Crashlands, from developer Butterscotch Shenanigans, is clearly a passion project from the creators comprising of three brothers Adam, Seth, and Sam Coster. It began development shortly after one of the brothers, Sam, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma towards the end of 2-13 and was released later that year. Crashlands was an outlet to help Sam during his treatments and also helped him through a relapse in 2015. Fast forward to this year and now Crashlands is available on the Nintendo Switch and it’s a survival title with a twist.
There may be plenty of games in the survival/crafting genre and have seen much of what the genre has to offer. When creating a game in this genre, it really needs to bring something new and original to the table. Fortunately, you can tell a lot of love went into making Crashlands and its originality really shines through. While it sticks to some of the standards set in the genre the it comes to progression, Crashlands manages to be constantly enthralling, hilarious, and sometimes touching without ever getting frustrating.
What sets Crashlands apart from the rest of the genre is how it handles the players inventory. Instead of constantly having to be aware of your inventory space and having to sort items around, you are given infinite space and sorts everything for you. One of the appeals that some players have to this genre is the scarcity and the need to sort your inventory, so if that’s something you feel is needed than Crashlands is probably not meant for you.
That being said, I do enjoy the scarcity in survival games, but in Crashlands there’s just so much to build, explore, and questing to do that it’s honestly best to not be consumed with inventory screens for great periods of time. This makes Crashlands an easy pick-up-and-play type of title that’s relaxing the entire time you’re playing it.
Exploration is fun and it’s easy to harvest materials as you make your way to a quest marker. Harvesting crops doesn’t actually take too long depending on how upgraded your tools are and you get a few bits of material every time you harvest something. In addition, you have a good chance for a recipe to drop and these recipes are associated with whatever they dropped from. For example, recipes from trees are made using wood and some other materials.
As you’re roaming around the map, you’ll come across teleporters that you can use to warp to other teleports anywhere on the map. This was extremely useful for being able to return to your home and craft new items. One downside to exploration is that there are only a few different biomes and enemy types. You’ll see many of the same creatures and re-skinned locations looting a lot of the same materials.
The crafting and building mechanics are actually quite fun, and stand out amongst the other games in the genre. When building a place to stay or rest, you’ll change between a bottom layer where you put floors and an upper layer where you put workstations, decorations, walls, and doors. When a wall or door is placed it stays as an individual sprite, which doesn’t look normal and I wished they would have melded more together to give the look of an actual wall. You can either use the touchscreen or joy-con controls and the controls worked very well and were simple to follow after.
When crafting at a workstation, you select the thing you want to make and then press Build which brings up a timer to completion. You can queue up multiple items at a time, allowing for a small level of multitasking and you don’t need to stay in the menu while things are being created. You can also track one recipe at a time and this way you know what you’re looking for while you’re out and about.
The story and narrative involved with each quest were fun and interesting to take part in. There’s a lot of clever writing and jokes that were used and occasionally I found references to other games in dialogue and tucked away in the dialogue or item descriptions. While the quests themselves are somewhat too familiar, the writing behind everything made it not matter too much. Crashlands was good at pushing you forward and remaining entertaining throughs, and in some cases the quests were very heartfelt.
Unfortunately, trying to find certain quests and other important information in the menus was a chore. The management menu consists of a list of quests and a dialogue log of everything that’s happened up to your present point. This was presented clearly, however there wasn’t an easy way to tell what exactly it is that you need to do next. Adding a blurb of some sort would have at least alleviated the need to cycle back in order to find what exactly you should be doing. You also can’t choose just one quest to track and markers for every quest show up all over the map making it feel too obstructed.
Overall, Crashlands while not perfect, has tons of potential and despite its flaws it remained incredibly fun and relaxing to play. With some improvements for the next iteration, Butterscotch Shenanigans would have a winner in the survival genre. If you’re looking for a unique exploration title that is also relying, Crashlands is easy to recommend.