If you think killing chimeras is rough, try haggling with a wizard
Games typically slip us into the leather shoes of wizards, adventurers, and dragon-slayers, but rarely do we see any love given to the merchants who equip those men and women before they go off to seek their fame, fortune, and possibly a nasty manticore sting. It’s time to give shopkeepers their due with Swords and Potions, a Facebook game that lets you don the apron of a young medieval merchant.
On paper, running a virtual store doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun, especially if you work in retail for a living. However, Swords and Potions has an odd quality: it’s relaxing to play, even when the game’s pace picks up.
You begin the game by creating your merchant, tweaking their gender, clothing, and face. Once the details are done, you’re set to start your very first day alongside the craftsperson who will help forge some of your wares. For instance, you can choose a carpenter who will hammer and saw wood-based wares for you within a certain number of hours (“hours” being measured by game time, and not real time). Or you can choose a mage who will brew salable potions, or a tailor who can work with fabrics to assemble robes and gloves.
As you progress in the game, you’ll have opportunities to hire the craftspeople you initially missed out on. Regardless of whomever is working in the back of your shop, though, customers constantly file into your store through your working day, and they’re all hungry for a sale.
Ideally, you want to have a decent variety of wares up for grabs, because your customer base is varied. You’ll serve warriors who want swords and shields, archers who want bows, mages who want potions, and so on. If you don’t have what they want, you might be able to convince them to buy an alternative (“Well, I came here for a healing potion, but sandals? Sure, what the hey!”). Or they might tell you to go hang. Customers will also offer to sell you their own junk for re-sale, which comes in handy if you’re low on wares and your craftspeople are busy researching new items to build.
There’s a lot to do in Swords and Potions. You need to deal with customers (and haggle with them when they try and rip you off), keep your craftspeople happy, stock raw materials for them to work with, run an optional guild, upgrade your store, possibly take on a quest or two, and much more. The action gets a little hectic at times, but the game rarely feels like one of those Diner Dash-type time management games that make you want to break down and cry. You can pause at almost any time and contemplate your next big purchase, or your next move. As a welcome change, Swords and Potions rarely hassles you about microtransactions, and doesn’t force you to wait hours and hours for a task to get done. It’s a pretty steady game.
It’s also not overly-pretty, but the simplistic graphics do their job. The shop’s tune changes from day to day, which is a nice touch.
Swords and Potions is a fun freemium experience. It’s very easy for a less-experienced gamer to latch onto, while a more confident player can get pretty deep into the game’s mechanisms. If you work in retail, try calling in sick, then spend the day playing a game about running a virtual shop. Go ahead. Blow your own mind.