Marijuana: Perhaps the most commonly talked about drug, the most widely used and yet most controversial recreational drug on the planet. Everyone has an opinion on it, and I bet there’s a much larger percentage than are willing to admit that have actually tried it.
And now we have a videogame centred around it. Not in the way the screen goes fuzzy after smoking it purely to trivialise the drug, but the legality and business behind it. Weedcraft Inc isn’t about showing you the effects of smoking the bud, but rather showing you how to make money from it.
Weedcraft Inc is the name, and crafting weed is the game. Buy and sell strains, improve your growing habitats, design new strains, and avoid the police in this drug-fuelled simulation game.
After making waves over on Steam, Weedcraft Inc makes its way to Xbox along with all the post-release content. That means three lengthy scenarios and the ability to create your own games using their custom game tool.
The three scenarios are called Growing Up, Highs and Laws, and Heat Wave. If it isn’t immediately apparent, Growing Up is the easiest starting point. As a business school dropout after your father passes away, you head back to your hometown. Your non-conformist younger brother wants you to help him grow some weed, and thus your journey begins.
This first scenario guides you through the end-to-end process of growing, nurturing, selling, and profiting without overburdening you with information. You are given a space for three plants and told to grow. Once cultivated, you are shown how to sell them. And then you repeat this process ad infinitum.
Of course, there is an awful lot more to Weedcraft; it goes deeper than I initially anticipated. As well as growing and selling, you need to nurture relationships with your staff and police (potentially bribing both to turn a blind eye), set up fronts to remove suspicions on your properties, establish a connection with local cliques to choose your strains over competitors, equip your growths with fans, lights and humidifiers to maximise your plants and even tinker with the chemical composition of your soil.
All this and more is introduced to you within the first couple of hours in the Growing Up scenario. It acts like an extended tutorial, but after this you are very much on your own. There is a lot more that isn’t explained until it is required, and you can quickly find yourself in a bit of a knot trying to figure things out should you delve into menus you haven’t been informed about.
The other two scenarios are even less beginner friendly, and definitely shouldn’t be attempted unless you have a few hours of playtime under your belt. But, conversely, many of the best features of Weedcraft Inc can be experienced straight away in these advanced scenarios.
The PlantMaster allows experimental growers to splice their own strains together. Acting like a slot machine you can add your strains and pay a set number of mutation points. The more you spend, the more chance your splicing will be successful. Then pull on the lever and see what happens.
You can also choose to ignore these structured scenarios and create your own custom game. Choose your character, your cities to start in and expand to, personality and starting money and away you go.
All modes can be played as normal or in “chill mode”. This just makes things a bit easier; fewer cops pestering you, a bit more cash and slower relationship degradation. You can just enjoy Weedcraft Inc at your own pace in this variation.
That chill mode extends to the soundtrack too. As befitting as music can be to smoking a doobie, Weedcraft Inc features a rather excellent instrumental hip hop soundtrack. The opening track instantly sets the scene with its samples and beats. Between the tracks and playing on chill mode, I am just missing the joint to be fully at peace.
However, as always seems to be the problem with simulation games on consoles, the controller shows its restrictions and unfortunately for Weedcraft Inc it doesn’t buck the trend. It does have a neat feature of using the right trigger and left thumbstick almost like a radial menu to navigate around the UI, but it is when you get into the menus that things fall apart. It tries to help by constantly showing button prompts to assist, but these remain throughout and are often confusing. It also isn’t helped by there being unusual inputs required; increasing/decreasing the price you sell your stock for is on the right thumbstick and finding out what your customer’s preferred strains are is done via pressing down the left thumbstick. And, as you can guess, there is a lot of information to be found in these menus.
The UI in Weedcraft Inc is busy to say the least. The ‘hub’ area that shows you where you are growing and selling looks a lot like a freemium city builder title, with plenty of icons popping up you need to interact with. These clicker-like elements are, frustratingly, also contextual requiring you to hold the Y button for a good few seconds. And they pop up frequently too.
Regardless of your thoughts surrounding the source material, there is a deep and complex simulation game to be found in Weedcraft Inc. It doesn’t trivialise marijuana nor does it take itself too seriously, able to satirise no matter which side of the weed fence you sit on. But maybe you’ll want to avoid playing it on consoles as the control scheme hasn’t been translated well to a controller. You can immediately see how this type of game benefits from a mouse as you fiddle around menus and navigation screens, getting yourself in all sorts of a muddle.
Weedcraft Inc is available from the Xbox Store