The crafting genre has become one of the most saturated markets in the indie PC scene, with a number of developers feeling that crafting mechanics can get studios the most bang for their buck. Whilst there are some wonderful standout successes around, including obvious examples such asMinecraft and Don’t Starve, many titles fall short of what the gaming community expects. EnterCrashlands, taking crafting in a decidedly different turn.
Eschewing the traditional crafting idea of a survival title, Crashlands instead throws players into a zany action RPG. Developed by brotherly trio Butterscotch Shenanigans, the space-faring title focuses much more on action and combat, which helps to set it apart from the army of other crafting games available.Crashlands is also unabashedly atypical in nature for an action RPG. The game is chock full of silly humor, moving away from the staunch darkness of most RPGs on the market. Similar in feel to side-scrolling action platformer Not A Hero, the game manages to walk its own path through a well-trodden genre, and is all the better for it.Crashlands feels like a case study in the pros and cons of designing a game for both PC and mobile. It’s easy to assume that any decision made with mobile in mind will hurt the overall game on PC, but that’s really not true, and Crashlands proves it. Simple controls and a clean UI are good news for a game on any platform. Unfortunately, Crashlands also lends some ammo to the other side of the argument.Crashlands is a top-down action RPG with lots of exploration and crafting. You play as Flux, an intergalactic delivery truck driver who has crash landed on an alien planet, and must find a way off so she can finish her deliveries. At first glance, it seems very similar to Klei’s whimsical survive-’em-up Don’t Starve, but Crashlands isn’t trying to be a survival game. Instead of hunger and thirst bars, developer Butterscotch Shenanigans puts the focus on combat and quests. I spent most of my time doing missions for the grotesque but charming denizens of the world, helping them kill beasts, undermine demigods, or just go fishing.Survival game tropes like crafting and resource collection are still here, but they’ve been simplified. Most noticeably, there’s no inventory management. You can pick up as much junk as you want and it sorts itself, becoming instantly available when you approach a crafting station. This is the first major design choice influenced by the mobile platform, and it’s a great one. Not having to worry about picking up too many sticks or flowers was a relief,as Crashlands asked me to grow my strength instead of scavenge to survive. Many hard-to-find materials could be needed later, and always being able to pick them up meant I was never punished with inventory busywork to enjoy the discovery. An infinite inventory also allows for even better changes to the formula, like automatically picking up drops from killed enemies, because why would you make me click the loot every time I make something explode?Crashlands, however, is much more forgiving than The Binding of Isaac. Rather than the permadeath nature of Isaac, where the player only has a single life in order to complete the game, the player character in Crashlands will respawn back at their home base whenever they are defeated. The player will lose some of their inventory, and will then have to return to their previous place of death to reclaim their lost items a la Dark Souls though.Unfortunately, not every element of the game’s combat is as well-executed as its contemporaries. InCrashlands, the player may find the general level of control during fights a little wanting. Flux’s movement and attacks are entirely controlled using mouse clicks, and sometimes this can feel a little imprecise, particularly when trying to avoid attacks from multiple enemies at once.This may be a hangover from another of the game’s releases, however, as Crashlands is also available on iOS and Android devices. Whilst the simple control scheme may work fantastically well for mobiles and tablets, some PC users may not find it as decisive as they want. It’s a minor issue, however, and one that is made up for by plenty of the other impressive aspects of the game.This progression is occasionally shaken up by very rare legendary items, or when the next tool or crafting station is unlocked by completing story quests. Most these of these are fetch quests or “go kill this big version of a normal enemy” and I started getting flashbacks to my days playing World of Warcraft. The content of the quests is pretty standard for an RPG, but the thing that really kept me going was Crashlands’ sense of humor. There’s a lot of dialogue in the game and it’s really fun stuff. The story is over the top and melodramatic, but never takes itself seriously. In the second act of the game, Flux’s companion—a shipping robot named Juicebox—will randomly scream out “my babies!” as you try to recover the stolen packages you must deliver, one of a few running gags I laughed at throughout.Crashlands is definitely a fun game—mostly thanks to its combat—but it feels torn between PC and mobile. Had the item progression and crafting been paced to allow for more player choice and more satisfying long play sessions, I would likely call Crashlands one of my favorite action/crafting games in a while. But with things the way the are, Crashlands started out very fun before becoming repetitive and predictable. It’s a good game on PC, but probably one better suited to your phone.