Somewhere between Don’t Starve and Starbound there’s room for a game to stake a claim. Fortunately today, that void is about to be filled by Crashlands. If I may segue for a moment into a little backstory; I was in high school (early to mid 90s if you must ask) I would wear silk button down shirts with loud suspenders an an off color tie, with different pant styles, perhaps a hat, sometimes sunglasses and dress shoes. Looked like a of cross between Ferris Bueller and Arsenio Hall. Why? I wanted to tie known looks into something more my own, and I was known for it during those years. Crashlands has obvious similar desires, it’s comparison to these other games is warranted at first glance, but imbues its own uniqueness and charm not seen in its contemporaries.
Crashlands is a exploration and crafting adventure, with a touch of RPG character building and heavier reliance on humorous stories scattered throughout its world. My first exposure to the game came via its official trailer. The trailer provides a taste of the kind of sarcastic and whimsical humor developer Butterscotch Shenanigans (a very apt name considering) has fit into this adventure. There are no rogue-like elements nor true survival mechanics at play here. Longevity is provided via a vast world to explore with multiple continents, and a seemingly endless list of items to craft.
Meet Flux, he’s purple, and he’s an ordinary space truck driver making deliveries with his companion robot, Juicebox (because he’s a metal juice box), aboard the B.S. SS. ASSESS freighter. One calm morning a giant head named Hewgodooko appears before Flux and inquires about some technology it needs, before politely blowing the ship in two. Quickly boarding an escape pod, Flux and Juicebox crash into some very strange lands. Every piece of dialog is tongue-in-cheek, and permeated with puns and other plays on words. I chuckled when I crafted one of my first tools, the Sawgrass Saw. Constant banter between Flux, Juicebox, the local sentient aliens, and the being who stranded them together is a key highlight for Crashlands. Games of similar ilk are much more focused on crafting, exploring, and grinding resources. There is plenty of that in this game, but why not entertain a tad while we’re at it?
There is also much more structure in Crashlands, which is appreciated. Your initial goals are saved in a Quest window, the first of which help establish some of the crafting stations for building tools, shelter, armor, and weapons. Main quest lines revolve around repairing your ship, while side quests given by aliens are usually humorous and involve with helping the sentient population for rewards. Map goals are usually a circled area on the map, to guide you; but not hold your hand all the way.
As you quest you will discover the multiple stations available for construction, each capable of building a dozen new items, similar in progression to mobile game Blockworlds. Some stations allow items to be built off the bat, while other items require blueprints. These are found on quest completion, or randomly appear when harvesting resources. There are plenty of resources scattered around your world, and telepads quickly allow you to transport to many key areas on the planet. While you will grind for items, you will not spend inordinate amounts of time making your way back from exploring.
Some of the more critical resources in the game will come from farming the planet’s indigenous animal life. If a rabbit mated with a hippopotamus, and then that bizarre creature mated with a rhinoceros, surely it would be called a Wompit, a prominent creature on the savanna. Other creatures include the Glidopi an electrified swooping aerial octopus, the nocturnal Glutterflies are the first group of creatures you will come across. You may find younger or weaker versions of these creatures, their mid range heifers or matriarchs, or enormous and terrifying boss incarnations. Each of these creatures have their own attack pattern, but varies randomly. For example Glidopi may slide attack in one direction or three in quick succession, or one long electrified slide (the electric slide, yes). Thus combat is more involved than clicking and waiting. You must become adept at dodging and utilizing many of the side weapons to stun, hinder, or poison creatures as well. Adjacent creatures may not like your incessant attacks against them and join into the fray, so at times combat scenes can become pretty hectic. Again, grinding resources is made less tiresome with varying and changing combat in between.
Even the best crafting and exploration games can’t help but fall into some fatigue from repetition. Crashlands attempts to minimize this further by adding an RPG layer to your weapon and armor building. The more you do it, the better your chances are at creating more indispensable equipment. It may take you far too long to craft your first items to want to immediately try second versions again. However in later stages, while questing for other items, you inevitably come back with a bevy of surplus items. After multiple attempts I was able to craft weapons that not only did more damage per strike, but had bonus damage effects such as stuns, fire damage, poison damage, and other derrière defiling abilities. Crafted armor increases your health (damage you are allowed to take) and also increases resistance against other damage types. A nice touch comes in the form of alternate weapon items such as the wrench and poisonous blowpipe, these items help you stun or balance additional dmg with your attacks. These items have a cooldown restriction, so their use needs to be managed properly.
Flowers and other food items you discover help restore health, but more intense survival elements requiring constant food and water consumption, shelter requirements are gone. This keeps your focus on the more lighthearted quests. But I have to admit, I missed the thrilling danger aspects and uncertainty inherent with exploring the unknown with other similar titles. You can build shelter laying floors down, trapezoidal walls, and plop down chairs, tables, beanbags, and statues for decoration. There doesn’t seem to much use for your home other than to place your crafting stations. Nor the manipulatable basic foundations to build something that can be interpreted, for example building a medieval castle or the Taj Majal in Minecraft.
I was left wanting in the game’s presentation. After enjoying the trailer so much, I wondered why this development team didn’t work voice work into the game as opposed to reading multiple dialog windows. I am not opposed to reading in the slightest, however the trailer’s phenomenal work serves as the magnifying glass searing its point over the game’s textual presentation. Art styles also leave some to be desired, while creatures are both cutesy and menacing, and Flux’s plodding animations are comical. Most of Crashlands is a smorgasbord of similarity. Far less impressive visually than the distinct style displayed in Don’t Starve. There is also the unforgivable lack of controller support left out of this game. If there is one thing this game desperately needs correcting is full controller support for Steam Big Picture integration.
However, there is one more feature that I found very interesting. Crashlands is also available on mobile platforms, and with a simple registration and login on the developers main site, your cloud saves will transfer to mobile devices (mobile app is an additional $4.99). You can Crashlands where ever you please, which is very important should potty breaks be required. Not to mention Crashlands is quite fun, so why not bring the adventure with you? This game eschews constant grinding by allowing fast travel and more importantly, quests tinged with witty puns and silly premises throughout. Progression towards the next greatest item is not a behemoth endeavor. Its lack of permadeath and other survival elements lowers the tension that at times I prefer, but counters by keeping adventures jocular with chancy combat. While comparisons are inevitable it is clear that Crashlands approach is refreshing and different, as such earns a great spot atop the heap in its genre.STEAMIOS App Store