by Llewelyn Griffiths
reviewed on PC
Deep down in the dark recess of the Steam Store lies an ungodly number of half-finished, uninspired contraptions ready to leap on unsuspecting buyers. While some of these games might genuinely come from a good place, many of them heavily rely on pre-made assets, with little to show for originality. They are great examples of how development tools have evolved: anyone with a computer can download Unity, watch a few hours of tutorials and make a game. That’s fantastic, but selling these half-baked ideas, on the other hand, is a different question entirely. So, I’ll cut to the chase, Crimson Earth is a near perfect example of what makes these games awful.
In the words of Crimson Earth, the apocalypse has arrived, and the only way to save the world is to mow down “5 unique kinds of enemies” using a variety of weapons. The definition “huge open world” used to describe Crimson Earth, is stretched to breaking point: there are two main areas, each of which contains a few sub-locations. Stray too far from this location and you’ll find yourself in a desolate wasteland with no zombies to kill. Don’t expect a large variety of enemies either. In fact, don’t expect any variety. From what I can gather those “5 unique enemies” pertain to the same re-skinned zombie, all of which act the same. If you’re within line of sight they will walk towards you and if you’re within range they will attack you. That’s it. If I was to give any commendation to the AI, I guess it’s a pretty accurate representation of how zombies act, but it’s certainly not very compelling.
While you progress through each location, you’ll be given the task to kill a set number of zombies. Complete this task and you win. With each location completed you’ll be rewarded some credits, allowing you to save up for more potent weapons. This is where Crimson Earth could redeem itself, an uninspired setting is all but irrelevant when the game itself is fun to play. But, alas, weapons consist the usual variety of assault rifles, sniper rifles and handguns. The most unique weapon is a flamethrower. However, this turns the game into effortless slog which makes killing zombies more akin to using the spray can tool in Microsoft Paint.
Kill enough zombies and you can use one of six special abilities - and yet again this is another occasion for Crimson Earth to redeem itself. However, it only makes it clear just how little thought went into the design. These special abilities range from useless to utterly overpowered. One actually instantly kills all zombies on-screen, while another makes all the zombies run away from you in fear. These perks are another checkbox to tick in a list of boring, uninspired features which give very little enjoyment.
Sprint to Victory
This is where we get to the crux of the matter: Crimson Earth is fundamentally broken. Holding down shift to sprint quite literally makes you invincible. Feel free to run through as many zombies as you want - they won’t hurt you. And neither is it possible to run out of stamina. You can even use the flamethrower while you sprint, reducing any challenge to a matter of patience. Wait... that’s not entirely true: there is the challenge that comes from your limited ammunition. There aren’t any melee attacks or weapons with infinite ammo, so, if you do run out, there is no way to win the level. While this does add an element of challenge, it is devoid of any excitement. A good zombie survival game will keep the tension high, providing moments of panic as the difficulty ramps up. Crimson Earth has no difficulty curve, zombies will spawn at very specific locations until enough of them are killed or you fall asleep at the keyboard.
If I was to give Crimson Earth any praise, the gore and dismembering effects are rather satisfying. Chunks of zombie flesh will fly off individual limbs in a surprising amount of detail. However, this is a miniscule glimmer of hope in a product that just shouldn’t be sold. There might be a possibility of future updates, but it isn’t an Early Access title, so I wouldn’t keep your hopes up.
Satisfying gore effects
Lack of variety, boring weapons, no difficulty curve, no reload button, very little room for strategy