EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Quinn Levandoski
previewed on PC
I Am their Shepherd and they are My sheep
I think we all play god once in awhile in our heads. At least I know I’ve spent many a boring staff meeting wishing I could snap my fingers and make an 11th commandment forbidding mandatory activities before 8 AM. It turns out that ten commandments aren’t really enough to run the world, especially when your creations even need your instructions to let them know how they should eat and reproduce.
In Crest, you are god, and it’s your responsibility to guide your world as best you can and stop your followers from going the way of the dodo. Unfortunately, ruling as a divine leader isn’t easy, as you can’t directly interact with humanity. What you can do is give basic conditional instructions such as telling people in the jungle to explore the savannah, or asking a village to stop having babies. It feels good when things go to plan. It’s fun watching your one-hut village expand into a justly-ruled empire, or to successfully broker peace and resource division between multiple groups. Of course, success is easier said than done. Your commandments, expressed with a series of three instructional symbols, won’t always be interpreted the way you want them to be, and that’s to say nothing of the people that just choose not to follow your word. Commandments are requests, not binding orders, and people can ignore them if they don’t like you, they’re confused, or their past experiences convince them to act differently. Also making things difficult is that you can’t just sling out commandments all willy-nilly: Presenting new ones is resource-dependent, so if you accidentally screw things up through misunderstanding a lot of damage might be done before you can try to fix things.
The indirect control/commandment system might seem kind of gimmicky, and it kind of is, but it generally works well. It’s an intriguing way to keep things interesting and unpredictable. Honestly, while playing Crest, I often felt less like a god and more like a computer programmer trying my best to get something to work with conditional commands that my creation is trying to misinterpret and might choose to ignore. This basic gameplay is quite fun, and it takes a very specific, logical mindset to get anything done once the world becomes more complex than a village and a handful of animals.
Still Some Wrinkles to Iron Out
I will say that I don’t love the UI as it stands right now. It looks fine, but there really are a lot of different menus and they aren’t always in the most logical of places. UI design and logistics isn’t really my thing, so I don’t have any specific advice on what needs to change, but there’s got to be a way to better organize data management - especially once the game progresses and there’s more to be worried about.
I dig low-poly graphics and they fit well here. The game world, while not huge, looks nice and each biome is easy to identify. Animals roam the wild and colors are bright and vibrant. Unfortunately, issues with frame rate and animations undo lot of the goodwill bought by the visual design. Even when Crest doesn’t have much going on on-screen - and before I’d even popped up a second village - animations were notably choppy and camera movement became sluggish. People and animals started glitching in their animation loops, teleporting around their immediate surroundings and acting with what I’d guess couldn’t be more that 10 fps. I understand occasional slowdown when things get hectic, but the glitchy movement is near constant and the frame rate drops seem to happen without rhyme or reason. Hopefully, this is something that receives attention before full release.
Crest has too many issues right now for me to fully recommend picking it up in its current state, but there’s certainly enough potential with the core gameplay. If the wrinkles get smoothed out I can definitely see myself jumping back in. Given the lengthy time the game has been in Early Access I’m not sure when the official release will happen, but this will be one to keep an eye on when it does.
The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.