by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
Do you remember a world before Minecraft and Terraria? It was a grisly place, filled with limits and boundaries. There were walls you couldnít break down, and you couldnít even build a huge tower for no reason and then jump off to your death. Those games have paved the way for titles like Crea, a 2D sandbox game that is in Early Access on Steam right now. It expands on those core ideas and adds in some RPG elements for good measure.
One of the main draws of the game is that it is very moddable. The creators have made all sorts of code snippets available, so you can modify your appearance, and even change aspects of the world itself, as well as adding in your own items. You will need to know what youíre doing of course, but the game that has been created already will be enough for the less advanced players.
At first glance, it is just another Terraria clone. But it soon becomes apparent that there are extra mechanics on offer. For one thing you have Talents, split up into Arms, Magic, Gather and Craft. Everything you do in the world earns you Talent Points (TP), which you can spend on talents to upgrade your abilities. For example, cutting down trees or harvesting copper earns you Gather TP, and you can spend these points to harvest things faster. Hitting enemies earns you Arms TP, which you can spend to improve your combat abilities.
Magic is unlocked from the start, unlike with most games of this type. You have a simple fireball and a small heal spell, but as you level up and earn points there are a couple dozen more to unlock. Your crafting talents include the ability to have the chance to create a duplicate of an item whenever you make anything. Itís an interesting system of having to perform the task you want to improve, rather than spending arbitrary points.
The next slight twist on the normal theme is the research system. One of the first things you will craft is a research desk out of lumber, paper, an oil clot and a feather. You then apply materials to the desk to unlock parts of new recipes. For example, consuming a piece of wood on the research desk might teach you how to make a bookshelf. You wonít learn the complete recipe for something until you have fully researched it. For example, researching a piece of wood might teach you how to make a wooden arrow, but to make an arrow with a stone tip you will need to do some research on a piece of stone, as well as wood.
The further afield from your starting area you travel, the more dangerous it will become. There are six different biomes at the moment, ranging from deserts and plains to mountains and forests. Each new location you encounter will have its own attunement crystal. These crystals act as fast travel systems, and you can attune to a specific one to act as a respawn point. If you have a way shard in your inventory, you can quickly return to your attuned crystal, making the return to the surface after a long mining expedition a speedy affair.
There are NPCs such as a healer and a merchant for you to interact with. However first they must be summoned by researching all the parts of their outfit, and then placing them onto a mannequin (which must be researched, of course). The world is filled with animals and enemies too though, including a boss which will take a lot of firepower to bring down. There are plans to add more in as development of the game progresses.
Visually the game isnít that impressive, but there are some decent particle effects and the monster design is quite good. There are obvious graphical changes between each different area, and thereís a day night cycle, with enemies acting more aggressively in the dark. The sound effects are pretty standard, however the music is nice to listen to. The overall presentation is something to work on, but with the modding tools available, I donít think it will be long before things start to look better.
Keeping thinks interesting
There is plenty to Crea already, and plenty more in the works. Thereís something strangely compelling about the research system, as you never quite know what you will be unlocking next. Even after just a few minutes gathering you will have enough resources to discover all kinds of new things. Sandbox games are a dime a dozen these days, but developers keep finding ways to keep things interesting. Crea is not as polished as Terraria yet, but is one to look out for.