Posted on 02 Oct 2017 by Kyle Johnson

PAX West 2017: Crest

The Defence

Developer: Eat Create Sleep
Publisher: Eat Create Sleep
Genre: Indie, Simulator, Strategy
Platform: Mac, PC
Review copy: No
Release date: No data.

The Prosecution

Minimum
OS: Linux, Windows
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 3.0 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 260
AMD equivalent
RAM: 4 GB
HDD: 1 GB
DirectX: 9
Controller: None
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+

A command from the people’s god rings throughout the land, echoing in the heads of all the followers. The citizens stop tending to their flocks, their villages, their farms, all in an attempt to parse its meaning “Young people…eat…old people.” And so, the ritual begins.

This is Crest, a religion simulator from Swedish developer Eat Create Sleep. With a few years of Steam’s Early Access program under its belt already, Crest has been steadily gearing up for a full release later this year. I took some time at PAX West this year to chat with community manager Patrick Seibert on the show floor, and he talked to me for a bit about the game’s influence, art, and the inevitability of failure.

At its core, Crest is a game of managing temperaments. Patrick said while the team may have been influenced by classics like Populous, Black and White, and the Civilization series, it seems clear to me that the team at Eat Create Sleep wanted a more accurate depiction of human behavior, than anything. As it were, Crest is an indirect god game, where you communicate with your followers via a series of commandments, and then observe their reactions. Sometimes, the people will cooperate, others, free will takes over, and they begin doing whatever they desire. With over a million lines of code, this balance between free will and devotion to their god is at the heart of Crest.

Commandments are set up of three simple operators. A who, a what, and then the object of the commandment. Examples of commandments I saw players using were “Young people don’t explore desert” and “Old people farm jungle.” Patrick explained that the people demoing Crest at PAX West took the commandments far more seriously than at Gamescom, where, yes, oftentimes, players would issue the “Young people eat old people” commandment, and then lose shortly thereafter.

You see, Crest is also a game of consequences. Commandments are written in stone, so to speak, and thus cannot be rescinded. Commandments only disappear over time, and even then, it takes quite a few cycles for this to occur. This way, if you make a mistake, it may take in-game years for the effects to be felt, and by that point, it may be too late.

The world of Crest is a harsh and unforgiving one. Set amongst the Fertile Crescent of ancient Mesopotamia, the society you control is a vaguely African one, with no identifying geography to tie it to. Patrick explained that the team wanted the in-game religion be as universal as possible, especially with players stepping into the role of the god. To that end, there’s no religious buildings in the game at all, though with the next update your citizens are going to build obelisks/monuments to your name.

The art within Crest is also heavily influenced by Afrofuturism, particularly the logo and the highly angular nature of the colors and textures. All of the citizens within Crest are faceless, communicating in pictographs, and every event that your followers experience is set into a “world spiral,” an ouroboros-like visual history of your world.

Perhaps the largest departure from traditional god games is the lack of any win conditions. In the end, your objective is to build your society, and attempt to nurture them as best as you can, keeping them safe from rampaging animals, changing weather patterns, changes in terrain, and other threats. Some might naturally balk at the idea of “you can never win,” but Patrick and the rest of the team at Eat Create Sleep believe that with the setting squarely in the pre-civilization era of technology, goals should be player-defined, with the only real goal being to “prolong the life of your civilization.”

With one more major update planned for this year before Crest leaves Early Access, Eat Create Sleep have crafted a unique take on a genre that has received little attention in recent years. Its indirect nature, consistent challenge and the ever-present threat of failure make Crest a truly a unique game. Crest is currently in Steam Early Access, at a price of 10.99 USD.

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