A quirky space odyssey:
There is something to be said for the way in which Crashlands manages to charm you almost instantly; with its quirky, bright presentation and endearing dialogue. A quick quip about a USB stick minutes into the game, quickly set the precedent for Crashlands distinct tone and undeniable charm. And the light chuckle the quip elicited drew me in instantly.
You play as Flux, who alongside sidekick Juicebox, work as intergalactic delivery people. A simple – if a bit dull premise – is quickly undercut by your spaceship being attacked, and resorting to you crashing down on a nearby planet. This sets in motion the simple, but appropriate motivation for the gameplay loop.
As a game, Crashlands is a bit of a mashup of different genres, but primarily you will spend your time chopping, crafting and building. Where the game excels is in how it manages to deliver a satisfying experience across multiple genres.
The crafting system is deep, and the dialogue provides a regular source of entertainment. The story itself isn’t anything special, but the sheer variety of different characters you meet along the way, as well as the bond between the two main protagonists, provide enough memorable moments to add to the solid gameplay.
One of the game’s strengths is the sheer fluidity of its resource gathering – and subsequent crafting – loop. Menus are simple; fast travel in the form of teleportation pads speeds up the process, and these quality of life aspects help to alleviate from the potentially ‘repetitive’ nature of the gameplay. After all, Crashlands can offer a solid 40+ hours of gameplay with just the main story, and a bit of exploration.
Also – I appreciate having no inventory limit.
That being said, the crafting system alone isn’t enough – in my opinion – to sustain interest throughout a playthrough. So, what else does Crashlands have to offer?
Combat, pets and other adventures:
Crashlands’ bright presentation, comical characters and simple gameplay loop might be a bit misleading. There is danger here. You are trying to survive, after all.
Combat in Crashlands is fundamentally simple: each alien foe has a zone that they will hit(marked on the map) and your job is to dodge, weave and then whack them with whatever makeshift weapon you currently have. The bull headed, elephant footed ‘Wompit’ creatures are going to be your first adversary. They hop around and can hit you with an AoE attack. As the game progresses, you will take on increasingly tough foes and even bosses.
Besides the occasional boss fights, and generally great visual designs, enemies in Crashlands aren’t all that interesting to fight. Combat feels clunky, which contrasted with the fluidity of the gathering / crafting systems, makes it feel tacked on; just ‘something else to do’.
However, one system that I found really engaging was Crashlands’ take on ‘Pokemon’ style breeding.
When you defeat a monster, they will sometimes drop an egg, which you can then craft in an incubator. After a certain length of time, the egg will hatch and Flux will become the proud owner of a new ‘pet’. These pets can follow a few simple commands, including having them support you in combat.
I found the process of attaining eggs and breeding new pets to be a lot more satisfying than the combat, and it was beneficial to have something different to engage with.
One last thing to mention is the game’s side quests. During exploration, you will meet many different characters who need your help. Yes, unsurprisingly in a crafting centred game, most of these quests involve ‘gathering something’(or fetching, even…).
We are not looking at Witcher 3 levels of engagement here, but most of these side quests offer valuable rewards in the form of new crafting recipes. Having these new recipes also helps with story progression, and thankfully the volume of these quests is pretty modest – especially considering the games length.
Fine in small doses:
I think the most important thing to be aware of when it comes to Crashlands, is that this game was originally a mobile title. And, by nature of mobile gaming; Crashlands is best experienced in small doses.
By playing it this way, the game’s charm and solid crafting systems are less hindered by the inevitable repetitive grind that comes with mobile titles. Crashlands fundamentally isn’t going to suddenly win you over 10/15/20 hours in with new layers of gameplay or magnificent story developments.
But, if you’re looking for a relaxing, intuitive title littered with personality and charm – Crashlands is a solid – if unremarkable option.