Developer – Fatshark AB
Publisher – Fatshark AB
Platform – PC
Krater is a dream project. From what I’ve seen, peeking at the interaction between the community and the developers, Krater is something a lot of people want to see succeed. The game itself is fairly cool. Handle a party of random individuals that you hired yourself, finishing quests and looting enemies and hoping for that one awesome drop, before venturing back to town and attending to permanent injuries.
Krater embraces its influences, calling itself an amalgam of Diablo’s top-down action and X-COM’s group-based strategy. Although the game is quick to mention its forefathers, it doesn’t quite reach their level.
It all begins with the end of the world as we know it. Infighting eventually causes humans to irradiate their world, driving people to nomadic life, while transforming animals into monsters. The only site of salvation in the land that was once Sweden (home of vikings, Notch and IKEA) is a huge crater that somehow remains fertile.
The game’s tone is set in the initial scenes. Sure, the world is post-apocalypse in nature. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be verdant and wild. Krater’s landscape isn’t like Fallout, and its people aren’t half as serious. The dialogue options presented in each conversation are pointedly sarcastic. And that’s from every character you meet, including your own representation in the game. It’s oddly cartoonish.
This clashes with the world’s ever-present conflict. Random encounters with boars and bears tear out eyes and break bones but your quest giver is quick to stammer out a drunken sentence or make a joke about bacon. It’s as if making a tonally serious story was too difficult and so it was decided that funny was the way to go. With the music, the art, and the other assets, the other direction has more potential.
Speaking of which, the ambiance and music do a fine job of keeping you entrenched in your screen. They managed to keep me away from alt-tab throughout all of my playthrough. I came to accept it instead of switching on something else to listen to. Not that it forcefully grabs you, more that it’s a constant partner throughout your journey.
The doughy character assets looked fine, but the environments felt bare. I found myself glossing over all of the scenery and just watching the bars and buttons on the screen. Granted, that happens when you play an RTS or RPG like this, but I experienced it much quicker than usual.
The minimap in the corner is the place where your eyes will fall in-between encounters. Again, this is not anything new to games like this, but this is especially true in Krater because the environments don’t do a good enough job of clueing the player in on where to go.
If I sound a bit harsh so far, fret not. While playing the game, time melts away similar to how it does when playing other engrossing games.
That’s because Krater is engrossing. The loot tables are smaller than rival games but the thrill of discovery is still there. Plus, you have three characters to outfit with weapons, gadgets, boosters, and implants (along with other members on reserve).
It’s a little confusing at first when you have to figure out exactly what the differences are between gadgets, boosters and implants. Once that part is down, gameplay is a joy.
As someone online once wrote (sorry, I don’t remember the source), games like Krater are just a series of combat encounters. The trick here is to make each fight fun, to the point where people actively seek fights for gratification. Krater gets this right. The game is fun and I happily moved from pack to pack, eyes dancing between the action and the cooldowns at the bottom of the screen.
Krater’s combat boils down to cooldowns. Split between three characters, with varying cooldown durations, there’s always an ability to activate. This helps in keeping the game active and fun. While there are the typical healer, tank, ranged, and melee classes, the combat mechanics aren’t as deep as you may be used to with other similar games.
There are a very limited amount of abilities but those can be augmented with boosters. Characters themselves can be improved with implants. There’s a crafting system which allows players to build most anything in the game. It’s not easy to navigate but it’s there as a route to self-improvement. Krater is a small-time game but it’s readily open and enjoyable as long as you don’t expect too much from it.
Though it sometimes doesn’t know what it really wants to be, Krater provides for a bit more than a distraction. With proper support and a healthy dose of content down the line, Krater can reach cult classic status. If it seems too niche for you then trust your gut. But if crafting gear, exploring an overhead map and micromanaging three units sounds fun then this game is yours to enjoy.