Ah, the Devil’s Lettuce. Wacky baccy. Weed. Cannabis. Grass. Green stuff. The thing you were told to say no to. There are many words for marijuana, but it’s not a subject we see in video games very often, even despite the growing acceptance of its usage and potential medical benefits. Devolver Digital and developer Vile Monarch must have reckoned there was a space in the market then. Their game, Weedcraft Inc is all about weed. Or more specifically, how to make some money from growing and selling it. Can this light strategy game give players a buzz, though?
When you fire the game up you’ll be given a choice between two scenarios; the first is designed to introduce the various mechanics piece by piece, while the other gives you everything unlocked from the start while also introducing a few other elements into the mix.
In the first scenario you’ll be taking on the role of a young man returning home after the death of his father, his college work abandoned due to a lack of cash. On his return to Flint, Michigan he discovers that his brother has been secretly growing weed in the basement to help with his father’s pain. Now the two hatch a plan to expand the operation and make some money, either legally or illegally.
To do that you’ll start off by growing some plants in your family home’s basement. But from there you’ll spend money to rent out new locations across Flint, Fargo and New York, each acting as its own separate location. Money is shared between these areas, but the only way to get weed from New York is via smuggling.
The developers sure have covered weed in its many incarnations. It’s a nearly bewildering array of plants. From True OG to Blue Dream and White Widow, every one has a set of traits that makes it appeal to specific customers. You can buy more strains, too, growing your collection so that you always have the right plant for the right customer. If that wasn’t enough there’s even the ability to breed your own strains of marijuana. Later in the game this became the best strategy, letting me tailor my weed to my customers for better profit.
Actually growing the stuff is where Weedcraft Inc goes slightly mobile game-ish. When you set up a new grow room there’re lights to choose from, soil types and handy gadgets like fans for adjusting temperature or even 02 boosters for extra growth. All of these factors contribute to the yield of the plants and their quality.
Once you start growing a plant you hit a pop-up bubble to water it which triggers a timer until it can be watered again. There’s also a pop-up button for training the planet, which makes it grow quicker by trimming it. I assume this was all done to give you something to do during the growing process. It doesn’t work, though. It’s dull, and made me feel like I was playing a cheap mobile game. I kept waiting for the option to spend real money to grow my plants faster to pop up.
With some cash in your pocket its expansion time. Another building, another grow room. After a while it becomes pretty clear that you can’t manage everything by yourself. There’s just too many bubbles to click on, dammit! Happily you can spend some of your cash to hire employees who will look after plants and sell your smelly wares. A single employee can perform up to five jobs at any given time, although dividing their time does make them less effective. Over time, they’ll gain experience and you can choose to improve their growing, selling or personal skills. This will also trigger them asking for a raise, though. Offer them too little, and they may not stay, while paying them more can bump up their motivation and friendliness.
The quality of your plants is a big part of the game. You can adjust temperature and humidity of a room, as well as play with the ratio of nutrients they get. Each time you water a plant you’ll get an indication of whether you’ve improved the quality or not. The higher the quality, the easier it is to sell and more you can charge.
Speaking of selling, there’s no point in growing all this wacky baccy if you don’t sell it. To do that you pick a building on the screen, then pick a space and set up a dealer’s corner or a legal dispensary. More on that later. You need one space per type of weed you want to sell, so if you want to put out a variety you need to take up more spaces. This means potentially occupying rooms you need for growing or research. Having limited space is a constant part of Weedcraft Inc’s puzzle. Finally, when customers want to spend some money you have to hold the left mouse click on yet another pop-up bubble button. Sale done, cash in pocket.
You’re not the only one peddling their wares, mind. Locations tend to have competition selling their own stuff, so to get the most cash it comes down to checking out the types of customers that are there. Each has preferences and price thresholds, from cancer patients to businessmen to metal heads. They’ll rate your plants based on their preferences, the quality and the price. To beat the competition you need to either have better rated stuff, or offer much lower prices. If you can consistently outsell the other dealers they’ll leave. It’s a great idea, but somewhat let down by the fact that almost as soon as the competition leaves someone else takes their place. Your hard-fought victory doesn’t give you much of a high when it barely lasts. And ultimately it just comes to growing the best quality cannabis that you can.
Still, I really enjoyed the light tactical thinking needed to shift stock. You need to carefully consider whether it’s worth expanding grow rooms or selling at a new place. Do you have good types of grass for the people there? If not, do you need to consider raising the quality of what you do have? Or dropping the price? Then you need to think about which buildings to grow in and which to sell in. Every time you occupy a new place you agree to a monthly fee that piles on top of your existing employee and equipment bills.
Where Weedcraft Inc had a chance of making itself stand out is in conversation mechanics. You can build relationships with employees, police and even the competition. By doing this cops can be bribed easier, or you can ask a rival to move on and other things. It’s a nice idea that could have added an extra layer of depth to the game. However, there are no characters. Instead, there is generic, awkwardly written dialogue that applies to every person you meet. The shy-looking young woman will talk exactly the same as the grizzled thug covered in tattoos who will speak much like the local beat cop.
The most frustrating thing is that speaking to characters is a real chore. To keep relationships maintained you have to speak to each person on a consistent basis. Every conversation involves clicking through the same set of options with the occasional new topic opening up. Except there’s no custom dialogue for those, either, so you just get more generic answers.
But you can still get some decent moments out of these generic NPCs. A cop might come knocking and kindly mention that the building smells like somebody accidentally bought a dozen skunks after mistaking them for cats. It’s nice that not all the cops are shown as being against weed. So, the next day you chuck in an air purifier to help keep the smell in check.
You also get some weird moments. For example, having bailed an employee out of jail for a fee and giving them a raise they were great friends with more and classed as being highly motived. About 2-minutes later, though, they came to me stating that the competition had offered them a job and that they would take it if I didn’t offer a nice lump sum. Some friend.
But I did like how there’s a little room for careful politicking. The competition will often cause problems for you by stealing your stuff or intimidating employees. By befriending them you can nicely ask them to stop it, but you can also build a relationship with the police and get them to do your dirty work for you. Your employees can be sent to snoop around, potentially finding some dirt that can be used for blackmail.
So far we’ve talked about the shady side of it all. Selling grass in back alleys and marketplaces can be lucrative, but it also attracts the attention of the local cops. Your employees can be arrested, you can have your equipment and plants confiscated and more. To try to keep the fuzz from constantly breaking down your front door you can setup front business to explain away the amount of people traipsing in and out. These businesses can even bring in new types of customer, like the pizza shop attracting college kids. Annoyingly, though, you once again have to hold left click on pop-up bubbles to bring the current police vigilance down. What is your fascination with these things, Weedcraft Inc? You can also install air scrubbers inside your grow rooms to slow down the growing red bar which indicates the cops are perhaps paying a little too much attention to you. However, that means taking up space which could have been used for a plant.
You can always opt to work on the right side of the law through legal operations. Many buildings give you the chance to purchase a pricey medical license, meaning grow rooms are safe from cops and your shady corner deals turn into perfectly legitimate dispensaries. However, there are only three types of legal customer; cancer patients, PTSD sufferers and people who have epileptic fits. Nobody else will come to your dispensary to buy some weed.
The downside to going down the entirely legal route is that it removes many of the more interesting elements from the game. The police no longer harass you, there’s less overall competition and you only sell to three types of patient. But happily Weedcraft Inc. does let you tread the line by selling legally and illegally, if you prefer.
NPCs will sometimes pop up to offer you orders for specific strains of weed, plants with specific effects or just a massive quantity of the Devil’s Lettuce at a certain quality. These will typically offer you chunks of cash, research points and some experience for completing them. However, a lot of the time it’ll mean setting up a big grow room somewhere just for that order, to having to spend a bunch of research points on creating a new strain that has everything the order needs. I like these orders, and I enjoyed the very light story elements they bring with them.
The second scenario puts you into the shoes of an ex-con, a man who was once jailed for growing weed. After finally being released he finds himself in a world where marijuana is now legal for recreation and medical use. Once again it’s a case of building a weed growing empire, but this time some new customer types are introduced and a couple of mechanics get tossed into the mix. You’ll be able to market your products, as well as lobby for legal changes, too. It feels like the stronger scenario, simply because it gives you more to do, more customers to consider and focus on.
Sadly there’s no sandbox. At the end of each scenario you can keep playing, but it would be nice to have a dedicated sandbox where you can build a weed empire without worrying about specific objectives.
Ultimately I found Weedcraft Inc to be a fun little strategy game that doesn’t tax the mind too much. It’s easy to squander a few relaxed hours building grow rooms, making new strains targeting certain customers and then watching the cash come flooding in. With all of that said considering the “edgy” topic Weedcraft Inc plays it very safe both in terms of its stories and its gameplay. There’s nothing here that’s very exciting mechanically speaking. And if you’re looking for something to really sink your teeth into, this isn’t going to be it. But hey, sometimes all you want is a relaxed game that you can kick back and enjoy.
3 out 5