If a game takes place in space or has any Sci-Fi elements, go ahead and sign me up for it. I love all things in the Sci-Fi genre regardless of game type. Hearing that a new game was being worked on that combined both puzzle and battle aspects while taking place in another world sounded awesome. Definitely am glad I checked it out and completed the playtest currently being done.
While going through the developer’s comments and update notes I noticed they were even incorporating giant sandworms in a Dune style in the distance, among other little easter eggs and nods to various well-known worlds that sci-fi fans know and love. Gives me great hope that this developer has a true grasp on other worlds art and styles and will use those foundations to craft the perfect universe.
So besides being a space adventure, what is happening in this game? While, here is what the developer say about it:
An interstellar cargo ship crashlands on a planet that should not have been there. Explore, solve puzzles and fight your way through ancient ruins to find the portal that will bring you back on Earth.Steam
While the playtest didn’t really give us any background about how or why we are here, I would say our little ship was not destined for this planet that we are now stuck on. However, being a civilization that has the power to travel by interstellar means we have some tricks up our sleeve. Our ship may be small compared to the alien world we have arrived on, but it has the ability to maneuver the vast terrain with thrusters that can dash you in a direction as well as allow you to jump higher. Taking on this uneven terrain is a challenge, but something that can be handled.
As you travel along you have to solve puzzles that will get you access to the next area. These areas are blocked by large gates that are hooked up to some sort of alien power source. You also have the option of looking for keys and other special hidden artifacts.
As I was writing my comments for the game while I played it I was making notes of things I wished I could do. For example, one of the first areas you are required to go through goes underground a bit and is hard to see. I was thinking how great it would be to have some type of light on my ship. A few minutes later, I found a flashlight. As I continued on, my ship was equipped with more and more gear that would prove useful. I started to get so involved in the puzzles that I forgot about anything combat related. One of the next stations gave me weapon access and I was quickly brought back into it. It was as if the game knew exactly when the player needs the next ability.
I try not to be too tough on playtests as it is that way for a reason, the developer is trying to get a feel for what needs to be worked out and what is doing well. I usually find movement to be something that is still being tweaked and experimented with. However, this game seems to really have the movement aspect down. Things just feel natural. The ship you control hovers nicely and feels like it’s under good control. I mean every starship has its issues, even the fasted ship in the galaxy (the Millennium Falcon for the uneducated) still had issues every now and then. And while our little crashed cargo ship may not be smuggling spice from Kessel, it still maneuvers this world pretty great.
If I had one complaint on movement aspects it would be speed. You essentially have two options. Normal movement and full-blown thruster dash. I would have liked to also see a middle ground type of sprinting for lack of better terms. Some areas just felt a bit slow but full-on dashing was sending me flying into a wall. Is that really a game-breaking mechanic? No, absolutely not. There are several times where you have to maneuver obstacles that will either blow you up or slice you with a laser, and movement timing is everything. So I do understand why these speeds are the way they are.
Fall damage was another surprise. I assumed that having a ship that floated above ground I would not have to be concerned about this subject. However, my first poorly timed jump proved otherwise. The second we hit the ground the screen started to glitch and I got an alert that my ship’s integrity was compromised. A little patience and the ship will start to fix itself. I wasn’t waiting though and on my second attempt also failed miserably and decommissioned my poor little starship, sending me back to the last checkpoint (gate opening) I had finished. I actually enjoy the idea of fall damage because it makes you take a second to think about if what you are going to do is actually possible. You can’t just go jumping around on everything.
I can not tell you how many indie games feel flat. There is nothing in the distance, there is no texture in the world, and clouds… what are those!? But not this game. I was actually amazed at the length the design went to. You could look out into the distance and see all types of things from the movement of other creatures to mountain ranges. Look up and you’ll see a full sky with different shades of blue and clouds floating peacefully overhead. The rocks on the walls are covered with texture and sand that’s been blown across them making unique patterns. All this to say that the art goes above and beyond.
There are a lot of hands in the game. Rock sculptures and gold sculptures of hands are all over the place. The stairs and bridges seem like a normal size, so I don’t suspect giants. But I am curious to know where these hands are going to come into play later in the story. At one point towards the end, you come in contact with six human-looking statues making me believe that the people of this planet are either some type of human or are at least very familiar with the human race between the statues and hand sculptures.
Another note I want to add is the color choices used in this. Usually, I find Sci-Fi to be dark with bright strobes or red alert colors. Something about alien life tends to always find itself on dark foggy planets with broken ship strobe lights illuminating the path. Crashlanded decided to avoid this stereotype and go for a much brighter approach that I 100% respect. One of the first notes I wrote while playing was how soothing the colors were, especially the green color used in both the flames of the thrusters and the objective text and boxes. It allows you to focus on the game and puzzles and not be too distracted. It also helps the ship blend in just enough to let the player pay attention to the surroundings and not have their eyes constantly being drawn away from the beautiful world.
The playtest did not go too much into combat. It gave me a little taste of it at the end but I wish I could have seen more. From what I did see it seemed pretty good. I started off fighting two wall-mounted turrets. They give you enough time to figure out when they are going to shoot so you can back off. This gave me a bit of a false impression that combat was going to be easy. Once I destroyed these turrets I pushed forward a bit and was then greeted by some flying purple orbs that were much more powerful. This was a bit more challenging for sure but still fun.
The ammo you carry is represented by spinning orbs around your ship which you can find in ammo crates around the map or from certain enemies you kill. From what I saw there was only one type of ammo. Firing the weapons shoots several of the orbs at once that leave a green-colored trail of smoke behind them.
I would be very interested to see what types of other aliens are encountered and what possible boss fights will come along the way.
This game is in a great place for only being in playtesting/beta. The developer has put in a lot of work and thought into level design and art and it really shows. I truly enjoyed my time playing this and by the end was just starting to feel like I was grasping the controls and mechanics. It leaves you wanting to continue the story and see what comes next. This will definitely be a game I come back to once released to see the full story unfold.