Ah, the god game. Putting the player in the shoes of an omnipresent creator, your aim is to get your virtual worshipers to follow instructions better than us humans have. Crest is the latest in this line of religion simulators, and it certainly makes its mark.
What makes Crest unique is its mode of commanding your followers: there is no way to directly interact with the NPCs. Instead, you feed your instructions into a ‘language tablet’, each sequence having three parts – a condition, a match and a target. Each of these blocks are chosen from an available set and combined to form the commandment to be sent out. These last for a set period of time, during which they can influence your people. You can send out multiple such sequences, and keep track of them through the ‘commandment tablet.’
Here’s where things get interesting: just like real humans are wont to do, the in-game beings are able to interpret, or misinterpret your instructions the way they see it. The first combination of blocks I sent out – to produce food – did absolutely nothing. The instruction ran its course but it seemed that my flock was adamantly lazy. Another time, they actually resorted to cannibalism. Fuck free will, these guys were monsters.
Unintentional hilarity aside, once you get your worshipers to follow through with the required actions, you direct the development of civilization. The citizens of your ‘cities’ are kept happy by providing for their various needs in the vein of the Civilization series. You keep track of these needs through a minimalistic, but functional menu that you can access by clicking the city, which branches into sub-menus, such as City Needs.
The interface itself is barebones, with little clutter, which is both a good and bad thing. The menus and input tablets are easy to navigate, with no unnecessary bars or components crowding up your screen. On the other hand, it’s still missing a lot of options. The fast-forward options are absolutely essential, since there is very little happening onscreen to indicate your instructions being carried out or not. It tends to get, well, boring. The visuals aren’t particularly pretty or interesting, so it’s all about the gameplay.
There’s a reason – or multiple – that Crest is still in Early Access: there’s still quite a bit of work to be done before it can be called a full-fledged game. There’s a skeleton of a great game here, but it needs a serious bit of building upon the present state to truly make it noteworthy. But there’s some real promise, and hopefully Eat Create Sleep makes good on this promise.