by Sorin Annuar
reviewed on PC
Crashlands takes the crafting and exploration genre popularised by the likes of Minecraft and Terraria and imbues it with its own unique personality and distinctive story mode. You play as Flux, an intergalactic delivery driver whose cargo gets misappropriated by an evil floating head in space, which also causes your ship to fall apart and strand you on a little backwater planet. Made by Butterscotch Shenanigans, a team of three brothers, a relatively simple concept hides a hugely ambitious game.
Saving the… delivery
The game’s charm lies heavily in its presentation, concept and writing; there are echoes of Sierra On-Line’s classic Space Quest in there, with its humour and protagonist who has gone from a relatively menial job to rising above their station and saving the world (or in this case, completing the delivery). Along the way you’ll be accompanied by your floating robot sidekick, who quips and bounces off Flux, in an endearing odd-couple manner. He also acts as your guide on what you should be doing next to progress the story through the immense procedurally-generated world. A world which the developers claim will take you decades to fully explore.
Control is entirely by mouse, though the keyboard can be used for shortcuts. The game does a great job of explaining its mechanics to you, without really breaking the fourth wall too much. Everything is done on a left-click, from movement to crafting to combat, which is strangely reminiscent of Diablo, right down to finding fast travel spots around the map, and to a lesser extent by embodying the age old game mechanic of killing things to get things to craft things so you can kill more things. Additionally, a creature-taming feature is included, whereby you can tame and raise various creatures to assist you in combat or other tasks.
Graphics are colourful and well-defined, with animations and art revelling in their endearing charm, which is mostly misleading, considering how almost all the creatures roaming the planet will try and kill you. Special mention must also be given to the music, which is consistently excellent and worth listening to outside of the game.
Die, die and die again
The only daunting aspect of the game is the initial difficulty in combat; let your guard down and you will die quickly and without warning. In its defence, the enemies you face will almost always telegraph their attacks by showing the area of effect or path they’ll take, and of course over time you will craft better weapons and armour to increase your chances of survival. The game even features a Dark Souls-esque respawn feature in that when you die, you drop all your crafting materials. Once you respawn you have to make your way back to the spot you died at to retrieve your items. This isn’t as daunting an undertaking as it is in From Software’s masochism simulator, however.
The other (admittedly very small) critique is one that purists may disagree with, but the option to play with a controller and perhaps a co-op mode would not have gone amiss. This is not a slight against the design choices, rather a desire to be able to share the experience with a friend whilst sat on the same couch.
One aspect of the game that may or may not help sway your decision to buy is that it promises cross-platform play; Crashlands is also headed for smartphones, which will allow you to carry your game progression from computer to phone so you can keep playing on the go.
Minecraft with more story
If you wished Minecraft had more story (or that Telltale’s Minecraft: Story Mode had more crafting), then this is for you. It’s a deceptively simple-looking game with a fun story, and with the promise of community-made maps, oodles of longevity. You may have noticed the words ‘endearing’ and ‘charm’ being bandied about in this review; make no mistake, this game isn’t trying to be cute, nor saccharine. Its outer layer may appear light and fluffy, but its innards are serious and in-depth, and anyone who enjoys exploration and adventure with a light smattering of combat should definitely investigate this game.
Simple to get into, engrossing gameplay, entertaining story, cross-platform play.
You’re either sold on the aesthetic or you aren’t.