Review: Dawn of Crafting13 Jun 2017 6
Review: Dawn of Crafting
Released 17 May 2017
I suppose that the dawn of any civilisation has to begin somewhere, but I must confess that I have never entertained the idea that the defining first step would be learning how to peel a banana. Sadly, our ancestor missed the opportunity to use the leftover peel to craft a pair of slippers (sorry). Once our ancestor has this peeling skill under his yet-to-be-invented belt there is no stopping him, and soon he is figuring out how to use stones to craft a flint knife. With these impressive skills to call upon, in no time at all he is creating that delight known as sliced bananas.
Our prehistoric inventor doesn’t work alone and can call upon a minion with an impressive set of sideburns to be his personal shopper. Initially, our hirsute helper isn’t the sharpest of flint tools, with his conversation reduced to the odd grunt and ugh. This means that you cannot send him out for specific items. Much like a hapless husband sent out on a rare shopping trip, he often returns from his travels with, for instance, walnuts when you wanted coconuts. Yet, as his communication skills improve you can send him out for specific items with much higher levels of success.
As an inventor, there are several skills that you need to master, such as meal preparing, tool crafting and woodworking. When you use these skills their success rate will gradually improve, opening up a range of new possibilities. For instance, after crafting several flint tools you will realise that with a sturdy stick and length of vine you can develop a primitive axe. Each time that you try to craft an item you can combine up to three different items and use an available tool. Success is far from guaranteed, and if your crafting attempt fails then all you manage to produce is a pile of useless green gloop. You can attempt to craft multiple items at once, but this can be quite risky as failure means that you will lose a lot of your supplies. In total there are an impressive 343 individual items to craft, which ultimately leads to the construction of a complete village.
All of this inventing and hunting (not to mention mating) requires energy, which can be topped up by eating a range of tasty meals. You will eventually learn how to make fire, which opens up a whole new range of culinary possibilities. One word of warning for those with a weak stomach; all that eating often leads to the need for a call of nature and more crap (quite literally) to clog up your inventory. Thankfully, this by-product isn’t completely useless and can be used to fuel your fire.
Your helper also has several skills that develop over time. Initially, he can only be sent out to gather stuff that he finds scattered around, but give him an axe and he will be able to chop you some wood or arm him with a spear and he will begin to learn some hunting skills. Sometimes, your helper will encounter a special event. These tend to boil down to a simple choice between a couple of options. There are only a few, so the same situations occur over and over again. There is also a simple little mini-game that turns out to be rather bizarre. An animal will drift down the screen and you have to tap it before it reaches the bottom, success means a welcome addition to you supplies. However, trying to tap on a floating rabbit or a screaming worm doesn’t really add to the game and feels like a last minute addition to break up the constant inventory juggling.
Dawn of Crafting draws the player in with a very thematic and logical approach to the crafting genre. Building up your village from such humble beginnings is addictive and rewarding. You never feel completely in the dark about what you need to do next, since your mentor, Alf, always has a task that you can be working towards and other people will turn up from time to time with additional requests. A book keeps track of all of your findings and also gives useful hints concerning undiscovered inventions. This means that you do not have to resort to just throwing random items together in the hope of turning up something interesting.
Unfortunately, there are times when Dawn of Crafting descends into a time-consuming drudge. Times when you know exactly what you need to do, but the actual process becomes a lengthy grind as you improve your skills before moving on. These periods feel like a lot of dull repetition for scant reward. Having to keep preparing meals also feels much more like a domestic chore rather than fun. Although the cartoon style graphics are basic and unmemorable, they do help ensure that everything is clear and well organised. However, as your supplies increase the management of your inventory becomes increasingly annoying. It soon becomes essential to increase your storage capacity by crafting additional containers. However, even when you have supplies of a particular item stored away in one of these containers additional amounts will always be allocated to your main inventory. The result is that you constantly have to shift half-used tools and duplicate goods to make space for new items.
Dawn of Crafting does offer in-app purchases, but these are in no way intrusive, it is perfectly possible to enjoy the game without having to spend extra money. The option is there, though, to purchase energy restoring food, new blueprints and a larger container to expand your storage space. The designers describe the game as a mash-up of six different genres, which seems a little over the top, the game feels like a pure crafting game, with any other aspects feeling purely incidental. Despite having a generous 20-hour playing time there are still times when the game feels a little lacking. The shoddy mini-game, repetitive events and over-reliance on grinding out skill improvements may not be game breaking but still detract from a promising endeavour.