Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Having been out in Early Access for a little while now, I finally had the chance to sit down to 10tons’s almost Last of Us meets the original Fortnite’s original survival concepts. Having hidden in a private bunkers for years, with your supplies having finally run out, you venture forth into a world that’s moved on and plagued by beings once known as humans and other wildlife.
Dysmantle is fun. Outright, there is a vast region to explore at your own pace and while some elements may be locked behind quests or crafting progression, you’re generally not barred from going wherever you want to. Starting off with nothing more than the clothes on your back and a crowbar, you’ll be dismantling just about everything inside in order to get the materials to build what you need to survive. Better backpack, better weapons, farming tools, trinkets to give you a leg up on those that were once human and will kill you on sight. It has it all.
Now the reason I mention the original Fortnite is because in the original version, before the free-to-play battle royale, there was a tower defense survival zombie apocalypse shooter. In this tower defense survival you had to break down materials in order to build defenses and walls to protect yourself. This is a little of what Dysmantle makes me think of short of the tower defense and oncoming hordes. Now there are enemies, just not Zerg rush “hordes” of them. Where things become a little more in their own element is that certain grades materials can only be broken with certain levels of equipment.
So for example your original crowbar will not be able to destroy a tougher metal cabinet. It’s going to have to be leveled up first. On the same note even a leveled up crowbar is not going to be able to destroy a rubber tire, you’re going to need the machete for that. What’s convenient about just these two tools before getting into the rest is that they can also be used in combat and will affect how you approach a target as they swing a bit differently and do different amounts of damage. Add in other items like throwing knives, compasses to unlock fast-travel, fishing rods and bait for enemies, you’ll be trying to break every house down just to get what you want access to.
In terms of general gameplay, you’ll be moved around in a top down view that you can easily switch the camera around to get a better view if something is in your way. You can walk, run, dodge and then swing or throw anything that you have equipped. So far, there’s no stamina meter which is nice in a way as some of these ex-humans are terrifying and already hard enough to stay ahead of once they give chase. Combat follows the same rules of not having to worry about stamina and it’s either over once anything trying to kill you is dead, or you are. If you die, you’ll respawn at your previous campsite with nothing more than what you’ve previously made, but anything picked up, will have to be re-obtained off the skeleton and the backpack that marks where you previously died.
One thing that I really appreciated early wasn’t just that you’re free to go where you want, but also that there’s an underlying fear of maybe you’ve gone too far. Maybe “now” would be a good time to either head back to drop off your materials, or head back to sit down at the campfire to heal up and to save your current progress. I may have only had Dysmantle crash once within the first five hours, but it was enough to teach me to never go too too far as I would easily run the risk of losing a fair amount of progress.
On the note of the campfire though, I wouldn’t say that Dysmantle is a roguelike, maybe it has some little elements to it, but whenever you rest at a campfire not unlike Dark Souls, everything respawns short of the actual bosses. They thankfully stay dead and the only thing that they do is respawn their corpses where you first met them instead of where you took them out. There is a way around the respawning, and it’s not like in Dark Souls II where you simply murder rampaged them ten or fifteen times, but in modifying the transmission towers that also act as your fast-travel points. By learning how to make these modifications, you can prevent the respawning and also obtain a specific material only available previously through the bosses that you dispatched to make it that far.
Still in Early Access, but having given a roadmap of the features yet to come in the next versions (see screenshot below), there’s plenty of work that has already gone into Dysmantle and still plenty yet left to come. As I said in the beginning, this is fun and unlike a lot of others in this specific type of adventure, Dysmantle isn’t designed to kill you on the spot. It can, but it provides a challenge without being absolutely brutal about it. If I had one wish of things to perhaps come it would be to play with in a coop fashion with maybe one or two other people and maybe just raising the difficulty of the enemies to compensate. Otherwise, it’s a great single player experience that doesn’t need a multiplayer element at the end of the day.