Crayta, the latest exclusive title for Stadia, is perhaps the most ambitious project to hit Google's cloud gaming service since it launched in late 2019. Instead of being guided by a central storyline or rigid set of mechanics, Crayta is an “anything goes” online platform where players can both play and build their own unique games. Like any good multiplayer experience, Crayta needs a strong player base right out of the gate for it to succeed, a stake that's raised even higher amid this title's launch-day limitations. I've been playing Crayta for a full a week, and here are my thoughts.

What Crayta gets right

Crayta’s biggest appeal is that it supports a variety of content, each type aimed at different types of players. It comes with seven unique games that include cooking dishes as a team, scaling the “super doom wall” armed with nothing but a high-powered hand cannon, and hunting live opponents disguised as office equipment.

Each of these minigames are based in their own unique worlds and are included within Crayta at no extra cost. Even better, more content will be added over time (for free), broadening Crayta’s appeal to a diverse range of players.

Crayta’s greatest asset, however, is the games you can build yourself — more on that after the negatives.

Crayta's glaring limitations

Although Crayta shines when played with friends, all multiplayer games are currently limited to 20 players per session, making it impossible to host grander multiplayer endeavors. Some games accommodate as little as four players per session, depending on developer-set parameters.

Despite its flexibility, there are things players currently can't do in Crayta, like drive a car, fly a plane, or sail a boat, but the developers haven't ruled out such possibilities in future updates.

Finally, although the minigames available at launch are quirky and fun to play in their own right, only a handful of them are available (for now). To help Crayta feel fresh, players will need to build their own games or wait for developers to contribute additional titles in the future.

A robust development platform hidden within a game

Perhaps the most captivating part about Crayta — at least at launch — isn't playing games but designing them. Somehow, the Crayta team managed to cram an entire development platform into their offerings.

The creation side leverages Unreal Engine 4, the same game engine that powers hits like Fortnite, Borderlands 3, and even Crayta itself. Once inside, creators can access an expansive range of pre-installed resources, including map templates, materials, mesh objects, shapes, patterns, lighting, textures, atmosphere manipulation tools, and so much more. Custom assets can even be loaded into the system for a more unique design.

Thanks to the power and flexibility of Crayta's game development platform, community members and professional developers can both build their own games and publish them for all to play, thus cultivating a realm of endless possibilities.

Is Crayta worth playing?

Unlike the small (but growing) number of Stadia titles that support cross-save and cross-play, Crayta doesn't exist anywhere else on consoles or PCs. Not only does it need a strong Stadia player base to survive, a large portion of its ongoing development hinges on other players and developers building their own games for the community to play together.

The biggest problem with Crayta today is that it doesn’t offer a ton to play upfront. On the surface, it’s just a handful of simple — albeit entertaining — minigames. But on the creation side, players can make almost anything: a basic battle royale, first-person shooters, robust landscapes, and tons more. It will need the Stadia community to build their own maps and games for other players to try, or Crayta will fall completely flat.

Just like Stadia itself, Crayta’s biggest draw isn’t what it can do today, but the potential for what it can be tomorrow. I've personally had a blast testing the game alongside my friends throughout the Stadia community, and Unit 2 Games — the developers behind Crayta — are as passionate about their ambitious title as they are brilliant.

If you're a Stadia Pro subscriber, claiming Crayta for free in July is a no-brainer. As for free Stadia players, I would at least recommend picking up the base version of the game, particularly if you've ever been interested in building your own games — Crayta’s developer tools are way too cool to pass up. For non-game builders, Crayta can still be exciting, but make sure you bring some friends along with you, or your experience may be stilted.

How to play Crayta on Stadia

There are several ways players will be able to dive into Crayta on launch day:

Stadia Pro subscribers can claim the Premium Edition as part of the July Pro freebies. This version includes the base game, access to seasonal content, and a pack of 500 Crayta Credits that can be used to purchase in-game cosmetic upgrades for your character.

Non-pro subscribers, on the other hand, will need to purchase Crayta on the Stadia Store. The Premium Edition will cost $39.99, while the Deluxe Edition comes in at $59.99. The pricier version includes everything in the Premium Edition, plus exclusive cosmetics, a permanent XP boost, and a pack of 1,000 Crayta Credits. Alternatively, players who purchase the Premium version can upgrade to Deluxe for an additional $24.99 if they'd like the extra perks.

Crayta is available to purchase and claim on July 1, 2020.