I always used to call block-based sandbox games Minecraft clones, but I suppose that’s a bit jaded of me. Are all first person shooters Doom clones? Is every zombie flick a remake of Night of the Living Dead? Of course not. Mine & craft sandbox games (for want of a better phrase) have become a genre of themselves, and to compare them all to the original, or even to imply their association can be unfair when judging a game on its own merits.
However, like any game in an over-saturated market, you need to look at what new and innovative ideas it brings to the crafting table. Indeed, the crafting itself differs from others in the genre. You can’t simply start the game, stumble upon a rare material and craft yourself an early retirement. Crea requires you to research ‘blueprints’ if you will, meaning the more materials you gather, and the more you experiment with said materials, the broader your inventory becomes. It’s quite an ingenious way of pacing the game and inviting exploration, but on the flip side it makes those first few nights that are always tedious in these sandbox games even more insipid. It’s a similar feeling to hunting for wool in Minecraft just so you can make a bed to skip the uneventful first night of hiding in a dirt hole, away from the prying arrow of a skeleton.
This brings my nicely into another important aspect of these games: The enemies. Each title in Crafting Sandbox breed of video game has its own menagerie of monsters and animals to populate the game, and Crea is no exception. Blobs, birds and bosses are all there for you to do battle against, and help level up your RPG-style character. Other unique aspects of Crea’s combat system are special abilities, such as fireballs and healing, and the ‘conflict system’, which means creatures, if left alone, will grow more powerful and spread throughout the game. I personally did not encounter this, but the game is still in its alpha stages and is promising a host of new features as it develops.
The dungeons and underground realms of Crea were a tad uninspired, and I didn’t really encounter a huge array of different biomes, although I have seen jungles, mountains, forests and deserts in other people’s gameplay. My main issue is the side scrolling nature allows you to see ahead of yourself to a certain extent, and you never truly feel claustrophobic and lost like in other games. Crea even has a portal system that can transport you right back to your house if you stray too far away from home. While this works well to encourages exploration, I find a general rule of thumb is in a 2D platformer, going back the way you came is pretty much a fool-proof system.
While Crea is an attractive game with a deep labyrinth of items to build and craft, I find the 2D nature of the worlds uninspiring. Without 3D, one cannot create awe-inspiring structures in your world, nor can you truly claim to be an explorer, venturing across a world larger than the one we actually live on.
Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?
Without comparing it to other titles, Crea is, like Proteus, a nice game to unwind. If you simply want to wander, explore some caves, and get the blood pumping with the odd boss battle or two, then the 4-pack at £29.99/$44.99 for you and your friends is a good call, especially since it can be played across platform. Without friends, however? Well, Crea didn’t offer me enough to go back and play it once I’ve finished this review. Maybe a few months down the road things will be different.