Even More Wood Choppin’ – Crashlands & Boundless

Here’s two games that escaped my prior wood-chopping recommendations for Tobold. Mostly because I either hadn’t played them at all (Boundless), or for long enough to develop a distinct impression (Crashlands) then.

I hesitate to call these two games “recommended” because I think they are good for only a specific subset of people with distinct tastes. But for those people, both games are very good at rewarding those tastes.

Crashlands

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If I had to sum up Crashlands in a sentence, I would have to call it a single-player MMO quest simulator with the control scheme of an RTS or MOBA, which aesthetically looks like a more colorful Don’t Starve (aka a hand drawn cartoony style.)

I would also describe it as a place where you can chop and mine ALL the things. Repeatedly. Ad nauseum. Because you’re going to need it for endless amounts of crafting and paying off quest NPCs who will cheerfully demand 3 rarely dropping sheep hearts which necessitate you to genocide 33 (or 47) sheep in the attempt while drowning in 32 sheep guts.

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Sound familiar? Should be, to anyone who plays a traditional MMO. Except Crashlands is set in SPAAAACE with significant dashes of humor, so there is nothing as crass as sheep existing in the game. Instead, you’ll slaughter Wompits and Glutterflies, while going on Fed-Ex quests for Tendraam NPCs.

Which, story-wise, kind of makes sense, because you’re ostensibly an interstellar parcel deliveryperson who… wound up somewhat delayed on the postal front because a ball-like alien with lasers on his forehead “borrowed” some essential equipment off your ship, causing a crash landing onto an alien planet.

The strength of Crashlands is in two things, its art and its writing. The quests and NPC dialogues are bizarrely funny. The art is attractive and clear.

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The combat gameplay is… a matter of taste, I suspect. It is more RTS-like in that you click on an enemy and proceed to autoattack. You have a limited number of skill keys to place consumables or special items that produce some skill effects, and you trigger them by pressing a hotkey and then clicking on the target.

There is no dodge key, which would have done wonders in making combat more action-oriented and immediately engaging like Cat Quest. Instead, you have to constantly click elsewhere to waddle slowly away from impending danger, highlighted by clear red circles or other such shapes. This makes combat fairly slow as one has to dance in to get a few autoattack hits off and then be on the move outward again, in order to not get hit.

The alternatives are to absorb the hit (which means a ton of prior preparation with crafting proper gear and defensive/healing consumables) or to run around and kite while waiting for your pet to do the majority of the damage (making combat even slower).

Crafting is very methodically tiered for progression. Collecting the resources nearest your crashed ships unlocks basically a Tier 1 crafting table and level 1 weapons. Progress a little beyond that, and you unlock the Tier 2 crafting table and level 3 weapons. Tier 3 gets you level 5 weapons and on and on.

Weapons and armor have the standard MMO “colors” to indicate stronger enchantments/better stats – white, blue, green, purple, with orange for legendary items with fixed stats, etc. Said colors are RNG on crafting the item, so if you were so inclined, you could collect enough resources for a dozen swords or axes and keep crafting until you popped a purple item, or the exact enchantment you wanted to stack poison or electricity resistance and so on.

What is undeniable is that you’ll be repeating the core gameplay loop of multiple quests for a really long time. Below is my map after 6 hours of gameplay, it’s barely scratched the surface and I hear there are two more zones after this one.

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There are a LOT of quests.

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There is the odd minigame, like fishing, where you wait for differently sized black circles to approach your hook before clicking to yank them up.

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But mostly, you’ll be harvesting and killing all the things in your path, while running from NPC A to place B to collect listed items C, then thankfully, teleporting back to turn in said quest to quest-giver and rinsing and repeating.

You can play it for a short period of time and finish one quest, and presumably feel sufficiently rewarded (if one has Achiever inclinations.) You can play it for a marathon 3 hour session and complete more quests, which should sate any Achiever/Collector for a really long time.

If you had Builder/Decorative tendencies, you can freely take a break from all the rampant questing to build bases of your own design, flooring/walls/doors and decorative furniture abound. But it won’t spare you from all the harvesting, because naturally, you’ll need loads of resources to craft for decorations.

The brutality level is fairly non-existent in this game, in that there are no random base attacks, there are no survival meters like food/water/sanity in Don’t Starve ticking down, no permadeath or real item loss. When you die, you drop a bunch of items and respawn, but you can always wander back and vacuum them up again. The mob that killed you would likely have either disappeared or just de-aggro’ed (but fully healed up).

Challenge mostly exists when fighting certain boss-type enemies, which have a big health bar and various phases of area death/bullet hell. That and the challenge of enduring huge bouts of MMO harvesting/questing monotony, which has patently proved too much for some, if one looks at the Steam reviews of Crashlands.

As a primarily Explorer first and Achiever secondary style of player, Crashlands wears its welcome down after too much extended play. I suspect even an Achiever primary player would be tested by Crashlands’ many checklists. For short pick-up-and-put-down periods though, I find the game perfectly palatable.

Boundless

I have to thank Chestnut over at Gamer Girl Confessions for this one. A ton. That, and patient gaming as a concept.

I had my eye on Boundless for a long time. Somewhere, sometime, it crossed my notice over on the Steam store and while it looked nifty as a sort of Trove-like Minecraft style MMO, the price tag on it was intensely prohibitive for something I wasn’t sure I might like. All manner of things can go wrong with an MMO, from server lag to a dreadful community or developers doing weird and unexpected things and thus changing up the rules of play. So I left it on wishlist and forgot about it.

A week ago, it turned up on Humble Bundle as part of the Square Enix Collective 2020 bundle. As usual, I compared the games I own to what was offered in any new bundle to decide if I was going to jump on it or not. Much to my immense chagrin, I owned nearly 80-90% of the games already, because said games had already turned up in an older version of the bundle (most of them naturally still unplayed.) The value ended up being, did I want to pay $10usd for only Boundless, or not?

It was still better than the direct sticker shock on the Steam store. For 10 bucks, it seemed like it might be OK to give it a try. I was in the mood for the wood chopping style of game anyway. I watched a Let’s Play of it to see the first hour or so of tutorial gameplay and decided that the pace and playstyle was fairly acceptable.

… But…but… what if it also turned up as a choice on the next Humble Bundle Choice? It seemed unlikely, but you never know, right? They could do something frustratingly stupid like that.

So my final patient gaming decision was: OK, get a hold of yourself, WAIT until this month’s Humble Choice comes out, and then if it’s not in that batch of games, THEN you can buy Boundless for $10usd.

The next thing I know, I’m browsing through all the Blapril blogs and I see Chestnut’s summary of her Square Enix bundle purchase, mostly for Tokyo Dark (which I agree looks cool, I bought last year’s bundle for that too) and she says:

Boundless: I will probably never open this game up, let alone redeem it.

I’m like: !!! 🙋Could I have it please?

Generously, Chestnut gifted it to me, and I am really really grateful.

For the price of free, Boundless is a steal. I don’t have to worry about whether the endgame will turn sour, or if I’m going to play it for long enough to get $10usd “worth” out of it. I can just turn it on and indulge my rampant wood-chopping fetish, while doing my crazy explorer hermit thing and have a great time just enjoying the moments.

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And oh, the moments are pretty awesome.

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First impressions of Boundless are that it is sci-fi Landmark mixed with a side helping of Minecraft and Trove.

The gameplay is Landmark – wander the world, harvest resources for building and crafting, stake out your plots of land on which to build your creations.

The art style is a more voxel Minecraft, mostly square blocks, but with some diagonals.

The UI and directed guidance (plus mix of cartoony aesthetic) draws inspiration from Trove. The basics are spelled out clearly, bit by bit for the lost newbie to hang on to some objectives and goals, but it doesn’t tell you everything and one is free to wander off the directed path as well.

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The new player starts in a little private lobby area to learn basic movement and pick their planet. Your character is a cute golem-esque alien where you can vary mostly skin tones and the shape and number of the prongs sticking out of its head, and not much else.

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Following the directions, you open a warp conduit to the planet of your choosing. You can pick between fierce (creatures are hostile and attack) and placid (creatures only aggro when you aggro them) planets.

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I was pretty tempted by the first option, it sounded quite exciting, but eventually picked the second when I reasoned that I would probably prefer to be around more chill players than those who might pick the first option. Anyway, as a new player, why make life more difficult for myself?

I also went for an Australian server, since that was an option. The default was a Europe server, but prior experience in other games suggests my routing to Aussie servers might be better. Turned out to be 110ms ping, which makes me very cheerful indeed. No Trove server issues here.

The random planet I got dumped into is… not really ideal aesthetically in the daylight.

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Trees and bushes have lime or mint green foliage and bright contrasting red trunks.

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The rocks are mostly an awful dull pink color, mixed with normal dark grey and some black metamorphic ones. The soil is either a dark emerald green that it’s almost black or orange red.

It seems like tools and furniture take on the color of the raw materials one crafts with, so the one silver lining might be that bright red wooden items might be popular/attractive and of course, BLACK has always been a player-favored desirable color.

Gameplay so far has been as expected. The basic wooden tools take 4 chops to remove one block of resource. Building up the tutorial items requires about 10-20 resource blocks. So that’s a fair bit of methodical chopping. The plus point in Boundless’ favor is that the sound effect and animation makes a really satisfying thunk. Folks who love the meditative relaxation of harvesting resources would enjoy Boundless’ gathering – for others, they might find it to be a grind that adds up fast.

Me, I got distracted from wood-chopping into rock mining super quickly. Dwarf genes somewhere, I tell you. That, and falling accidentally into this hole.

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Oh well. I ran down the exposed cave to delight in some exploration, since I wasn’t climbing out any time soon, and found new and different resources that weren’t on the tutorial task list. Oooooh. Ka-ching. That’s the sound of happy explorer novelty neurons being triggered.

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Boundless also lets you wield tools in two hands. Left mouse button swings the left tool, and right mouse button the right one. Pretty quickly, I decided a hammer for mining rock and a shovel for digging sand and soil paired nicely together.

Mind you, the pace of Boundless is distinctively that of an MMO. I suspect people used to personal sandboxes like Minecraft might find it a bit too slow. I went into this game without blinders on (aka please go watch a Let’s Play and decide if you’re okay with the resource collection pace), so I’m alright with it.

In a way, it being the size and pace of an MMO is almost thrilling, knowing there’s more to see and do out there.

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A cool night time effect is that you can see nearby planets rise. You can literally point your mouse cursor at spots on the distant planet over the horizon and eventually, presumably when one is advanced enough, build a portal or warp over to the other planet. A few of the other stars in the night sky are also planets, much further away. A more effective means of hinting at the potential for future exploration I cannot conceive. It sends little shivers of excitement down my spine.

Downsides of Boundless that I’ve run into so far:

Possibly the least professional looking series of websites for an MMO I’ve ever played.

The main one is at https://playboundless.com/. The forums looks like they pulled up a branch of some kind of internal communication software, complete with tags. https://forum.playboundless.com/. The account management is at https://account.playboundless.com/ and only has a sign-in option, not create account options. There is some kind of completely unofficial server status check that doesn’t appear to work anymore (http://status.playboundless.info/).

Triple A this is not. The overall impression is that this is a group of programmer/designers who are mostly working on the game without a lot of external support or time to pay attention to sidelong things like marketing, comms/public relations or glitz up stuff.

And the whole reason I wound up this ridiculous sidetrek of lousy websites? I couldn’t create an account on first log in. It offered me the option, but after I filled in everything, the “create account” button remained steadfastly greyed out.

Also greyed out was the log-in button, when I tried to put in the username and a random password, wondering if the username was already taken. So no, that wasn’t the problem either.

Was the log-in server down? Did the influx of eager Humble Bundle Boundless newbies swamp the apparently mostly deserted game and drown their ability to create accounts? I sifted through all the websites and trawled both official and Steam forums trying to see if anyone else had encountered such a problem.

Nothing. Nada. Everything seemed fine. No help was forthcoming. I was nearly at my wit’s end wondering how to create an account, and finally was going for the forums to maybe post a question. Hang on, the forums has an option to create an account… I wonder if this might eventually be the same account as the Boundless one? It seemed probable. It even asked me to type in password twice and email twice, so it seemed even more legit than the in-game option which remained stubbornly greyed out.

I hit submit… and an error message popped up “password must be 8-18 characters long.”

You don’t say? Was THAT the problem after all? My password, being that I’m a little bit of a security freak when dealing with unknown quantities, was 22 character long.

Was. I subtracted 4 characters from  it, pasted it into the in-game ‘create account’ menu, and voila, the button ungreyed itself and I could create an account via in-game means, like presumably most normal players. If only the in-game version had actually bothered to have an error message for why the button was steadfastly greyed out…

Yeah. Well. Adjust your expectations for spit and polish (or lack thereof) accordingly for this game.

The other issue some players apparently have with Boundless is the lack of significant player population. I expect this is quite normal for a longer running sandbox game with not that much buzz and that high a regular price tag, though presumably more newbies are coming in via the Humble Bundle route.

My Social player needs are exceedingly low, so this does not bother me in the slightest. Heck, in a building game that requires plots of land to build on, it’s better NOT to be tripping over players at every step.

So far, I haven’t run into any actual players per se, though I was playing at a slightly off-sync timezone, and there were maybe 6 players active on the world I was on. Works for me, less need for social interaction the better at the moment, so that I can just run around doing harvester explorer things. If I wanted to be social, there’s always A Tale in the Desert.

I have, however, run into the results of player activity (however long ago it happened.)

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It’s pretty cool. It’s far more building than I will ever get up to, but it’s lovely to run around and admire (without the owner around staring gimlets into you).

Apparently I rather “cleverly” (sheer luck, really) chose my landing zone right next to the capital city of the planet, so I have some access to major civilization if I ever need stuff in that direction.

If not, then well, I’ll be content with my temporary camp set up while progressing down tech trees and figuring out how to get elsewhere for further exploration. I need to see more sights and more planets before I ever settle down anywhere!