Realistically, a religion may be misinterpreted or purposefully ignored by at least some fraction of society. This notion makes up the heart of Crest, a “god game” where the player does not have full control over their people, rather influences them through a religion of sorts. By creating commandments, the user can attempt to manipulate their villagers and the land. While the obvious goal is to foster a thriving community, you may choose to travel the diabolical route and create turmoil among your people instead. Either way, the attempted path is up to you in Crest.
The game begins with a long-winded tutorial explaining the various menus and UI. Your village is initially composed of three or four healthy villagers with high hopes for the future, and a strong trust in god, or the player. Ultimately, your role as “god” is quite limited. All you can do is initiate general commandments every five minutes or so, which may or may not cause something to happen. These orders are composed of a condition, action, and target, which are selected by the player from a predetermined pool of options. Choosing “jungle”, “produce”, and “food” will simply tell the villagers in the jungle to produce food. As new commandment tiles are unlocked through natural progression, you can begin to get creative. To give an extreme example, I became desperate when my villagers near the coast were beginning to starve to death. In a valiant act to save my people, I told them to eat their elders for sustenance and a cannibalistic society was born.
When a villager’s trust in god lessens, usually due to difficulties in survival, your degree of influence rapidly depletes. Villagers will tend to do whatever they please or completely misinterpret one of your commandments and follow their own idea of it. As a result, you really don’t have much grasp over the simulation past the first twenty minutes or so. One misinterpreted order could spark an all-out war or wipe out your entire society in mere minutes. Crest’s unpredictability ruins the fun at times, especially when any feeling of momentum is abruptly broken. Ultimately, you don’t control much at all, but that’s not to say you cannot cause events to occur through the butterfly effect.
Ideally, you would be able to keep your citizens’ faith at a constant maximum, preventing them from disobeying any of your commands. A large number of meddling factors have a combined effect on each simulation and prevent this goal from becoming a reality though. Whether it be an environmental change in weather or simply spawning in an undesirable location, the game often feels unstable. In addition, the tutorial itself presents an overwhelming number of cryptic icons and menus, which all have an impact on the game’s world. Being able to consider every factor simultaneously is a convoluted task, and I do not believe most players would be successful in doing so. Crest might be easier to manage if certain features were introduced later on, instead of all at the beginning.
The game exists in a low poly world with an African tribal vibe. Through a top-down perspective similar to that of Civilization, the player can observe the ever-changing environment below them. Every playthrough comes with a randomly generated landscape to work with, but most are similar in size and layout where a few islands are grouped together. The UI is all over the place, and could definitely be improved both visually and mechanically. Also, the only real bug I noticed was that the villagers tend to glitch out and jitter around quite often.
With no actual objectives and a mind of its own, Crest feels like a sandbox simulation with little guidance. Adding missions for specific scenarios, such as winning a war or gathering a certain amount of food, would give more focus to the game. Revamping the interface to make it more understandable and streamlined would also do wonders. I enjoyed the concept of having limited power and watching unique scenarios unfold in Crest, but a little more control would be welcome.