Wednesday, November 14

Review: Crashlands [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Survival games are a somewhat interesting niche genre, full of danger, a crafting system that demands a variety of raw materials for constructing tools and/or even making food, a fair amount of exploration, and typically making you start again from scratch when you die. While it sometimes seems the genre’s focus is in appealing to the more hard core set, turning the challenge up in order to test their players, another option is to find more moderate ground that still won’t be a cakewalk but isn’t quite as cruel. That very much appears to be the path the folks at Butterscotch Shenanigans took with Crashlands, a game that has almost all of the familiar survival elements but that for the most part still manages to keep it light and even approachable.

In the game you’ll play as Flux, a worker for an intergalactic delivery service whose vessel is attacked and crash lands on the strange planet of Woanope. Accompanied only by your faithful helper JuiceBox you’ll need to set up camp, begin collecting resources, and then slowly begin to explore and build to accomplish a series tasks that will put you back on the road to success. Along the way you’ll meet aliens both friendly and hostile, forge new weapons and armors, and work through a pretty smooth progression in challenge. Best of all, if you die you may drop a ton of gear, but you’ll respawn at your home base and will have the ability to retrieve what you lost, making it uncharacteristically friendly as a survival experience.

While you’ll start out with pretty humble supplies and means to build exploration, completing quests, and simply spending time cultivating materials will help you to continue to discover new blueprints. While many things you discover randomly will just have aesthetic value, there can be special materials or plans that crop up randomly that can be very helpful as well. New workstations tend to correspond to specific types of materials and will give you access to better weapons and gear, and another layered system in the game will imbue special properties on most of the gear you make, encouraging you to make a few attempts to gain nice perks like a Vampire skill that will randomly leech health back to you. A small variety of weapon choices are welcome in that they allow you to find your own combat style though in general the game demands a hit-and-move style that makes combat engaging. As you get ambitious and take out bigger targets you can also sometimes be rewarded with eggs that will hatch loyal versions of those same animals that can help you with new elements to craft with or give you assistance in combat as well.

While I had played the game on tablet and thought it worked reasonably well I think the physical controls (though playing it with the touchscreen is still an option) really help make the experience more comfortable and less aggravating. As I mentioned, combat can be pretty demanding and you’ll need to get in, get some hits, and then move to avoid enemy attack patterns in general. Getting lulled into thinking you’ve got it down is typically right about when you find yourself dead since in general you can’t take many hits, but since you then respawn and can pretty quickly recover it’s not a big deal. Waypoints you’ll discover as you explore help with this greatly as well, never making you feel like you need to walk too far to get anywhere once you’ve systematically explored new areas to find them.

As a whole Crashlands may be the most friendly and mainstream survival-ish game I’ve played. It manages to incorporate all of the elements of the genre with exploration, challenging combat, and a pretty extensive crafting system but has also generally left out the aggravation. It’s possible that genre purists would turn their nose at this but I think it could also be an excellent title for slowly introducing a new audience to what the genre has to offer without scaring them off quite so quickly. If you’ve ever looked at survival games from afar but have been hesitant Crashlands is extremely approachable while still not easy by any means, it just won’t punish you as heavily for your mistakes as is typical with most titles in the genre.

Score: 8

  • Plenty of exploration and crafting to enjoy
  • Each build of a weapon or armor is unique, imbuing different properties and perks on them
  • Dying is only an inconvenience rather than being the end of the world, making the game far more approachable than is typical for the genre

  • Survival genre fans may be put off by this being too easy
  • While waypoints help greatly there can be some dull patches as you explore