Reviews

Creeper World: Anniversary Edition – Steam Review

FruitsNDoggie reviews Creeper World: Anniversary Edition, a timeless rts classic

First Impressions

Checking online, Creeper World (CW) was uploaded to the site I originally played it on back in December of 2009. As of this review, that would be 13 years ago. CW Anniversary Edition was added to Steam in 2016, and seems largely unchanged. Theoretically, I could have played this for free online, but for the fun I’ve had with this game before, I didn’t mind buying a Steam version and sending some change the developers’ way.

Gameplay

After thinking about how to describe it, I suppose CW is somewhat of a tower defense game, though I think the strategy genre fits it better. Your mobile city cannot withstand much damage, so it must be protected against from the enemy known as creeper. The city is typically in the furthest corner, but some missions are a bit sneaky and have long-term threats that can encroach on it over several minutes. From this city you’ll build a network of energy nodes. Each unit will draw energy from the ground around it, expressed by the green perimeter. The less bare dirt you see, the better. This energy is needed to build and fuel weapons, which must be connected to the network in order to receive more ammo. Plus, as you advance your units, they may take some damage, which can be repaired if they’re attached to the network.

Missions will include a few objectives that you need to connect to your network, as well as a few enemy units that create creeper. Creeper is essentially a fluid that pools up and spreads across the map, acting as an acid that destroys energy nodes on contact, and heavily damages your weapons. Since it acts like a liquid, and each map includes differing height levels, where you choose to attack it can influence how well you restrain it. Any creeper that’s cut off from a source will eventually dissipate.

Controls

Having origins as a free game online, the controls are set up with a mouse in mind. For the most part, it functions well for the gameplay, but you have to figure out some of the features on your own. As an example, there are shortcut keys to build different units. However, the tutorials don’t mention this. Another is that if you go into the options, you can click a toggle to double the game speed, and it indicates that up and down arrows will adjust the speed too. That’s something I wanted earlier, but wasn’t aware of until messing with the audio much later.

Story

I was surprised by how bleak the story was, as it starts off on a rather sunny concept. Looking into a distant future, humanity has expanded to other planets, establishing peaceful settlements supporting several billion people. With no warning, almost all of this is wiped out by a merciless, unstoppable force that destroys one planet after another. Only 50,000 people survive, and are just able to cling on, holing up in a mobile city that can at best slow down the invasive force long enough for them to flee. This is hardly a hopeful situation, but survival is the only thing that matters in such desperate times.

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Visuals

Thankfully strategy games aren’t too hampered by simple graphics, as it doesn’t get much more basic than this. Most units are represented with shapes such as circles or triangles, while important ones, like new tech or objectives, tend to have more ornate designs to them. I think what somewhat impresses me is the use of shading to distinguish between different heights in the terrain and concentrations of the approaching creeper. These pretty effectively convey all you need to know.

Sound Design

Unfortunately, there’s not a great song that plays during the missions. It’s more or less an ominous droning while you try fending off the impending creeper. Although I find it somewhat fitting, something more engaging would have been nice. For instance, something that’d capture the feel of the distant future, outer space, or a dim gleam of hope despite the odds. A few of the sound effects are kind of annoying as well, like when a drone takes flight.

Pros

🌟 After completing the story, there are additional maps to clear if you want more content. Mainly due to the time it takes to clear missions, the playtime in CW is pretty high for such a simple game.
🌟 Once you understand the gameplay, the challenge isn’t that high. The one exception I was caught off guard by was Tucana, as there’s a very deliberate way you have to handle that mission.

Cons

❌ The story could have been a touch more believable. I think many would consider human colonization on other planets plausible within a thousand years or so, as opposed to ten thousand years. Plus, seeing as how the gameplay consists of driving the creeper back, it seems to go against the plot that it’s an unstoppable force. At the end of many missions, you’ll have nearly stopped it cold.
❌ There aren’t many units available throughout most of the game. This really limits the gameplay and how you approach the missions. Even as you unlock new units, the core mechanics change little.
❌ I find the title a bit misleading, as the only changes from the original is a bit of a graphics update. I only know that because the Steam store page mentions it.

Tips

🔍 Mortars are more effective than blasters. Setting them up into the depths of creeper will start cutting off the source and ebb the flow off. Drones are also amazing for blasting deep pools of creeper.
🔍 You want to create an energy network that covers the ground efficiently. Build order is also important, as building too many nodes at once makes them all take longer.
🔍 Missions tend to take around 20-30 minutes of careful progression. There’s no need to rush.

Final Thoughts

I have a soft spot for CW, having played it when the game was new, and I was a younger man. Plus, at the time, the expectations for indie games were much lower than they are now. Something that could distract you for a few hours and had some decent music was considered pretty good. The bar has been raised significantly thanks to Steam and the work of devoted indie teams, and CW is as primitive as you’d expect from a 13 year old indie title. At this point, the intended audience for CW would be either those who are curious about the earlier games if they buy CW4, or people like me who played it on a free gaming site years ago. My memories are a big factor in my enjoyment, so I’d suggest it primarily for those of us with prior experience with it. Newcomers can always try it online first, and buy it if they want to show some love.

Follow my Curator page, Fruit N Doggie Reviews, so you can be updated whenever I post a new review.

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