It’s Christmas Eve. If ever there was a fitting day to play a game based around a crafting workshop, this is it. Instead of creating “toys and goodies,” I’m hocking a broadsword to every traveller that meanders into my store. Craftlands Workshoppe beautifully captures how it would feel to run a busy workshop. The game is essentially a feverishly paced blend of micromanagement and craftsmanship. You are either delegating tasks to your workers or doing the job yourself, all while droves of customers begin to pile up at your store counter.
The beauty of Craftlands Workshoppe is that you set the pace. While there is always a surplus of tasks to accomplish, the player is always in control. Want to spend an entire day gathering resources? Go ahead. If you instead want to leisure around and explore the town, there are no drawbacks to doing so. I found my groove gathering resources for several days in a row, crafting items the next couple of days, and then focusing solely on selling them, but you could mix it up however you want. It’s possible to gather the resources, craft the items, and sell them all on the same day, if you have the gumption to do so.
There are three possible options for crafting: alchemy, blacksmithing, and cooking. The goal of the game is to perfect all three professions and solve the mystery of what happened to your old master, Allcraft. I picked blacksmithing, and I found my daily routine seemed focused on a very small area of the map. I’d go up into the nearby forest to mine iron or gather wood, and then I’d travel to “He who smelt it,” the local blacksmithing supplies store. It was in this monotonous routine that the game began to feel like a bit of a grind. Especially since the vast majority of my customers seemed hellbent on buying only one item. I found myself crafting hundreds of swords in the first couple in-game days of play.
I’m no stranger to grinding. I understand that it is an essential part of games like Craftlands Workshoppe. The issue is that when you are forced to do the same menial tasks over and over, there needs to be some variety built into the way it is performed. In Craftlands Workshoppe, the test is always to time your click for when your cursor coincides with a green bar. This gets repetitive extremely fast. By my hundredth sword, I basically never missed the bar, and it began to feel automated in a weird way. There definitely needs to be variety added in terms of these mini-games.
Luckily, after a while, you unlock the Worker’s Basement, where you can, unsurprisingly, hire workers to automate these tasks for you. Once you master a certain item (by selling a certain amount of them), you can delegate this item to be made by your workers. The only issue I found with this is that at first it is prohibitively expensive and requires hours of in-game grinding to simply get the system rolling. But, it is nice to see a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of your own endless grinding of the mini-game. Instead, you are able to delegate the workers in the basement to the damning fate of endless toil.
Unfortunately, I encountered one of the few game breaking glitches I could imagine. My store was stuck closed. The game displayed my store as permanently open, yet no customers would enter no matter how long I stood at the counter. No amount of toggling would change the status of my store, and I tried restarting the game several times to no avail. This meant that I was left with no ability to generate income, and my journey in Craftsman Workshoppe had essentially ended. I don’t hold this too strongly against the developers, it’s early days for the game, and these things happen, but losing all your progress after hours of grinding is disheartening to say the least. The only other glitch I encountered was that my anvil got stuck on a single recipe. I could only create nails. A simple restart of the game fixed this bug, however.
Glitches aside, the real problem is that you never feel as if you’re ahead. The first couple hours are spend diligently grinding to be able to master your first item. Then, you immediately have to grind further to unlock the Worker’s Basement. But even when you’ve achieved that, the workers become another expense you can’t possibly float. You’re always behind the eight ball. I have no doubts that when you get to the point when everything is up and running the game will feel different, but getting to that point is an arduous journey to put it lightly. There needs to be a greater feeling of reward built into the early game.
For a passive gamer, the kind of person who likes to relax and sink hours into a game, Craftlands Workshoppe could actually be perfect. There is plenty to like. The setting of a sleepy town juxtaposed with eccentric inhabitants is reminiscent of the Legend of Zelda franchise. The gameplay, barring the one glitch I experienced, was smooth and well-thought out. I believe they designed the game with a dedicated player in mind rather than someone who wants instant satisfaction. Even the minimalistic story was intriguing enough. For me, though, the game in its current state is too repetitive and you’re seemingly at a perpetual disadvantage. I definitely see potential here, but we aren’t there yet.