trying to expand his ‘legal’ marijuana business.
I mentioned earlier that Weedcraft Inc. uses its narrative to enter the debate over weed legalisation by allowing its player to choose between legal or illegal means of building their business; be it through slinging dope on the corner or purchasing a license to sell medicinal marijuana.
The legalisation debate also takes root in the employees you can hire. In addition to their unique skills (growing / selling, etc.), your employees will either support legal or illegal drug use. Assign a pro-legal employee to an illegal operation and you’ll be in for a bad time.
This will cause them to confront you for either more money or with a threat to expose you. You can mitigate this by talking with them and getting to know them in a friendly way. Weedcraft Inc. features an impressive conversation system that includes an RPG-like dialogue tree that allows you to befriend other characters; learn their interests; and persuade them to do things they otherwise wouldn’t.
One of the coolest things about Weedcraft Inc.‘s conversation system is you can use it to befriend your competitors. My wife took advantage of this function, convincing her competitors to ‘handle’ a certain dealer causing her grief. It’s so nice when drug dealers come together for a common good.
I’m in the Empire Business
Weedcraft Inc. markets itself as exploring the business, political and cultural aspects of marijuana. To this end, it provides narratives that explore these themes and wraps them around a solid business tycoon game.
Do you opt for the legal and more financially difficult and restrictive option? Or do you go free and easy and conduct illegal activities to make money? The choice is yours and Weedcraft Inc. does a stellar job of tackling these topics; while also providing fairly solid gameplay at the same time.
And if you don’t care about games that make political statements. Weedcraft Inc. is also just a rock-solid management game about growing and selling dope.
Weedcraft Inc. was previewed on PC using a build provided by the publisher.