Tobold's Blog
Monday, February 24, 2014
Craft the World

Game reviews are frequently written by gamers for gamers. As a consequence they frequently don't bother to explain how a game works, but refer instead to well-known earlier games that work in a similar way. Thus if you look for a review of Craft the World, you will find references to Minecraft, Terraria, and Dwarf Fortress. That is all very fine, but what if you haven't played Minecraft, Terraria, and Dwarf Fortress? Although Minecraft is quite successful and famous, all three of those games are "indie" games: Low-resolution graphics (Dwarf Fortress actually has ASCII graphics), and highly complex gameplay which can appear somewhat daunting to new players. Instead of claiming that Craft the World is similar to these games, I think it would be better to say that Craft the World is a more accessible version of these games. While you might still like Craft the World if you already played the previous games, I would recommend Craft the World especially to people who DIDN'T play Minecraft or Terraria or Dwarf Fortress before.

Craft the World starts out in a genre-typical way: You are told to fell a tree, which gives you wood, which you can then craft into your first tool. In Craft the World it isn't you who is felling trees or gathering resources, instead you control first one dwarf, and later several of them. Every time you gain a level, you get another dwarf. I don't know if there is a level cap, but I did finish one map at level 10 after 15 hours, so don't expect to ever get hundreds of them. If one or several of your dwarves die, new dwarves spawn until you have again as many as your level. So your role is telling your dwarves what to do: You click on things, and your dwarves do the appropriate action; they will fell trees, mine rock, hunt animals, and gather the resources that drop as a result from those activities. Later you will also construct things like cooking fires and workbenches, which your dwarves will use to manufacture things when you tell them to.

The world of Craft the World is mostly 2-dimensional, but it has a foreground and a background. That can be a bit confusing at the start, because it isn't well explained, but you'll get the hang of it quickly. For example if you want to build a house, you first build the back walls as a continuous rectangle to determine the size of the house. Then you build more walls in the foreground which serve as floors and outer walls. Doors and furniture also go into the foreground level. If you properly enclose the space with walls, roof, and doors all around and put a totem inside, the whole ensemble counts as a shelter. Dwarves can only sleep in beds which are inside such a shelter. Note that at the start of the game it is a lot faster to create a shelter by digging down and making a cave. If you don't remove the earth background and put a hatch on the only entrance, you get a quick shelter that doesn't cost a lot of resources to build.

Using another genre convention, Craft the World has a day/night cycle, and during the night monsters appear and try to attack you. They will attack the doors of your shelter, and in some circumstances even the walls. But if you have built for example at the start of the game a simple cave and put not just one but several doors in series at the entrance, it is totally possible to remain safe inside and wait until the sun rises and the monsters turn to dust. Once you get more dwarves and have them better equipped than just with a wooden club, it is also possible to kill the monsters for xp and special resources. Once every 45 minutes or so a very big monster invasion occurs, so building defenses is a good idea.

Craft the World has a huge tech tree which in the standard game you follow from start to finish (there is a sandbox mode where the tech tree is unlocked from the start). The tech tree has better gear for your dwarves, as well as nicer furniture, food, spells, and a lot of other things. In addition to the tasks of doing the next items in the tech tree you get a few other tasks that involve exploring underground. You can find hidden rooms, and ultimately a portal room. Repairing the portal opens an exit, which will end your current game and start you fresh at level 1 on the next world. I'm currently on the second world, an arctic world where the conditions are quite different, and even the tech tree has some changes due to different resources being available. And there is a desert world after that. If you don't want to follow that campaign, you can also create worlds with your parameters of choice, determining things like size of world and climate. Every world is randomly created, you'll never play exactly the same world twice.

Besides technology there is also some magic. The spell I use the most is a magical portal which you can cast anywhere on the map to quickly teleport your dwarves there and back. Very helpful to teleport quickly to the resources you need at the moment. Unfortunately you can't cast those spells endlessly, you will run out of mana, which regenerates in real time. Fortunately mana also regenerates while the game isn't running. Or you can brew mana potions. Other spells help you find hidden rooms, or speed up regrowth of trees. There are even some combat spells.

Overall I can only recommend Craft the World very much. It is a perfect introduction to the "crafting sandbox" genre of games, with nicer graphics, dwarves who do much of the basic labor for you, and less harsh death penalties. And it is sufficiently different from other games of the genre to bring some new elements into it. The game is on Steam Early Access, but unlike some other games on that program Craft the World is already very much finished and stable. Recommended!

Looks terrific. Even if it was no more than Teraria/Minecraft with prettier graphics I would be tempted but the whole controlling dwarves angle adds something new and interesting. I note that it says "early access" how "beta"y is the game at present?
Ooops, I should have said that. I now edited the text to include this information: Craft the World is very stable and nearly feature complete. The only thing I noticed that was missing was the Beastiary, which currently only ever shows two monsters. So unlike some other Early Access games, this one is actually already running better than some other games in release.
Wish it was multiplayer, the good thing about terraria and starbound is that can do stuff and build things with friends, rather boring on your own really.
Foreground and background seems a clever idea for allowing houses with well-defined doors etc.
Is there a non-steam version anywhere?
I searched and couldn't even find a website for the game other than the steam page. But then this is on Steam Early Access, and the final release version might then also be available elsewhere.
Great write-up. I just bought the game today and look forward to getting stuck in tonight. I'm a veteran of Terraria, Minecraft and Dwarf Fortress (God, the DAYS I've put into DF!) and CTW looks perfect for me; I'm not getting any younger and CWT looks nicely laid back :)
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