Preview – Craft Keep VR
Craft Keep VR drops players into the role of a blacksmith/alchemist who, to be successful, must be able to swiftly meet the demands of local adventurers, whether it be to whip up some health potions or fix a few broken weapons. Much like in the fantastic Job Simulator the player spends most of their time in a single area with all of the available crafting tools scattered around them; the furnace, anvil, and tool moulds etc on one side and the alchemy setup on the other. Basically, NPCs run up and request jobs that, when accepted, set off a countdown that need to beat in order to receive payment and sometimes new unlocks for more complex crafting. With the help of the how-to clipboard guide; that displays potion ingredients as well as informing how to complete tasks like using arrow-head moulds etc, and the order clipboard; from which players must request inventory such as ores, hilts and vials, it’s made pretty easy to get going.
The controls are nice and intuitive – the controllers are in the shape of hands and allow the player to pick up items with the grip buttons and click things by pointing, using the triggers. Teleportation is also supported both manually and by locking into certain ‘stations’ like the furnace or job request areas that allows players with smaller VR setups to play too. In general, the movements required to execute tasks is basic yet engaging, exactly how VR should be. Ore is thrown into the furnace and becomes a cup of molten whatever-element-was-used which can be then poured into moulds and ‘crafted’ by banging said moulds with a hammer. Adding a blade or tool to a hilt or handle is done by holding both pieces, one in each hand, then bringing them together whilst holding the trigger button of the latter. Voila! Potions are made by placing the right amount of each ingredient in the cauldron and simply dipping in a vial to fill it up (even if the cork is still in, which confused me greatly for a while). It’s the mastery of performing these straightforward exercises efficiently that is so gratifying.
Although, whilst satisfying at first, it’s easy to see how it would become monotonous and overly simple once you have all of the crafting knowledge down. Fortunately, the game is only in early access, meaning it still has all the time in the world to continually improve and from what I’ve seen and read it looks like the player will not only be crafting but also keeping away oncoming hordes of enemies who seek to destroy their shop as well as mining ores instead of just ordering it from a sheet. I can only imagine that this will vastly enhance the pace of the game, where the tension rises as the player struggles to meet deadlines due to packs of barbarians assaulting the workshop. There’s a lot of potential for all sorts of interesting mechanics including some tower defence elements as the player could exchange goods for protection, for example. Hopefully what we’ll get in the end will be deep enough to keep players coming back, either trying to do better on a type of endless mode or just to complete the story.
Unfortunately, though, it’s still not time to get too excited as there’s a long way to go before I would consider it to be in a releasable state. As mentioned, it is only available in early access but I assume it will be staying there for quite some time as not only does most of the actual campaign need to be developed and linked to the continually increasing complexity of the mechanics, but there is an abundance of bugs that need to be ironed out; both graphical and efficiency based. These issues are much more noticeable and problematic simply because it is a VR title, meaning graphical glitches or jagged loading can actually harm the player physically. This makes it obvious that the lone developer is still learning about VR etiquette, especially when there’s a bottle of beer that can be ‘drunk’ in the starting area which might as well be labelled ‘instant headache’ as it twists the player’s view, abusing the power that virtual reality offers. I can only remain optimistic that another developer will jump in to speed up the process and bring another perspective on board, or at least that the current developer will listen and work with the community moving forward, to round out the edges.
Besides that there’s not really much to say at this point as I couldn’t play the ‘Free mode’ or ‘Chapter 2’ because the stages don’t start the player with enough gold to order the items needed to complete even the first job. There’s no way to receive that first payment for a job well done that will get the ball rolling so I was just stuck in limbo for a while desperately trying to find alternate ways of acquiring the necessary items but to no avail. Quite an oversight and the only usefulness of these stages currently is being able to see some of the more detailed crafting that will be available such at etching gemstones into blades and target practice on NPCs with the scoped crossbow. Although, this should be patched soon and will allow me to jump back in with every new update and see how the title progresses up to release.