Craft the World – Pocket Edition($4.99) is a sandbox crafting game from Devokir Entertainment very much in the vein of Terraria($4.99) and Starbound. The side view perspective works amazingly well and with multiple characters to control, it very much resembles an interactive any colony.
The thing that makes CtW unique is that you don’t directly control your character most of the time. You actually get a team of dwarves that carry out your commands and are AI controlled. The default control scheme will have you tapping resources to harvest and enemies to attack. You will also have materials, items, and abilities you can select and then deploy back out into the world. All of these tap actions will enter a queue that will be executed by your dwarf underlings, sometimes in comically bad order. You start the game with a single dwarf but your tribe will grow as you level up. Starting on the surface of a planet rich in resources, it is your job to survive and thrive by carving out a home for your pint-sized family.
The control scheme by default is the easy and intuitive queue system. Even with the occasional AI logjam, the tap and go style works well for the game. You can also select a dwarf and choose to control them directly, but I didn’t feel very comfortable. Your options are very limited and it seems like it was added on in case a dwarf gets stuck in an AI loop.
Building your first house is a little confusing. You are given a totem item in the first few minutes of the game with the instructions of building some sort of domicile and placing it in. No further explanation is given. What you do know is that housing materials are not available at the start of the game and take multiple levels of research to unlock. What the game fails to tell you is that an underground lair with a hatch at the top is probably the best first house you can make for your tiny buddies. Another thing that goes unmentioned is that a totem comes with a light that indicates how happy it is with the house you put it in.
Actual crafting in the game is a bit of a let down. What is meant to be a tree of unlockable patterns is more of a mish mash of unrelated upgrades. For example, you would expect that a simple tool and a technological advancement like iron to steel would combine to unlock the next tier of tools. This is not how the path is laid out. It is a minor quibble for a game as fun as Craft the World is, but I don’t get why weapons, tools, tech, and cosmetic items are kind of all mixed together without much logic in the progress path.
Resource gathering is slower than in other similar games. It was a little tough transitioning from the last game I played in this genre, Starbound, to Craft the World. I went from instantly blasting out 3×3 sections or more at a time to tapping a resource square, waiting for a dwarf to approach, and then wait for the dwarf to gather and cart it back. I will say, however, that the teleport spell makes a MASSIVE difference for resources that are far away from your storehouse. For the low cost of 2 mana, you can turn a trek across the map into a trip that takes less than 5 seconds.
The spells in game are generally very powerful and the amount of mana you get to spend is pretty generous. Chain casting isnt quite viable but you can go a long time keeping up a teleport to clear out areas of the map. After you clear it, you can abandon an area without having to worry about taking down ladders or torches. Another great spell is the rallying spell that directs all dwarves to the selected location. Dwarf AI is an annoyance in the game and any tool to help you deal with it is super amazing.
Once you get up and running, it is awesome to see your ant hill of dwarves buzzing with activity. This is where the strength of the game lies. Managing the ebb and flow of your workers, teleporting to remote caverns rich with resources, avoiding huge swarms of subterranean monsters all feel just right for this game. The tone and pacing in general work for Craft the World and more than make up for the minor hiccups that occur along the way.
The game has a ‘tower defense’ mechanic with waves of monsters that spawn at a very slow rate. You are given just enough time before the first wave to be prepared with defenses, weapons and armor. Subsequent waves don’t seem to increase much in difficulty, but they serve as a break from the repeating cycle of gather and craft. Having a fully closed off area with a totem is very important so that you can have a safe haven to hide your dwarves in just in case the monster waves are too tough to deal with. Once the sun rises, most enemies will dissipate so having a hatch or locked door to hide behind while they waste their limited time trying to kick it in is critical.
The port of Craft the World is an expansive game that promises to consume a huge amount of time to fully play through. With different world and difficulty unlocks, replayability is a key highlight. If you can handle a slower pace than most gather and craft games and an AI that can get confused occasionally, Craft the World isn’t just a solid game, but one you will end up pouring tons of time into as well.