Weedcraft Inc Review (PS5)
Trading green for green
Publisher: Devolver Digital, Klabater
I think I have to come clean before this whole review starts. I never smoked weed, I never intend to smoke it, and I hate the smell. I also groan every time I read a comment about someone being high when watching (or playing) something. So it may seem weird that I ended up playing and reviewing a game where you grow weed, sell it, try to rise to the top with your empire, and some story bits obviously involving weed. Well, it looked like it would be interesting and a good business management sim.
Before you start growing your weed empire, you do need to pick out the scenario you’ll play in as this does incorporate some story elements. There are three scenarios you can go into: Growing Up, Highs and Lows, and Heat Wave. Growing Up is the first scenario and is the basic one as it more or less acts like a tutorial as it does lock mechanics behind quest completions. It’s recommended to start with this campaign so you learn by doing. It helps in a way that it doesn’t overwhelm you, but it’s also annoying when you restart it and the steep money hills you have to get over to continue. Anyway, Growing Up has you play as John who was in college to get his business degree. However, he was only able to complete the first year as his father, who was paying his tuition, died due to an illness. It seems like his father being ill was kept away from John as it seems like such a surprise for him. John moves back to his hometown and now lives with his brother Clyde who is a tad anti-establishment and paranoid. It doesn’t take long before Clyde brings John into his little weed growing secret and teaches him how to do things. John starts as a total noob, but he’ll grow into a pro that just sits back as the green rolls in. It’ll take a while, but what doesn’t. There’s only one icon on the menu that doesn’t get unlocked in this scenario and thus two mechanics don’t get introduced in this scenario.
The other two scenarios are advanced and it’s best to know what you’re doing before diving into them. Highs and Lows has you play as Jerome who smoked and smuggled weed. That is, until a raid happened and he was caught in it and put in jail. 15 years later, Jerome was finally let out and he’s struggling. He eventually meets up with Matty, who was one of his old partners, who is some big shot as you’ll be able to tell by his outfit and the fact that he boasts about being an influencer. You also learn that Jerome was the only one arrested as the others laid low for years, but now are doing pretty well within the weed business. Matty gets you back in and as you help to rise his, now their, business to the top, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a little revenge on the guy you’re pretty sure snitched. Meanwhile, Heat Wave has you play as Celia who is the second generation of a pot-farming family. Her family owns a pretty nice villa and her father started the farm before passing it onto her mother. While I’m sure it’s going to be passed down to Celia eventually, she’s just going to do what she’s been doing all along. However, there are some conflicts brewing. Celia’s son just graduated and it doesn’t look like he wants to follow in his family’s footsteps (much to his grandmother’s wishes) and the legalization of weed is coming. It’s unknown what it’ll do to the family business, but Celia wants to go legal while her mother wants to stay in the illegal market as she sees their family legacy secured. After all, they’re not like the small fry getting caught and legal farms surely won’t be able to out supply them. Will you try to weasel out the legal competition like Celia’s mother wants you to do, or do what Celia wants and go legal (or at least mostly legal)?
You can also do a custom scenario if you end up completing all the scenarios or just want to dive in without dealing with any of the story bits blocking you. This is basically the sandbox mode for the game as there are multiple things you can set other than what character you want to use (whether it’s one from the story scenarios or a sandbox exclusive character). You can pick your background to determine your starting perks, what cities you want (or randomize them all), and then the difficulty or where you character starts at when they start their weed growing business. That determines how much money and research points you start out with, the starting influence, and how long the game will be.
There is also a Chill Mode you can toggle to make the scenario easier. It lowers the chance of negative events, makes it easier to maintain relationships, and gives you slightly more money as all the customer price thresholds are raised. Though, you do need to toggle this before starting (or be sure you want it on) as it doesn’t look like you can toggle it off or on in the middle of a scenario and, well, it can be a bit annoying having to start a scenario over.
Now to dive into the meat and bones of Weedcraft Inc: managing your soon-to-be empire. While it may seem like this game will be simple, it’s actually surprisingly deeper than you’d suspect. How fast you rise up in the beginning will depend on your character’s background and your knowledge on the game, but everyone starts out the same: planting your first plant. After finding a building to rent and setting up your (illegal) grow room, you can set up your lights and plant the weed strands you want to grow. At first, you start with just a few pot spots, one or a few starting strands, and some starter soil (it might not be good, but it’s what you have). Taking care of these plants are simple, you just need to water them and trim it (by holding down the button just long enough) every so often until they’re ready to be harvested. Of course, you need somewhere to sell your weed, so you either go to a different location just to sell it or set up one in your building, set your price that customers are happy with, and wait until someone wants to buy your product.
That’s the basics, but it’s a bit more complicated than that and it does expand quite a bit. As you earn more money and get further into the story scenario, you can do more. You’re able to tweak the plants nutrients to try and get better quality weed. Each strand also has their own optimal temperature and humidity, which you can put in other equipment down in your grow spots that let you fiddle with these conditions in the room. It may seem more effective to have every spot be taken up by plants and have the lights with the highest yield, but there are consequences. Not only will it become too hot for the plants, but it’ll attract more attention from the cops (or police vigilance). There are even some growing mediums that do rise or lower humidity, quality of the plant, and police vigilance. So, within each grow room, you’ll have to manage all these aspects and get it just right for whatever strand your growing. You can also, of course, buy new weed strains to grow or even make your own by combining your strains and having enough research points to get the effects you want. Every building also has limited space, so you can expand your grow room, but you might also want to put in a dealer’s corner so you can sell to the customers that appear there, a lab to get research points, or a front business to get some heat off of that building. It’s also best to sell your product at places where the customers love the strain, or even grow the strain that’s the most popular. Just, be sure to look out for buildings that are selling spots only lest you buy it thinking you can grow weed there (which totally didn’t happen to me…).
You can quickly get too many plants for you to handle, but don’t worry as you can hire employees quite early on. Employees will excel in different roles and you can assign them to growing, selling, or to do the shadier acts like stealing weed strains or gathering possible blackmail. This is where the social aspects first come in as you ideally will keep up your relationship with everyone. The conversations here are pretty boring. Aside from the weed talking points, which I do think the game handles well as it looks at it from both angles, it’s pretty boring and you can learn to game the system to get it max on the first conversation. High relationships will let you get favors done for free, which is definitely helpful as you’ll be talking to competition and cops, without needing to bride or blackmail them. Everyone will also have their own integrity level, which determines how likely they’ll do illegal activities or accept working at an illegal business without extra compensation, how accepting they are to weed, and motivation. For your employees specifically, you might want to give them a raise to keep their motivations high so they won’t leave. You’ll also be able to upgrade your employee’s skill, but that and having them stationed at multiple places may call for you to give them a raise so they don’t leave.
However, you’re not the only seller in town as you’ll be competing with everyone else selling weed. So even if you don’t want to make the best quality weed for yourself, do it for the money. You can just chase out competition, but you can befriend them all. Heck, you can even request them to go after other competition for you (which is funny if you’re friendly with all of them). Not to mention the cops will also be up on you if you’re in the illegal business. While you can keep vigilance down in the areas you’re working at and hope you can bribe the cops, you can also just befriend them. This allows you to get away with more without bribing or blackmailing and you can even request them to ignore your activities in a particular spot.
If you feel your hold on your starting town is strong enough for you to leave without everything crumbling, you can even expand to two other towns. You’ll be able to smuggle weed between cities, breed your own weed strains, manipulate your stock to dilute or concentrate it, may need to decide whether to stay illegal or go legal, take customer requests, be able to do marketing campaigns, and even try to influence legislation. You also gain influence as you do more, decent and shady, which leveling it up will give you access to perks. Perks can give you more of an edge, like increasing how long your relationships last and slightly decrease growth time, or even give you more options, like different growing mediums and different options like letting you request your competition’s research. It’s all pretty complicated and takes a while to really understand what is optimal or not.
Performance is good on the PS5, but it does freeze for a second or two as it autosaves. And if you have my luck, it’ll be whenever you’re doing something. It’s not too annoying when you’re just in a menu (even though it temporarily closes it as it autosaves), but it can be annoying when you’re cutting a plant and mess it up.
In terms of how it controls with a controller, it’s okay but annoying. While you’re in the overworld, or in a grow room, you basically can go into two radial menus. One is for the UI that’s surrounding the outside of the screen and the other is to change the panel information to the grow room condition or to see different information on the town map like the competition (which allows you to talk to them and see where each of them are at). I feel it doesn’t help that you’re thrown in without a controller tutorial (or that you need to go to the help menu to look at the tutorials for all the different mechanics) as having to figure it out can let a lot of things slide. I didn’t know where I could talk to competition to befriend them, which is an early Growing Up scenerio request, nor did I know that you could see your finances charts or where to manipulate/breed your weed strains until I happened to click the trigger to change panels on the map and saw it in a gameplay video for the latter two. There is also a bit of awkwardness here and there as well. The game does use your thumbsticks as buttons and I found it really awkward when you want to change your growing medium (which requires you to go to that section in the meny, press R2, and then press the thumbstick to get to it) and since pressing circle will close out menus you need to press the thumbstick if you want to go back to a previous page (like if you were viewing information on a customer and you want to go back to the customer list). After a while you do get used to it, and for what they had to work with it’s good, but you can still be prone to messing up. I guess I should have expected this, but Weedcraft Inc is definitely a game you should get on PC if you can.
If there’s one thing that you should take away that explains the type of business sim Weedcraft Inc is, it’s that it’s a balancing act between all the different aspects and mechanics. You have to balance what you need while also making sure you’re making the most profit you can; as well as keeping your relationships up…or finding blackmail material. This game is deeper than it looks and while the social aspect is boring and playing with a controller is annoying, I gotta say this game is interesting. Personally, I didn’t enjoy Weedcraft Inc as much as I thought I would, but it’s a good business management sim nonetheless. If you like other sim games that’s in the similar vein, you will most likely enjoy this. Plus, if you have a bunch of podcast episodes or videos to catch up on, this is a good game to play as you listen to them. Though, if you’re unsure, I do recommend looking up gameplay that’s barely, if at all, edited to get a more accurate picture on how the game plays.