The concept of the 'god sim' has been around in video games for some time and anyone perusing the archives of SPOnG would attest to the fact that they are indeed a very popular and old format. But what if the player was given powers of a god that could only enact edicts and hope those who worshipped it followed them as best they could? What kind of society would they create? Would it be a good and just one that flourishes or one that revels in the destruction of others?
Crest is that kind of god sim that places an emphasis on simulating religions over being a god and changing the world directly. I got to play Crest during PAX West 2017 for quite a while and here are my thoughts on what I experienced.
Crest takes place in a world of the player's creation. A seed is the basis of a world that is randomly generated and presented to the player. You experience it from an overhead view with oversized creatures, buildings and people presented on it.
Nothing is actually to scale as Crest is built around the concept of iconography, with people represented as being massive giants and buildings reach the stratosphere; all with the aim of creating tokens for these societies that exist in the world.
In Crest there is only one religion and one god, which is the player. The inhabitants follow edicts laid down by the player in the form of simple instructions. These can start with 'build farms and make food from them' through to 'please attack the heretics that defy my edicts'.
Some of these directives will be followed and enjoyed by the population; others will be less popular and may even be ignored. Those that are favoured become enshrined within the sacred rituals of the religion that is slowly unfolding before the player. It's a pleasing experience and one that is guided by advisors who offer council to the player on how to improve the lives of their worshippers even further.
Crest represents this simulated religion using a low-polygon graphical style that sits very well with the iconography-based presentation the developers have settled upon. Scaling such models is relatively easy and the interface is also bereft of any kind of text and instead goes for images to represent the edicts the player has set down.
The people in the world are not directed so their state of mind is represented by thought bubbles in a similar factions to the 'Theme' games from the mid 1990's that Bullfrog used to make. It's all very well rendered and lit and the sound is reduced to spot effects and a soothing score that runs through the experience.
Crest is one of those games that are akin to a petri dish, in that you can actually let it run and not interact with it at all and the inhabitants would have made a go of things without you. Whether or not they're successful is debatable, but the AI is robust enough to allow it to use complex boolean logic commands within its engine to run without any interference from the player. I did enjoy my time with it, but it does need more time in the oven before it can be considered a fully fledged game.
Crest is currently out on early access and is available on Windows PC, Mac and Linux.