If you know your VR history you might recall CRASHLAND, an early VR prototype where players would defend themselves after crash landing on a hostile planet with little more than a radar scanner and a weapon. After the project went dormant for years as the developer focused on Ocean Rift (2016), today we learn that Crashland is about to blast onto Quest after being revived and revamped.
Well before the announcement of the HTC Vive or Rift CV1 and their VR motion controllers, pioneering VR developers were cobbling together Oculus Rift development kits with third-party motion controllers like the Razer Hydra to experiment with games built around motion input rather than a gamepad.
One of those early projects, developed by procedural animation aficionado Llŷr ap Cenydd, was Crashland. Initially revealed all the way back in 2013, the game had players facing off against waves of terrifying spiders that reacted in beautifully grotesque ways as they were dispatched with bullets and explosives. While Cenydd had scoped out some big plans for the project, he ultimately focused his efforts on the more tame aquatic experience, Ocean Rift, which came to almost every major VR platform over the last years.
But now, nearly eight years later, Crashland is back and looking better than ever.
The new Crashland, due to launch on Quest this Thursday for $20, maintains the same basic premise of crash landing on a hostile planet and defending yourself from waves of aliens. Aside from a full revamp of the visuals, the game’s structure has been fleshed out and includes a wide range of enemies (built around Cenydd’s signature procedural animation approach). Here’s the pitch:
The premise of Crashland is pretty simple: survive in gladiatorial combat until rescue. The full game has 24 missions, over 50 creature varieties, and 14 weapon modes. Missions are a short but very intense 5–10 minutes. It is mostly an action game but does transition in and out of horror. Each mission has a theme centered around a new creature; for example fighting giant hellworms in a sand storm, prehistoric terror birds in the forest, blood sucking spiders in the dark etc. As you play you gain XP, level up and unlock perks, including abilities like teleport punch, auto turrets, slow motion etc.
The gameplay loop is based around four mechanics: smart pistol, boomstick, scanner and teleporter. Creatures, scenarios and perks are all designed around these. For example there are creatures that jam or spam the motion scanner, drain or disable the teleporter, are drawn to or afraid of explosives etc. These are all mixed together so there’s a lot of emergent gameplay in the chaos.
When we played the Crashland prototype so many years ago, one of the major draws was how frighteningly organic the movements and deaths of the aliens were, and the tension of having a radar scanner which would beep with quickening pace as enemies approached. Cenydd says the full version of the game has amped up those elements yet further.
“One of my main focuses has been graphics and spectacle—I’m leaning heavily into my expertise in procedural animation for alien movement and the deaths in particular—the way the aliens have momentum, judder, kick and writhe adds a lot to how the combat feels. It’s a continuation of the [procedural animation systems] I did for Ocean Rift,” he tells Road to VR. “There’s also a huge variety of alien creatures—giant worms, spiders, electric slugs, ticks, dinos, scorpions, cephalopods etc. […] I hope people will get a kick out of the creatures; each mission introduces one or two completely new ones all the way through to the last mission.”
In terms of structure, the game will have a simple arcade format with menus to select levels and modes, with level completion and experience unlocking new missions and weapon abilities. Leaderboards will be included for those who want to compete for the high score. The game is single-player and Cenydd says there’s no plans for co-op at present.
If you’re looking for a deep-dive, you can check out a 20 minute walkthrough straight from the developer:
Cenydd says he’s been building the new version of Crashland since 2019 as a side-project alongside to his day job as a professor of Computer Science at Bangor University in the UK. While the game will launch on Quest first, he remains hopeful that he can “release a PC version later down the line.”