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Review

Dystopika Review

Chill vibes only

Less common nowadays, the question of whether to classify walking sims as video games was the talk of the town back in the early 2010s. Dear Esther, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Gone Home, they’re all titles light on gameplay but brimming with atmosphere, and they created endless debates on what constitutes a ‘video game.’ Solo developer Voids Within lights a similar fuse within the city-builder genre with Dystopika, a sandbox city management game that’s all sandbox and no management. Stripped back and devoid of any objectives, is this a soothing experience or a modern example of “you can’t call that a game?”

Loading into the game, you’re met with a generous plot of land amidst a wide, flat landscape in which to build your city. A left click on your mouse will cycle through the random assortment of structure silhouettes, while a right click will place it. Once built, you can interact with your buildings in three ways, depending on where you move your cursor. Move the building at its base, orient at the middle point, or raise and evolve the building by holding and dragging its roof.

If you’re looking to create distinct districts, you can choose from Central BD, Lowtown and New Eden from a minimalistic menu at the side of the screen. Two organisations are available also, Omega Corp and Alpha Corp, each with its own superstructure, though unfortunately no other buildings to accompany them. But, if you’re not worried about metropolitan synergy, you can stick with the randomisation and build to your heart’s content.

Slowly realising my Blade Runner design ambitions was more rewarding than I expected

As you expand your city, you’ll progressively unlock new structures and props, simply by playing. Ranging from slowly blinking antenna to traffic gates that funnel sky traffic, the props provide additional life to your futuristic landscape. All the components fit with the cyberpunk aesthetic, particularly the huge holograms that dominate the sky, but I found that I had seen every asset within around 40 minutes, leaving me to use the few tools at my disposal repeatedly to fully complete my city. Thankfully, the one-man dev team that is Mark Marshall has promised more content throughout the year and into the next.

There’s a small selection of options to add the finishes touches to your session. One tool allows you to wave the cursor across your cityscape, lighting up buildings as you do so, while other options such as weather effects and time of day change the environment itself. Lastly, you can switch between two calming music tracks, both of which are quietly soothing if you don’t mind some light synth. Again, my only grievance is that there needs to be more, as I quickly worked through most of the combinations in a matter of minutes.

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The glow of the neon signs through the fog is strangely calming

No goals, no objectives, no restrictions, no fail states. There’s so little to explain, and that’s the exact reason I’m fast becoming obsessed with Dystopika. It’s also doesn’t hurt that the game is very easy on the eyes. The shimmering lights dotted throughout the skyscrapers, the glow of the holograms and neon advertisements, it’s all realised in a high resolution, and I never ran into any technical woes, regardless of how sprawling my sector became.

Final Thoughts

Removing all stressful systems and leaving you with nothing but relaxing vibes and your own creativity, I can’t think of a better way to describe Dystopika than being a playable lo-fi playlist. Given a set of simple tools to create and shape my own visually impressive cyberpunk megacity, I melted into a somewhat meditative state, getting lost in the neon lights and enveloping fog. The directionless approach certainly won’t be for everyone, but it absolutely spoke to me. To come back on the regular, I will need more content, but a roadmap from the developer promises more to come, so it looks like my career in futuristic architecture and city planning is just beginning.

Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher

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Dystopika Review
Cyberpeaceful
A city builder that solely focuses on creativity and relaxation, Dystopika is a no-stakes experience that I didn’t know I wanted, but am glad that I’ve found.
The Good
Wonderfully simple and intuitive
Visually impressive
Appealing cyberpunk designs
Calming, no-stakes “gameplay”
The Bad
I need more content
Deleting structures takes too many clicks
8
Get Around It
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  • Voids Within
  • Voids Within / UNIKAT Label
  • PC
  • June 22, 2024

Dystopika Review
Cyberpeaceful
A city builder that solely focuses on creativity and relaxation, Dystopika is a no-stakes experience that I didn’t know I wanted, but am glad that I’ve found.
The Good
Wonderfully simple and intuitive
Visually impressive
Appealing cyberpunk designs
Calming, no-stakes “gameplay”
The Bad
I need more content
Deleting structures takes too many clicks
8
Get Around It
Written By Adam Ryan

Adam's undying love for all things PlayStation can only be rivalled by his obsession with vacuuming. Whether it's a Dyson or a DualShock in hand you can guarantee he has a passion for it. PSN: TheVacuumVandal XBL: VacuumVandal Steam: TheVacuumVandal

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