Video Game / Creeper World

"In the end, no answer is ever as elegant as its question."

Creeper World is a single-player Real-Time Strategy shareware game developed by Knuckle Cracker. The game starts off by throwing the player to the far-off date of 13,271, after humankind has colonized thousands of worlds in the galaxy. For millenia, everything was great, until the Creeper showed up. Then things started going downhill. The Creeper, which seems to be a form of sentient, xenophobic, destructive ooze, flowed across the human empire, killing trillions of people. On the first day alone, it struck 50 planets and slaughtered nearly 500 billion humans. The remaining fifty thousand humans gathered on a planet called Hope guided by the writings of the Old Man, and constructed the mobile outpost known as Odin City. The player takes the role of Commander of Odin City. Each map is a human world that had been overrun by Creeper, and your job is to power up Warp Totems so you can teleport to the next one.

One of the things that makes the game noticeable is that it eschews some established Real-Time Strategy tropes, and taking new looks at others. The result is a rather unique gameplay style, and can be addictive. Like Go or Checkers, it's easy to pick up, but can take some time to master. The main resource is energy, which is collected by plonking down Fractal Energy Collectors and Reactors across the map. The more sections of the map that is covered by your collectors, the more energy you produce. However, at the same time, Creeper emitters will try to cover the map with Creeper as well, which damages any of your buildings it touches. You stop the flow of Creeper by building weapons, which blasts away the ooze and lets you gradually expand and advance. Fight your way through the waves of Creeper and connect the Warp Totems to win the map. If the Creeper deals enough damage to Odin City, it'll be destroyed and you lose.

The tutorial can be played here, or downloaded (either the demo or the full game) here.

A third game, Creeper World 3: Arc Eternal was released in 2015, and is currently available on Steam. In this game, set in the far, far future, has you take the fight to the Creeper, destroying the Creeper Emitters and cleansing the planets themselves, rather than just teleporting from place to place.

Particle Fleet: Emergence. A Creeper World Chronicle has been released in September 2016. While taking place in the Creeper World universe, it is considered a standalone game.

Creeper World 4 is in early development as of June 2017.

Tropes exemplified in this game:

  • Action Bomb: Exploding ships in the Particle Fleet create a blast wave that scatters enemy particles for a moment. It is a legitimate tactic to throw you cheapest default ships between your very vulnerable lathes and enemy emitters to buy more time to destroy them. A very popular custom ship design is simply a command module with an attached engine. Quick to build and able to deliver a stream of kamikaze explosions to the enemy.
  • Adaptive Ability: The main threat of the Creeper is its ability to eventually adapt to and subvert the defenses of any civilization it encounters. Many of the advanced weapons and abilities of the Creeper were originally defensive measures that stopped the Creeper for decades, centuries, or millennia, before it patiently studied and adapted to these defenses and turned them against their creators.
  • A God Am I: Imperator, the one who corrupted the Loki.
  • Amplifier Artifact: Power Zones in Arc Eternal are left after destroying a creeper structure. Placing a tower on it doubles, triples, or (in case of Bertha) sextuples that tower's capabilities.
    • Power Crystals in Particle Fleet are scattered around the level or are retrieved from crystal mines. A Crystal can be used to upgrade your manufacturing/command capabilities, or increase a single ship's weapons range (though, unfortunately, not to the extent of a Power Zone above).
  • Anti-Frustration Features: In Particle Fleet, it would be very annoying to have a ship stranded in the enemy space every time it runs out of energy. So, if a ship does run out of energy, it can still move at full speed indefinitely. And, it a ship runs out of engines, it can still move, albeit slowly.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: In the main Creeper World games, there is no upper limit on how many weapons and units you can build, but powering them is a different story. Certain custom maps do place arbitrary limits on what you can build, however. In Particle Fleet, you are limited by level settings to how many and what kind of units you can build.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Megaships from Particle Fleet. Sure, they look great, hold a million guns, and usually appear in maps designed specifically around them, but they have several disadvantages that put them in this category:
    • They take forever to build, making them useless for initial defense and Too Awesome to Use once built.
    • Huge size means that guns located at the back can barely reach beyond the nose of the ship. Positioning ship-killing MK-7's anywhere but the nose eliminates their range advantage over other weapons.
    • Finally, trying to plow through a dense particle cloud can make the game's engine hick-up and place a particle onto the ship's bridge, destroying it immediately.
  • "Awesome McCool" Name: Skarsgard Abraxis.
  • Bag of Spilling: Upgrades don't carry over from level to level. Justified in Arc Eternal, as the Forge is a storage facility for Aether, which is used for your upgrades. If the Forge is lost, so is the Aether used to power your upgrades.
  • BFG: The Bertha cannons of the third game. MK-7 from Particle Fleet is a huge triple-barreled naval gun, perfect for punching through to enemy ship's bridges, especially if specifically set to target ships.
  • Bittersweet Ending: At the end of Particle Fleet, the Ticon Corporation finds itself trapped and facing a huge enemy horde. All they can do is to transmit the location of the data cache they've assembled and perish fighting, hoping that someone else will retrieve and use knowledge they've discovered.
  • Boring, but Practical: A great way for capturing a position in CW3 is to terraform a 3-5 unit-wide height-10 ramp, negating any height advance the Creeper has, eliminating landscape obstacles, and bringing the most firepower to bear. The biggest downside to this approach is that it takes forever.
  • Construct Additional Pylons: While there is no hard need to build support structures, Collectors and Reactors are needed to supply energy to power, build, and reload your weapons, and connections to Odin City or the Command Center are needed to supply them. Anti-Creep and Bombers will need Ore Mines to be connected to the network to supply materials needed to keep them loaded, and the Forge will require a connection to Totems to generate the Aether needed to research upgrades.
  • Command & Conquer Economy: In full effect. But to be fair, it's pretty much just the player who is doing all of the work.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides:
    • The player and Creeper cosmetically look different, as the player uses structures and has logistics requirements while the Creeper simply spreads across the map. However, the two sides have broadly similar tactics of map expansion, and when Anti-Creep comes into play, there's virtually no difference in how the liquid physics work between them, right down to the fact that Anti-Creep spreads using Digitalis.
    • Furthermore, in the map editor, the colors of both the energy zone and the creeper are fully customizable, so there's no reason why an evil map author couldn't make them match.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The ultimate story is about a Forever War in which humanity is doomed to endlessly fight the Creeper and constantly be overwhelmed and destroyed. While the first and second games are Lovecraft Lite in which the Creeper is defeated after a lengthy struggle, the third game emphasizes that the Creeper can never be truly defeated. Even if it takes a million years of patient waiting, the Creeper will return with new adaptations and tactics and strike when its previous enemies have become complacent.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Your weapons will continue to deal full damage even if they're down to their last Hit Point. The game actually encourages you to take advantage of this: Dropping a Blaster into some Creeper that it can kill will deal minimal damage to it, but will soon be pushed back.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: The Creeper is an immense and amorphous being, so the only way to drive it back is to use huge numbers of rapid-firing weapons to destroy small bits of it at a time. Even the most powerful weapons, like the Bertha, only blow large chunks out of the Creeper that will eventually fill back up.
  • Developers' Foresight: In the final level, you're supposed to complete it by holding out until the super weapon becomes available, but you can actually power your way through the entire level. Only the black hole at the end is supposed to be defeated by Thor ramming into it and exploding, destroying it. So what happens instead? Knuckle Cracker pops up a message congratulating you for being so 1337 and tells you that, for the sake of the story, it's going to assume that you used the superweapon anyways.
  • Did The Research: The spread of creeper and the navigation of energy packets on the network are done with real-life scientific equations (thermal flow and A* graph search).
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: In the third game, these are just one of the many measures that have been deployed in a vain attempt to halt the creeper's advance. It doesn't work.
  • Easy Logistics: While logistics are essential, the basics are relatively simple, as the player simply needs to place Collectors and Reactors and make sure they're connected to the main base. Things get more complicated when advanced technologies get involved and construction spreads further past your base, as you'll need to manage connections to mines and totems and make sure that Relays exist to speed up travel of packets of energy and ammo to the front line. Things get especially complicated when you start needing to push into islands with Emitters, requiring a constant game of leap-frogging turrets and relays to keep them supplied.
  • Fog of War: Averted. There is no fog of war, with the player having a full view of the map, which also serves to give them a good view of what exactly they're up against.
  • Forbidden Zone: The Redacted Space from Particle Fleet is absolutely forbidden to enter under punishment of automatic seizure of all assets you leave behind. It contains information on history of humanity, some secrets that Galactic Corporation doesn't want you to know, and the slowly growing universe-ending threat.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Particle Fleet takes place during the age of the Ticon. If you've played Arc Eternal, you'll know from the events of the third game that they, like so many civilizations before them, were also wiped out despite their best efforts, so it's not too difficult to guess how things end up for the protagonists.
  • Forgotten Superweapon:
    • Oh, did you not notice there's another box for a weapon next to Drones? This appears in some custom maps, though it is extremely over-powered. It's called, fittingly enough, The Thor.
    • The final mission of the third game offers a double whammy: The Thor makes a reappearance, and there are buried missile silos on the map.
  • Gun Nut: Your weapons director from Particle Fleet quite literally salivates over the progressively bigger ships you acquire.
  • Here We Go Again!: Particle Fleet starts with you entering the Redacted Space investigating a signal sent by a doomed expedition. At the end, during your last stand, you send out a location of your data cache for others to investigate.
  • Hold the Line: The beginnings of each map can play out like this, until you build up enough weapons and energy to push the Creeper back.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: The final map of the first game. It's technically possible to win it without using the superweapon if you build lots of weapons, but it breaks the story.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Commander tries to do this with the Forgotten Superweapon, but intervention on the behalf of The Precursors saves him. Played straighter by The Precursors themselves, except for Platius/Old Man.
  • Humanity's Wake: The third game's story consists of drudging through the ruins of civilizations that tried and failed to stand up to the Creeper.
  • Instant-Win Condition: On maps with warp inhibitors, all enemy structures are instantly destroyed once the inhibitor is gone.
  • It Can Think:
    • The Creeper is intelligent and extremely adaptive, even corrupting other civilizations so that they will also spread it.
    • In Particle Fleet, you start off fighting individual particles, but as level progress, you see to your horror the enemy copying, first, the shape and, then, the functionality of your ships.
  • Level Editor: A big part of games 3 and 4, as the players will spend most of their time fighting through user-submitted maps.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The default "Wolf" ship design from Particle Fleet carries eight rocket launchers. With a ship editor, you can put as many rockets on a ship as you want.
  • Mirror Match: In the later levels of Particle Fleet, the enemy eventually begins copying your ships. Luckily, if everything is going well, you can bring down your entire fleet on individual duplicates. To an extent, this also applies in reverse, with the player (depending on the level) gaining access to limited forms of friendly Particulate, plasma, Struc, Emergent, and so on.
  • More Dakka: In some of the later levels you can end up with a massive support system powering a mixture of dozens if not hundreds of Blasters, Mortars, Bombers, Anti-Air weaponry, Missiles, Snipers, Fighter Jets, BFG's, and machines that pump out a friendly version of the Creeper. Typically building forty or so is enough to beat even a late game level, but there's no kill like overkill.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
  • Nano Machines: This game is absolutely in love with nanotech. The plans for new buildings are even called nano schematics. It's implied that this is how humanity did everything before the advent of the Creeper, so you're using the leftovers of civilization to defend you on the maps.
  • Never Recycle a Building: The subversion of this trope is one of the many things that differentiate this game from other RTS/Tower Defense games; you can move any weapons you've built freely around the map, even right on top of the Creeper! They'll take heavy damage if you do that though, so only do so when you need to take a specific location and you have a lot of them to clear it out. Even your giant Central Command Node is able to be shifted around the map (though that's like moving your King piece in chess; if you have to move it, you've either got one heck of a plan, or you've screwed up big-time somewhere). You can't move your Collectors, Relays, or Reactors though, as they are planted in the ground and are immobile.
  • No Recycling:
    • In the first game, the energy used to power a Totem is completely lost if your energy network connection to the Totem is broken. You will have to pay to charge it up again from scratch. Likewise, if you lose connection to a Storage unit, and that brings your capacity below what you had. Meanwhile, your weapon buildings will hold onto power forever, if they don't fire.
    • In Arc Eternal, if you lose your Forge, all Aether put into it and all upgrades researched are instantly lost, even if you build a new one.
  • Last of His Kind: In the third game, Skarsgard is the last (known) human. Lia states that the last civilization went dark millions of years ago.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • At the end of the second game. When you first hit the Nexus with a darkbeam, it starts telling you how amusing it finds your efforts, and assures you that many civilizations have tried the same attack on it through history, and they all failed. As you keep throwing more and more firepower at it, it's messages become less smug and more desperate until by the end it's alternating begging you to spare it and begging it's creeper masters to give it more power to resist you.
    • Another example from the second game: you build a mini Portal Network throughout a level for faster transportation of units and energy. Imagine the surprise when a player discovers that enemy drones will happily use that network to jump straight to the gate sitting right next to the player's mothership.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The Loki's philosophy is summed up as "The Purity of Nothing."
  • One-Hit Kill: In Particle Fleet, hitting the command module destroys the ship regardless on any other factors. Similar to, but not exactly Attack Its Weak Point since a command module is usually protected by the ship around it, and maneuvering for better firing angles isn't really part of the game.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: In Particle Fleet, Galactic Corporation has recently purged the ruling aristocracy and installed itself as the ruling power among humanity. Among the things they do is issuing licenses for the ships you can build. So, while you can, theoretically, build any number of any ships, you are limited to the types and number of ships you have licenses for.
  • Point Defenseless: Averted in Particle Fleet. A humble laser has the shortest range of all the weapons, but also an incredible fire rate and damage. It is specifically meant to protect your ships from being overrun by waves of enemy particles. Default ships only have between 1 and 3 of those to make it fair on the enemy. And the only reason maps don't usually include a ship that's just a sideways bar with a 2x10 array of lasers is because such ships are virtually unstoppable, able to drive right up to emitters without breaking a sweat.
  • Ramming Always Works: When two ships collide, they start annihilating each other until a command module is hit on one of them. That ship then immediately explodes. "Hammer" ship lacks offensive weapons, but has a huge bulb of blank hull in the front. It is designed to ram straight through to the enemy's command module, and remain alive. And, since the destroyed portions of the hull are blank, they rebuild quickly. Shielded ships are also good for ramming, since their hull gets annihilating at a slower rate than that of an un-shielded enemy.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: The third game takes place five billion years after the previous game, yet a surprising amount of ruins are still recognizable. Machines corrupted by the Creeper are as functional as the day they were built. Subverted in the finale, where the Loki hive asks Abraxis if he really thinks that a primitive cryosleep pod could maintain his body through 5 billion years of slumber.
  • Reinventing the Wheel:
    • In the second game, most of your technology is disabled by Obstructive Bureaucrats.
    • In the third game, your ship has had to repair itself over and over again over several eons.
    • Also Justified in Particle Fleet. Instead of learning new technologies you use power crystals to supercharge your manufacturing and command capabilities. The campaign is even nice enough to know how many crystals you've encountered in the previous levels and hands you them at the start of each level.
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction: Structures are assembled within seconds, unless the player is running a serious energy deficit or building dozens of structures at once, in which case it might take whole minutes.
  • Rock Beats Laser: In the finale for the third game, ancient cruise missiles are used to take down the shields of the Loki ship, which were never designed to counter a weapon so primitive.
  • Sequence Breaking: You're also able to beat the final two stages of Arc Eternal, Farbor and Arca, early. You can Thwart Stage One.
  • Shout-Out: The credits state the author is a fan of multiple science fiction series. The Commander person may have been inspired by Battlestar Galactica's Commander Adama (as well as references to The Old Man), and Odin City bears a striking resemblance to Atlantis.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: In the third game, Skarsgard spent five billion years in cryosleep while the Creeper ground away at human civilizations.
  • Something Completely Different:
    • The second game changes top-down view to side-view, does away with energy collection and network, and moves underground. Not even the creator liked the result very much, and so the third game is pretty much an HD remake of the first one.
    • Particle Fleet differs from the previous formula of "battle the growing poison puddle with base building". In this game, base building is down to securing energy mines. Instead of towers you have ships carrying multiple equivalents of those towers, though the ships still need to be supplied with energy. And instead of the creeper tide, the enemy starts off with shooting individual particles at you, and advances to creating ships of its own. The reception for this one was much warmer than for the second game.
  • Subsystem Damage: Ships in Particle Fleet ignore hitpoints for the most part, in favor of damage gradually erasing chunks of your ship's hull where the Particulate comes into contact with it. If damage overtakes a module (such as a Cannon or a Guppy), that module is destroyed until your ship has the time (and energy) to repair it. The only way for a ship to be outright destroyed is for the bridge to take damage, though this does mean that careless positioning or a reckless advance can cause a ship to die far earlier than anticipated. The Hammer, a ship designed almost solely to shield your other ships from damage, consists of just the bridge, an engine, a few particle lasers, and a massive block of armored hull in front.
  • Support Power: There are masses of undifferentiated Nano Machines on some maps, and if you can build your energy network to them, you can spend them on upgrades.
  • Tech Tree: The tech tree is mostly advanced across maps in the campaign,where the player picks up artifacts and nano schematics lying around on certain maps. Build your energy network to one, and you instantly learn how to build the associated tech.
  • Time Abyss:
    • Platius had been laying the groundwork for the story five billion years before the first game.
    • The second game's "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue mentions that the human-styglek conflict would last millions of years.
    • The third game takes place five billion years after the second.
  • Timed Mission: It's not until the third game that Creeper World will throw these at you. There is enough time to complete the missions, though at first it might not seem that way.
  • Tower Defense: The first three games have the hallmarks of this trope: towers facing a dumb endless enemy wave. But it has a few key aversions: towers move, and your goal is not to hold off the enemy till the timer runs out, but to expand to Creeper emitters and take them out (also with towers). So, "Tower Offense"? Particle Fleet loads the familiar towers onto ships, and becomes a more traditional tactical fleet game.
  • Turns Red: Depending on their settings, particle emitters from Particle Fleet may go into overdrive when approached, spewing out a huge amount of particles and forcing you to reevaluate the size of the force needed to take that emitter down.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: In the third game's finale, the Loki choice disables all base building as you take control of a starship. The credits level is a top-down shooter.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: As previously stated, you're going to need a looooooot of energy. The method of gathering and using said energy is pretty unique, though. In the second and third games, you also manage a resource called 'Ore', governing the creation and deployment of 'Anti-Creeper', as well as 'Tech/Aether,' which is spent on upgrades.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/VideoGame/CreeperWorld