hpaws-gameplay.gifAs you can probably guess from the title, Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! is a casual weapon shop simulator currently in development. The words "casual" and "simulation" don't often band together well, but this is one case where I think they do. The game doesn't have a long list of systems to balance, but there are enough conflicting choices to keep the game interesting. Players must learn to balance sending smiths out to go shopping or sell wares with the tasks of making things to sell and researching new recipes, all while still finding time for their smiths to take vacations. I would put it pretty squarely in the management subcategory of simulation games.

It starts out sounding like a weapon shop version of Harvest Moon; your legendary blacksmith of a grandfather has died and left you his weapon shop. Very quickly, you get hints that the agent in charge of helping you with the financial side of the shop is out to swindle you and that your grandfather isn't actually dead, but the main character is very trusting and so you just get to work making weapons to sell, increasing the fame and value of the workshop.

Making weapons is as easy as placing smiths at the various stations in the shop, choosing a recipe, and hitting go. However, each smith has a job that is best at increasing one weapon stat over the other possible stats. Which station you places them at determines which stat they affect during the time the weapon is being crafted. So if you really want an axe to have a lot of attack power and speed but don't care about accuracy, you can take an accuracy smith and put him at an attack or speed station for a while. You can also boost a stat twice, focusing on one or splitting your efforts between two. When boosting, you can use a smith on staff or hire a freelancer to lend their skills to your cause.

Once one or more weapons have been crafted, you can send a smith out to sell them to heroes in need. This is the first of several options for tasks outside the workshop that opens up and the beginning of where the game's depth starts to really show. You can sell any weapon to any hero, but certain heroes benefit more from certain types of weapons with certain primary stats than do others. The shop's fame and income only go up as heroes level up, and so it's in your best interests to help the heroes level up as fast as possible, which means matching the appropriate weapons to the right heroes.

6-select-offers.pngHowever, sometimes the hero who will benefit most from a weapon is not the one offering the most money for it. Do you need more materials to make new weapons? Maybe you really need that money right now so you can send a smith out to go shopping for parts. Eventually you gain the ability to explore other areas, looking for crafting materials, enchanting materials for buffing weapons, or ancient relics used for researching new recipes (which in turn require rarer materials in higher numbers), but the results of exploration are random. Only shopping is a sure-fire bet for getting the parts you need.

There are a lot of things to do outside of the shop, all of which are beneficial and all of which have their own experience levels. One of my smiths is Laura Craft, and since her namesake is obviously a certain female treasure hunter, I most often send her out when I need exploring done. But sending her out all the time would leave her job station in the workshop untended. The game also requires you to have at least one smith in the workshop at all times, not researching and available to work.

13-cutscene.pngThe best strategy I've found so far is to rotate through different kinds of weapons with a focus on different stats each time so that I can rotate smiths out of the shop. That axe doesn't really need accuracy if I'm going to sell it to a barbarian, so the accuracy smith can sell the other weapons I've crafted while the enchanting smith takes a vacation. When they get back, maybe I'll make a wand with high accuracy and magic stats while the attack smith explores and the speed smith takes a much-needed break. This lets me keep the workshop producing something constantly, which is important for paying bills, while bringing in needed materials and accomplishing other tasks.

The game has a pretty chill pace, with no way to speed it up and the passage of work time only stopping when you open certain menus. The interface feels like it's been made to work well on either computers or touchscreen devices, with few of the computer downsides that usually come with that. Notably, I would like to see a volume control implemented instead of just on/off, though there isn't an excessive amount of "swiping" or click-dragging required. Interestingly enough, developer Daylight Studios hasn't announced plans to release Holy Potatoes! on mobile devices, though I would love to have the game on my tablet.

10-explore.pngThe game is still in development and could change, but my current assessment is that if you have an itch for a hardcore, finicky simulation to balance, then Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop! won't scratch that itch. If you want a low-pressure simulation game which isn't insultingly easy and has silly potato people versions of celebrities (real and fake), then this would be a good choice.

Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! will be available for Windows and Mac via Steam on July 10th. The price is to be $14.99. The game was Greenlit in a week and Daylight Studios is currently taking applications for beta testers at their web site.