Crashlands 2 crashes into the PC Gaming Show: 'It's very Crashlandsy,' says dev

It's been close to eight years since the release of Crashlands, a top-down action-exploration-crafting game about an interstellar truck driver who crash-lands on an alien planet, where she makes friends (and enemies), builds stuff, and sets things right in the world, all in a relentless quest to get back to work. That means the time is just about right for Crashlands 2, which is also a game about an interstellar truck driver who crash-lands on an alien planet and all the rest of it—the same trucker wrecking it on the same planet, in fact. Can you believe this could happen twice?

At first glance, Crashlands 2 looks quite a lot like its predecessor, tarted up with sharper, flashier graphics. But Sam Coster of developer Butterscotch Shenanigans said there's quite a lot more to it than might be immediately apparent. The biggest change is that the entire Crashlands 2 game world is "hand-built," rather than relying on procedural systems, which Coster said is enabling the studio to deliver "a bigger experience with more exploration, more rewarding character relationships, and more surprising depth."

Interactions with characters have also been expanded for the new game. Rather than serving as either quest-givers or cannon fodder, some NPCs in Crashlands 2 are just looking for a pal: You'll be able to make friends, hang out, invite them to stay over, and learn some handy crafting tips from them. Of course, crafting remains central to the game, and for those who aren't in the friend-making mindset, there's plenty of slapping to be done too.

"We think of sequels as opportunities to get closer to the spirit of a game, rather than just duplicate or extend the original design," Coster said. "As such, I'd say that fans of the original will find that while it has the same feel—it's very "Crashlandsy"—it has immensely more depth and appeal than the original. We overhauled basically every aspect of the design, from combat to world ecology, to better deliver on the spirit of the game, and in our early playtests we've only gotten extremely positive responses."

The increased scale of Crashlands 2 drove some major changes at Butterscotch Shenanigans, a small, family-owned team known for its iterative, wingin' it approach to game development. Coster said the team quickly realized that "we genuinely cannot build this with how we do game dev," which "started the discussion about what our studio would need to look like—how it would have to function—in order to build something this complex at this scale without everyone being crushed and the studio imploding." Work on Crashlands 2 has already been going on for longer than Crashland's entire development cycle, even though the team is now larger and more seasoned.

"The first two years of this game's production we spent in building tools, testing systemic designs, experimenting with art styles and pipelines, and basically overhauling our studio's entire gamedev approach so that we could actually make this game," Coster explained. "A hand-built world with ecology (creatures attack each other, plants react to things, etc) that was actually explorable was core to the whole thing, so it wasn't really an option to not [change the studio's approach]—even if it meant rebuilding our whole operation from the ground-up to be able to achieve it."

Coster said Butterscotch Shenanigans decided to go back to Crashlands primarily because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which hit just as the studio was wrapping up its previous game, Levelhead

"Crashlands was always a dream game for us—it was originally created to keep us mentally afloat during a dark time," he said. "The pandemic era was plenty dark, so we wanted to return to that dream and see if, in the process, we couldn't strike closer to the vision for what the game could be. The years between the original and starting to work on the sequel were huge in terms of skill growth for everyone on our team, so we thought: why not go for it now?"

I'm a big fan of Butterscotch Shenanigans' offbeat, irreverent humor (you can get a good sense of that in the studio's early game jam collection on, and coupled with the studio's promise of a deeper, more handcrafted experience, I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on Crashlands 2. It's set to come out in 2024 on Steam and mobile devices via Netflix. 

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.