Dysmantle Review (PS5) – Every so often, a game emerges from the indie ether that, despite being exactly what it says on the tin, takes you by surprise. One such game is Dysmantle. Finland-based developer 10tons has fashioned an RPG that at first glance appears unassuming and familiar.
However, their spin on the popular genre is one that will sink its hooks into you in no time at all.
Whereas there are numerous examples of games that use deconstruction and creativity, Dysmantle refines this idea to its most satisfactory conclusion. Just like a kid jumping on a sand castle knows; destroying is more fun than creating.
Despite being rather simple in its gameplay mechanics, and using a tired old post-apocalyptic setting, Dysmantle is a relentlessly addictive open world romp that packs far more intrigue than it has any right to.
Dysmantle PS5 Review – A Ridiculously Addictive Survival RPG That Will Dismantle All Your Free Time
Possibly the greatest success of Dysmantle is in how its niche aspect dominates your impression of the game. Considering that so many of its gameplay elements are borrowed from the likes of Souls and Zelda games, it’s quite a feat that it can stand out on its own.
At first glance, Dysmantle doesn’t really seem like much. The simple standard and strong attack, the dodge roll, bonfires and enemy respawns clearly echo FromSoftware games, but with a budget isometric indie vibe. In actuality it feels a bit more like Diablo to play, only with a far narrower scope of character build and abilities.
Of course, these similarities become a minor notice in the grand scheme of what Dysmantle delivers. Whereas the addictive grind of other RPG’s lies in gaining XP from destroying enemies, Dysmantle does you the courtesy of granting XP for anything. Not only is XP gained, but the resources scavenged are used to upgrade your tools of destruction for an even broader demolition.
As simple and inelegant as this process is, the loop is irresistible. Since you have to upgrade yourself in order to destroy more items, you can’t help but want to grind a little more out of each session. Furthermore, as a byproduct of this mechanism, the environment starts to really matter to the experience beyond what it would in your average video game. Consequently there’s never really an area that makes you inattentive.
Naturally this symphony of destruction isn’t just hacking down farmhouses and bus shelters. The game’s world map is absolutely littered with zombie aliens. That’s right… zombie aliens. Combat isn’t an especially strong part of the game, but it works surprisingly well.
Dysmantle uses a targeting system that kicks in automatically on enemy encounters. By strafing and dodging you can tactically take down pursuing zombies. Whilst these encounters are enjoyably challenging, the switching between targets seemed a little unresponsive when dealing with enemy hordes. As a result, the more difficult scraps can be arbitrarily frustrating to overcome.
There are a few special attacks that can be eventually included into your offence. Throwing knives and grenades amongst your eventual arsenal. Somewhat hilariously, you can even build turrets midway through the game, which seems a bit ridiculous considering you can’t even make a regular gun at the same point.
It certainly isn’t a game that takes itself too seriously, but a player character that struggles to make an axe suddenly engineering an automated defence system is cause for some cognitive dissonance.
Symphony Of Destruction
The beauty of Dysmantle is in how it continually elevates you to become a master of your domain. Early on you can only damage select items and scavenge common materials, but through creating and upgrading new weapons you can salvage rare materials from previously indestructible items.
Despite the simple nature of the gameplay, you do feel an extra satisfaction from continually discovering how far your destructive capabilities extend. In addition, this sense of player agency is also bolstered by upgradable items that can increase certain effects towards more specific play-styles.
For example, the baseball bat and baseball card combo make for enhanced knock-back. Forcing the higher HP enemies over an edge with this combo can be a very enjoyable and efficient approach.
Dysmantle has a relatively small variety of standard enemies, but every so often you find yourself in a showdown with a boss enemy. These can include giga versions of standard enemies, or even a completely unique adversary.
In the case of the unique battles, they are surprisingly gratifying challenges. However, as is frequently the case in Dysmantle, you will have to profoundly suspend your disbelief. Indeed, taking down a Metal Gear-style automaton with just a sickle is quite a silly spectacle.
The story that accompanies all the carnage takes the Soulslike approach of story-telling. You get a bare bones premise and intermittent bits of unavoidable narrative, but the majority of the games lore is told through the optional parts of the game.
In attempt to escape the zombie infested island, the player character comes across many strange artefacts and tombs that hint at the nature of the game’s cycle of resurrection, and the strange zombifying disease plaguing the land.
You’ll be astonished at the potential plot twist as you dive into the games texts. However, the plot remains fundamentally open to interpretation, and enjoyable to ponder on.
Dysmantle’s campaign will probably set you back a minimum of 30 hours, but with all the extra content, you could easily spend 120 hours on this absolute beast of a time sink.
Considering how unbelievably addictive this survival RPG is, you might even find your way onto a second playthrough.
Dead Men Tell No Tales
With your attention firmly fixated with the core loop, it’s easy to completely overlook the production value of the game. Regardless, the Telltales-esque cartoonish artstyle is nothing to write home about.
The most you could say that it is vibrant enough to make everything stand out in a world where everything is interactive.
Not only is the destructible environment easily visible, but the SFX go a long way in indicating what you’re actually hitting. Moreover there’s something quite delicious in the foley, as you batter your way through sinks and farmhouse walls.
The only major downside is in the isometric nature of the game. The camera can be adjusted to look directly overhead, but is very limited in creating depth of field.
This can be quite frustrating at times, as it is difficult to coordinate with the map, and generally difficult to memorise the topography of significant areas.
Ultimately the most important feature that immerses you in Dysmatle’s world is the ability to destroy anything. Whereas games such as Uncharted craft impossibly beautiful environments that you’ll barely glimpse at, Dysmantle is a game world where you truly feel everything is worthy of attention.
Not only is this a wild achievement in itself for a game of lower production value, you get to enjoy it all at a lovely 60FPS and high resolution on your 4K Screen.
A Ridiculously Addictive Survival RPG That Will Dismantle All Your Free Time
Dysmantle is difficult game to judge objectively. You could easily argue that there a number of features could be improved. For example; the combat is perhaps too basic, the abilities could be better implemented and the graphics aren’t blowing anyone away anytime soon. However, due to how god damn addictive this game is, it really feels like none of those really shortcomings matter.
The reality is that most people that stick this game out for a couple of hours or so will find that those hours turn to days, and then weeks. Not only is it an incredibly moreish loop, but comes with genuinely enjoyable mini-games, such as base defence and tomb raiding. To top it all off, the story, which you’d assume would be mostly absent, is actually very intriguing.
There’s no question that Dysmantle will prove to be a popular use of time upon purchase, the question is whether gamers are ready to have all their free time dismantled by this indie beast that’s come out of nowhere. One need not fret about becoming a recluse however! A Co-op mode is also available so you can enable a friend in your Dysmantle addiction.
Dysmantle is available on PS5 and PS4.
Review code generously provided by the publisher.