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Core Keeper hands-on preview: a fresh and top-down take on Terraria

Core Keeper

I don’t care for Terraria. Which is an interesting way to start off a preview for a game by a different developer but you’ll understand in a second. I don’t like the side point of view and awkward platforming, it feels out of place in a survival-crafting game.

So thankfully Core Keeper has seemingly come out of nowhere and brings the survival genre to an top-down point of view.

The reason I open with that comparison is that it’s hard to not compare the two. Saying that Core Keeper is basically an top-down Terraria is an accurate take, but is that enough to allow it to stand apart?

Core Keeper
Developer: Pugstorm
Publishers: Fireshine Games

Platform: Windows PC (Previewed)
Release Date: March 8, 2022 (Early Access)
Players: 1-8
Price: 12.99

Core Keeper

In Core Keeper, players take on the role of an explorer who got a little too handsy with a mysterious artifact. This artifact teleports them deep underground (and possibly to a different world?) where they have to defeat powerful creatures in order to reactivate the device and return home.

In the meantime, players will have to build a base to survive and grow. Characters begin with nothing save for a few starting items based on their chosen background and in multiplayer this allows for a basic base to be erected in short order.

Such backgrounds include Farmer, Fighter, Chef, and more and provide not only starting items made from copper but also some experience levels in their relevant skill.

Core Keeper weaves in RPG mechanics by allowing players to rank up their skills just by performing actions. This not only encourages dabbling in a bit of everything, but it also ensures that players who specialize aren’t left in the lurch.

Core Keeper

Every talent tree has at least one or two talents that allow them to shine in combat. For example, high level Gardeners get bonuses to crit chance and can also apply poison to weapons; and high level Fishermen get bonus damage to bosses after eating food made with fish.

One issue I have with this, is that there’s no seemingly no limit to just how much you can diversify your talents. This is a good thing in single player, but in multiplayer it leaves you without a sense of uniqueness.

You can be the best dang Gardener in your group, but let anyone else muck around with the farm a bit and now they can do everything you can, on top of any other skills they’ve specialized in.

Core Keeper

It’s also difficult to make aesthetically pleasing bases as the game encourages making tiny little tunnels to chase down pockets of ore.

This ultimately clogs up your minimap as you make more and more of these dead end tunnels; and the relative scarcity of wood is a dampener on creativity when building, and you will need to build.

Much like TerrariaCore Keeper features a mechanic where NPCs will move into your base once you’ve acquired the special item to designate a room as theirs. At present there’s only a handful of NPCs that work this way, but Core Keeper is still early in development on patch 0.3.x at the time we previewed it.

However, despite the game’s point in development, it’s still managed to capture a sudden fanbase with over 500 thousand sales within its first month.

Core Keeper

Ultimately, Core Keeper will scratch an itch for players who liked Terraria and probably already played it to death. New players to the genre will also appreciate the game’s top down point of view which makes it more approachable (goodbye fall damage!).

Hopefully we can expect more intricate crafting and base-building tools in the future as developer Pugstorm keeps rolling out content updates and fixes.

Core Keeper is available now as an Early Access title on PC (via Steam).

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A basement-dwelling ogre, Brandon's a fan of indie games and slice of life anime. Has too many games and not enough time.