You ever see a game and think, "wow, that looks amazing," only to be disappointed mere minutes after starting it? A piece of interactive entertainment that speaks to you on the surface, but misses the mark in nearly every way? That's Crumbling World - an initially striking action-RPG that's fundamentally busted in presentation, only for its style to bring it some slight redemption.
Corrupt monsters have invaded the Earth from the underground. You play as one of the last humans looking for some way to avoid extinction. Of course, salvation is only found by venturing through the demonic realms to eliminate the creatures at their core. After picking one of five classes, your journey begins.
Five distinct realms break up the Crumbling World's 25 levels. A narrator that sounds a little too much like a knock-off Geralt prefaces each one, informing you of the seriously dire state of the world. While the tone of voice isn't as sinister as was probably intended, the material is quite dark, with humans losing their souls to Hell and the like. Surely nothing pure is left in this universe. Gorgeous artwork accompanies each voiceover, and these pieces did well to cancel out the poorly spoken narration. In fact, they're about the only aspect of this game I genuinely enjoyed.
Exploration in Crumbling World
Crumbling World plays out through an isometric camera you can't control, which is quite frustrating considering so much geometry gets in your character's way. Stages are randomly generated, and each includes a quest to finish while searching for the exit. Some might ask you to find a human companion, while another has you finding plot-centric gems. Only, unlike most ARPGs, tread ground will slowly crumble and disappear forever. If you're not careful, you'll find yourself wholly stranded. While that sounds like a fantastic mechanic to build upon, Crumbling World fails to do so in any meaningful way.
A literal crumbling world should bring with it a sense of urgency. It should pressure the player to make snap decisions that may or may not be in their favor, only to discover the consequences when it's too late. Good or bad, those consequences should present the player with something of value. The wrong way should pit players against a fierce enemy or some challenging territory. The right approach should feel validating and serve as a respite. There are no such feelings here.
Crumbling World's mind-numbing combat and a shortage of exciting discoveries only make things worse. I tried two classes here, both of which had one attack. As an archer, I'd just run around and fire arrows. Playing on normal difficulty, most enemies died in one hit. The only challenge is maintaining a stamina bar, which prevents attacks while empty. You can block or dodge enemies, but the combat was so easy I never needed to. My other class, the knight, was a similar experience. In the rare case of being overwhelmed, I'd simply kite the enemies until my stamina was back and quickly wipe them out. Even then, this only happened if I was rushing past monsters to finish a level.
Should the crumbling ground prevent backtracking, there are two options: use a scroll portal or fall to the Underworld. The former provides a chance at safe territory, while the latter is an alternate dimension with a portal to the surface. Both are infuriating.
Say that most of the level has fallen. Using a scroll portal, I have a chance at finding safe ground. But the dice roll is certainly not fair considering, more times than not, I'd end up a mere space away from my original spot. This happened five, sometimes six times in a row. At that point, I'd give up and try my luck in the Underworld. This orange-laden hellscape is basically a normal stage, only the ground doesn't fall, and it has unique enemies. It's also surrounded by remarkably reflective lava. Otherwise, it's more of the same. That and the portal will probably take you to another broken piece of land. Then it's rinse and repeat until you chance on the exit.
If you ever make it to the end of a world, you're rewarded by a visually unique but mechanically-stale boss fight. As in, most have an easily avoided area of effect attack paired with a close-range swing or two. Just like traditional enemies, they're pretty easy to kite. Victory comes with a damage-enhancing ability that's too hard to activate due to broken animations, and you're better off just spamming attack.
The Lack of Content in Crumbling World
At Crumbling World's core, that's about it. There are a few stats to level, some companions that hardly contribute, the random stat-adjusting collectible. By the end of world one, you've seen just about everything it has to offer from a gameplay perspective. There are no items or armor to collect, no plot-enhancing collectibles or cool gimmicks. The Underworld has a few hidden areas, but the lackluster rewards are hardly worth the effort.
While the content is lackluster, I haven't yet mentioned just how broken Crumbling World is. I've fallen through the floor more than once for no reason. I've glitched through rocks, died to nothing, or had health potions fail on me. It's hard to represent in a screenshot, but the player character can't match the frame rate. Running around was like being stuck in a constant glitch, the entire time. On two occasions, I would level up once after every kill, which boosted me literally 20-30 levels before it stopped.
Sometimes one voiceover would play over another, or my character would get sent flying backward from an attack nowhere near him. My companion would stop following me at times, while another time he got stuck in an attack animation that was so loud, and repeated so many times, that it probably damaged my speaker.
This performance is quite a shame, considering Crumbling World can be quite gorgeous at times. One later stage takes place in a fallen castle with serene waterfalls that rival the Underworld's lava. At another point, the camera switches perspectives for a brief moment. This alternate look at combat is awesome, and hints at an entirely different game should the development team have gone that route.
Unfortunately, these environments aren't worth suffering through the rest of this title. I genuinely wonder if there was any legitimate QA done. The forums mention beta testers, but how anyone thought Crumbling World was in a passable state is beyond me.
Crumbling World Review | Final Thoughts
Crumbling World is an utter disappointment. What appears to be an exciting experiment or possible indie gem turns out to be quite the opposite. The art team should be proud of themselves, though the game is hardly the achievement in a technical sense. Unless it receives a massive overhaul, there are endlessly better ways to spend your time.
TechRaptor reviewed Crumbling World on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher.
- Gorgeous Art Style
- Intriguing Lore
- Janky Animations
- Lacking In Any Depth
- Completely Fumbled Core Mechanic
- Buggy Beyond Belief