What's the number one way you predict interacting with technology in the future? If you said "just slap ev'rything", your vision is in line with the universe of Crashlands, a new survival/exploration game slapped fresh onto Steam from developers Butterscotch Shenanigans. In this world, Shipment Shipper Flux Dabes of the Bureau of Shipping is shipping a shipment through space, when dastardly and sort of jerkish alien Hewgodooko blows up the ship! After a crash landing (get it?) on a nearby planet, you'll have to marshal all of Flux's resourcefulness to build tools, murder wildlife, and construct shelter, all while overcoming whatever Hewgodooko has in store for you. With the help of the local population of sentient goat/plant hybrids, Machiavellian owls, your robotic assistant Juicebox, and a bevy of other colorful characters, Flux has a lot to do and plenty of misadventures along the way.
If I had to describe Crashlands' gameplay, I'd say it was somewhere between Diablo and Don't Starve. The majority of your time is going to be spent fighting off enemies while trying to deconstruct either resource clusters or the enemies themselves. Combat is reminiscent of Wildstar, with enemy attacks telegraphed as red areas of effect before they hit, giving the player time to dodge before taking damage. Thus, it's possible to play the game without ever being hit, so long as your reactions are quick enough. Each kind of enemy has their own unique attacks and patterns, and act differently than any other opponent. Resource gathering is mediated by what level of tool you currently have, and this is advanced mostly through NPC quests. The resources you have in turn determine how strong your armor and weapons are, and thereby what enemies you'll be able to handle. One thing that's not part of this progression is raising wildlife as pets to help you. After finding and hatching a creature's egg, your new domesticated pet can fight for you and grow more powerful over time. You're able to craft them equipment, in essence, through the regular tiered crafting system, but they will also get stronger on their own.
Although it looks like another survival game at first, Crashlands hides a lot of variety and depth just past the surface. The initial savannah zone feels relatively Earth-like, but later areas like the fleshy Bawg actually feel like you're exploring and exploiting an alien planet. Still, you're never really surviving the way many similar-looking games would have you do. There is no strict requirement on eating or any other sort of resource, nor sleeping, temperature, or anything else that would trouble you on an alien world. There is little penalty for death, and you could conceivably carry everything you own with you throughout the entire game, pausing only to pull out the newest crafting bench. If that appeals to you more than a harsh survivalist challenge, then this is a fine choice, but anyone expecting a hazardous ordeal should look elsewhere. Still, despite being a fan of many such games, I enjoyed Crashlands for what it is, and think it's a good game despite not fitting into the survival genre.
Something that constrains gameplay a bit is the necessity of following the strict crafting progression that is laid out through quests. There's no chance of jumping ahead to get better weapons, because you won't have the level of tool required to get what you need until the right quest is done. Plus, the resource collection in the early game quickly becomes a bit rote. You start with wood, leather, and stone, then move up to exotic materials like duskstone and the squee plant, but these are essentially another kind of wood and stone. With the exception of the fishing mechanic and the fish-based equipment tier (yes, that's right), that early repetition becomes a little grating.
Fortunately, this is quickly broken up in the second stage of the game, when you move on from the savannah and begin harvesting alien licorice-mouths by feeding them fluorescent grubs until they explode. This stage also marks a much needed expansion of enemy variety. By that point you will most likely have gotten tired of killing the same three kinds of foes again and again. The first few animals you'll fight will accompany you constantly until then, even taking the roles of guards for alien bases. The further reaches of the zone add another three, but even then I found that the bulk of missions only sometimes led me into that area, and used those enemies only a few times. Other than this, and harvesting their parts for equipment, you see them only when you choose to. Crashlands could benefit from some added variety in these early foes or perhaps by adding special visitors to break the monotony. Things could also be improved by using special or more advanced enemies for quest opponents or thinning out overworld herds overall. It's not really that bothersome, but I recommend trying to hurry through early hunting phases, just so you don't spoil yourself on fighting the same way too many times while on the way to the more fantastical endgame.
Crashlands' story is, intentionally, a goofy slurry of jokes and absurdity. It works pretty well. If The Behemoth, of Castle Crashers and Battleblock Theatre fame, were more talkative, then that would be the kind of humor we have here. As long as you can appreciate gifting a one-legged monster with a garter belt or cultivating breakfast foods from the ground, you'll enjoy the quirkiness of Crashlands. This humor pervades even the tooltips and data records, and I think it's rather witty and wry once you penetrate the upper crust of wackiness. The storyline is amusing enough, and serves primarily to move the player along towards the next objective. A few sidequests are available, and I found at least one optional bossfight, but other than that you'll be served best by sticking to the main story thread. There is the possibility of finding certain rare resources, as special drops during ordinary harvesting, which are made into unique equipment with great stats(for that tier). If someone wanted to, they could grind it out and find all those rare items, but that would be a pretty intense endeavor.
The game ran well on my machine, a newer gaming laptop. I experienced a weird visual glitch once or twice for a fraction of a second where it seemed like the top of the screen went to static, but nothing serious ever occurred. As for bugs, I found one quest where I was meant to meet a fairy on a square island, but when I got there, no one was around. It's possible I did the quest wrong and shouldn't have harvested the bacon-plant on that special island, but even then there should've been some kind of alert beforehand. Other than that, no real bug concerns. Crashlands is meant to be synced with a cloud save file so that you can play your game on a mobile device while out and about. I never tried that feature, but it seems like a good idea that would work well with the simple style of the gameplay. This is one of the few games that I've really enjoyed which were reasonably playable with just the mouse, so a tap-based mobile interface, assuming you had some killer aim, would work fine for it.
I liked Crashlands. It isn't quite the alien world survival game that I now realize I want, but it's a fun and funny harvest-em-up RPG with a lot of flavor and a very well thought out execution. I recommend it if you like exploration, combat, building up tech trees for endless power, or just want a hearty space-laugh.
Crashlands was reviewed on PC using a copy provided by Butterscotch Shenanigans. The game is available on Steam, Android and iOS.
A fun game that surprises and amuses. It's not exactly what you expect, but it's still a pleasant surprise. Skeptics should hold out until they see enough of it.