You know how pizza is amazing, but if you eat pizza for a week straight, you kind of can’t even stand the sight of it by then? That’s sort of how I feel about zombie apocalypse survival games. There aren’t many themes that have been done more to death in the past decade or so. Despite that, somehow 10tons Ltd, who I mostly associate with excellent top-down shooters, have created a zombie apocalypse game that’s ticking every single box for me. It’s called Dysmantle, and after receiving high praise with its PC and console releases, it has also made its way to mobile devices this week.
So, what is it that makes THIS zombie survival game so much more interesting than the thousands of OTHER zombie survival games? Well for me, it’s the fact that it’s built into a large open world that features destructible objects and environmental elements. Destroying stuff yields various types of resources, which you can use to craft and upgrade all sorts of items. Throw in an overall character progression system and huge skill tree to fill out, and Dysmantle has a special sauce beyond just cracking zombie skulls that makes it extremely hard to put down. In fact, the cracking zombie skulls part is probably the least interesting part about the game.
Now, maybe this sort of thing isn’t for everyone. Personally my “happy place” in a game like Minecraft is just digging away at… whatever. Hollowing out a mountain, clear-cutting a forest, or maybe making a bunch of uneven terrain nice and flat and uniform. All the while just hacking away in a zen-like state, collecting resources to build what I need or craft new items when necessary. Yes, given the bazillion cool things you can do in Minecraft this sounds extremely dull to some, but there’s something satisfying about it, and I can’t imagine I’m the only one who gets a rise out of this sort of thing.
Well, Dysmantle has that element of destroying and collecting, but rather than being a world made up entirely of virtual blocks, it’s a layer built on top of an interesting pre-designed world. A pretty believable world, in fact. Do I have to hack away every single pice of overgrowth on the walls and fences of an abandoned house? Well, no, but it’s so satisfying to do so and bring that home back to its former glory. It’s also a handy way to keep track of the areas I’ve explored and the ones I haven’t. But it’s not just overgrowth, it’s everything destructible I can find. Book cases, trash cans, tables… whatever. And if I can’t destroy something just yet, I know that I WILL be able to destroy that something if I can upgrade my weapons high enough.
Which brings me to the crux of what makes Dysmantle tick: Carrots on sticks for days and days. Yes I want the next upgrade so I can smashy smashy the next tier of destructible items, and those items will likely yield some new resource which will lead me to crafting some cool new weapon or item, or some new upgrade path, that will lead to being able to smashy smashy yet a higher tier up of destructible items. There is a seemingly endless supply of items and upgrade paths and new things to destroy. Then there’s the skill tree giving you new abilities like cooking or fishing, new items to craft, new clothing with various stat boosts built in, and more. The amount of content in Dysmantle is almost impossible to believe, but it never feels overwhelming.
This is all set against a very cool world to explore and a story thread to follow and, while it’s not the star of the show, a really competent combat system with no shortage of apocalyptic baddies to battle. And the world you explore is large and there’s always something interesting just around the corner. The best way I can describe it is like Fallout with a layer of Minecraft built on top. Like I said, maybe not everyone wants to meticulously destroy every destructible object they come across, and you certainly don’t have to. Whatever way you play there is a ton that Dysmantle has to offer. It plays really well with touchscreen controls but supports physical controllers as well. It was a killer week for good games, with plenty of premium games to boot, but Dysmantle is the one that I just can’t seem to put down.