Developer Butterscotch Shenanigans delivers a rip-roaring success with crafting action RPG Crashlands, bringing outlandish humor and addictive gameplay to the indie scene.
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 as Minecraft and Don’t Starve, many titles fall short of what the gaming community expects. Enter Crashlands, 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.
The parallels with the Roll7 title do not end there, either, with Crashlands also steering clear of the story tropes that so often fall into the realm of the action RPG. The player character, Flux, is not some kind of spacebound paladin a la Mass Effect. Instead, Flux is simply looking to deliver a parcel, not save the universe.
Unfortunately, her delivery does not go quite to plan, after her ship is brought down by a malicious entity known as Hewgodooko. Thrown down onto an unfamiliar world, Flux must then find a way off the planet. Of course, that is easier said than done, particularly when the world itself is full of dangerous creatures. The creatures in question certainly aren’t to be trifled with, and are all-too ready to attack Flux with ranged and melee attacks.
The character models of these monsters are fantastic, and the design in question is one of the real joys of Crashlands. Each creature or friendly NPC has a grotesque, cartoonish charm, reminiscent of indie roguelike champion The Binding of Isaac. The monsters look disgusting, in a cute kind of way, and it adds to the overall fun, light-hearted feel of the game itself.
The gameplay, too, has some similarities to the popular roguelike, particularly when it comes to the defensive elements of the combat. Flux cannot take too many hits before she dies, meaning that avoiding attack is the name of the game. Whenever the player enters combat, they must try to dodge around these telegraphed attacks, all the while getting in quick counters to whittle down the enemy’s health, similar in nature to The Binding of Isaac.
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. In Crashlands, 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.
What’s more, the title’s mobile and PC hybrid nature leads to a fantastic mechanic that players would certainly make use of. Gamers who own the game on both PC and mobile are able to transfer their save games from one device to the other, meaning that Crashlands is available to players regardless of their location, without needing to set up a new game. This flexibility is certainly useful, particularly given how much fun the game is to pick up for a scant few minutes here and there.
The occasionally awkward controls are negated by one other gameplay decision: Flux can own pets. Occasionally, an enemy creature will drop an egg when it has been defeated. The player can then incubate the egg, and keep the newly-hatched monster in tow as a vital ally when exploring the dangerous wastes.
These pets can also be used to gain useful or rare ingredients that are incredibly handy when using the game’s crafting system. Being able to manage resources and craft effectively is a huge part of Crashlands, as improved armor and weapons are certainly required once players venture further and further out from their central base. Flux will also need improved crafting tools as she progresses through areas, which can only be obtained by obtaining new schematics for crafting tables.
Crashlands offers up a more rigid crafting system than the likes of Terraria or Minecraft, but it still works very well. This is partly down to the way in which crafting ties in with the game’s story. Important items to build will be unlocked through completing quests, giving players an incentive to continue through the game’s narrative. Meanwhile, other useful items, as well as decorative units, can be found through ‘deconstructing’ objects in-game, giving a random bonus for simply playing the title.
All in all, the game is a hugely impressive release for such a small development team. Butterscotch Shenanigans has created a funny and intriguing action RPG, and one that is also extremely addictive. The sheer level of quality seen in Crashlands is a huge testament to the skill and creativity of this trio.
Crashlands may not be as in-depth as some players may want, but the game is an entertaining action RPG romp that uses crafting mechanics without becoming tiresome. What’s more, the game is a laugh riot, and the wonderful tone of the title easily makes up for any technical shortcomings. With an intelligent approach to keeping mobile and PC gaming together, Crashlands is a great addition to the crafting fan’s Steam library.
Crashlands is out now for PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. Game Rant was provided with a PC download code for the purposes of this review.