Crashlands’ postmortem is an extraordinary, emotional ride

Well I’m completely exhausted after an hour’s crying, and utterly invigorated for it. I just watched Samuel Coster’s postmortem of Crashlands [official site] from GDC this year, and goodness me, I’ve never felt so simultaneously sad and inspired. I implore you to give this a watch.

Crashlands is a game of exploration driven by quests and resource gathering, but in such a hooky way. It manages to combine that sense of just-one-more-minute clickiness with narrative drive, which is quite the achievement. It is, frankly, bewildering to learn the circumstances under which the game was developed. Have a watch of this. It’s not only a deeply personal story of making a game while fighting cancer, but also contains some super-useful insights into the development process. I feel certain that someone who watches this will have their life changed.

A thing I hate is thinking I’ve written about a game I’ve loved, and then discovering I never did it. I’m aghast to discover that despite so many hours spent playing Crashlands in 2016, because the majority of them were on my phone, I never wrote the full PC review it deserved. I did, however, write this brief Android review, behind our subscriber doors (now available to all).

I went on to play it for sooooo much longer, including taking advantage of the ability to save the phone version, then pick up from the same spot on PC. I’m at a loss as to how I never followed up with an article here, and even note that I’d planned to at Christmas when a new update was added.

Of course, trying to review it now with the knowledge of the process of its development makes for an interesting time. This is why I’ve always maintained that the “developer profile” approach to games journalism is so unhealthy for critics – learning the personal stories during development can only ever colour how a game is reviewed, in a way that’s wholly irrelevant to those buying and playing. Stop doing that, games hacks. Still, not having written a review is an oversight I’d love to correct.

Also: cor. Flipping heck. Blub.


  1. Faldrath says:

    This was… something else. Thanks for posting it, John. I’ve had Crashlands for mobile for a while, but never really gave it much attention – this will have to change. Do write a review, if you can!

  2. Retne says:

    I started to watch this, then remembered I had a call with a colleague and already had started to feel somewhat emotional. I will return to the video, and check out the game (which I missed due to having far too many games already).

    • Retne says:

      I watched this, then I watched Rio Ferdinand –
      Being Mum and Dad that evening. All of which serves to remind me that I am very lucky and that I should and will treasure every second.
      link to

  3. Anvilfolk says:

    Step 1) press play
    Step 2) cry a lot
    Step 3) buy game

    This was beautiful and heart-wrenching and mind-blowing and all of the adjectives. Seeing someone, particularly a man, particularly in gamer circles, be this vulnerable and open is a wonderful, gorgeous thing.

    Thank you for sharing it and bringing it to our attention.

  4. caff says:

    Much respect to this guy, his brother, and everyone around him. This is inspirational stuff.

    I want to say something along the lines of “we all go through shit but this is the right attitude to have” – but ultimately the video says it all.

  5. funkstar says:

    the development documentary (available on steam i believe), first episode on youtube here link to is also amazing to watch

  6. Ghostwise says:

    Crashlands is on PC now ? Dangit, nobody never tells me nothing.

  7. Mandrake42 says:

    Wow, great talk. Game design is difficult enough but dealing with cancer at the same time is crazy. Inspirational stuff.

  8. GeoX says:

    I thought the first part was well-done, and I’m glad he’s not dying (except in the sense that we’re all dying), but boy, I found all the minutiae of the details of the release in the last part…well, less than fascinating, and not thematically of a piece with the earlier subject matter.

    • Mandrake42 says:

      Hmm, while the theme did change and focus shift focus away from cancer and more on the game development side, that seemed a logical progression to me. Its the GDC after all, the focus is about games and their development. I think the whole thing seemed pretty unified into how cancer affected his game development.