The early 2010s went through a bit of a zombie revival with a media frenzy of games, tv shows and movies such as Dead Island, The Walking Dead and World War Z. The hype was everywhere and plenty of games rushed to take advantage of the trends of the time. Zombie games were a pretty easy genre to create as you didn’t need to create elaborate stories, set pieces or mechanics as the concept of ‘survive’ sold it self. Resident Evil pioneered this genre with its classic titles, and many games followed, with most leaning towards to blood and gore of shooting zombie hoards, however it wasn’t until the early 2010s with the zombie revival that the ‘survive’ aspect came more into play. Games were becoming less about the idea of shooting enemies, but more about the survival aspect. Fallout 3/ New Vegas, Dayz and even Minecraft are some great examples of games where had enemies you could attack, but more emphasis was but on your characters well being by keeping them fed, sheltered and healthy. At the same time you scavenged for parts to improve your gear so you could better survive in whatever wasteland you were put in. This became the norm for many games as the years went on and crafting / survival became an integral part of a lot of major games from all genres over the next few years, and it started to become a bit of a joke in a way with every new Steam Indie game claiming to be next “Open world crafting survival game” everyone would want to play. The open world scavenge, loot and craft system was becoming overdone – then I came across ‘Dysmantle’, another open world crafting zombie survival where the main gameplay element is destroying scenery, looting and crafting.

Dysmantle is a open world post apocalyptic zombie survival game (Had to get them all in) where you take control of an unnamed protagonist who leaves his bunker after a zombie outbreak to find his home island totally overrun by zombies (I believe they’re called ‘scrappers’ here). Your character must explore the island to find the necessary gear he needs to escape, whilst upgrading his own gear to find better loot, and survive. It’s all very straight stuff and that’s what I first liked about the game, after a very quick initial opening it throws you straight into the game. No over the top cutscenes or trying to establish heavy backstory. You’re just some guy on an island, trying to escape. The main mechanic of Dysmantle is that nearly everything can be broken down for supplies which can then be used to craft better gear, which in turn can be used to break down materials for better supplies. Better gear obviously means you stand a better chance of surviving against the hoards of zombies you’ll come across, and you will come across a lot as the game map is HUGE and you’ll need to explore the major corners of the map in order to escape.

Graphically the game is nothing amazing but looks fine. Character / asset models are very straight forward and it’s clear what they are but this game isn’t the PS5 being pushed to its limits. What is worth mentioning however is how vibrant the games colour pallet is, with each area having it’s own flair and distinct biomes that pop out. It’s pleasant to look at and not the same grey / brown mess that is a lot of other zombie games. Oddly the general design and feel of the games colour / models reminds me of Fortnite. Vibrant bright settings with unique areas. What’s also great is the game runs at a smooth 60fps, but then again the game isn’t pushing any boundaries so that’s expected. I still haven’t explored all the map but it’s always interesting to see what the next area throws at me as so far we’ve had suburban areas, snowy tundras, jungles and deserts with their own distinct personality. When it comes to the games sound design it matches the games graphics – nothing special, but alright. There’s no real soundtrack to speak of, with some calm campfire music and generic grunts for damage and zombie screams when you knock them dead. The game does do that thing of injecting random creepy noises while you’re in the game world and whilst it doesn’t creep me out, it does add a bit of atmosphere when you’re in a new area and don’t know where you’re gong. It’s also worth noting that the load times on this game are fantastic, with opening the game and being able to play being a matter of seconds which makes it easy for some quick 20 minute sessions.

But let’s get to the real seller of this game – the fact you can destroy nearly everything in the game. As I sometimes loathe games that force some sort of crafting system I worried Dysmantle was going to be a total slog of game with looting, crafting, looting, crafting and so on as it was the main mechanic, but honestly this is the best part of the game and introduces you to the mechanic in a great way. Once you character emerges from the bunker all he has is a lowly crowbar. Once you start hitting a few things you start to understand what you can and can’t break, and what different items will give you. Breaking weak chairs will give you scrap wood, mugs/plates will give you ceramics, bin bags will give you plastics and so on. You also figure out what you can’t smash yet, like dumpsters, cookers and larger furniture, but you also know at some point you’ll be able to. Once you get some better loot you can upgrade that crowbar and start smashing things you couldn’t before. As the game progresses you’ll create newer equipment for different jobs. A hoe for planting crops, a cooking pot for making meals or different outfits for different climates. The realisation that a new upgraded tool can now smash a kitchen also means you could go back and smash all those sinks you missed earlier on and get those materials too. You carry look in your backpack and drop it off at camp fire loot boxes which serve as a little rest where you can craft, heal and upgrade your items before carrying on. What I love about this too is that all the loot boxes are universal so while each campfire has its own box they all carry the same loot, and what’s more, there’s no limit, meaning you can cut down an entire town and grab every piece of scrap for upgrades before moving on. A good example of how rewarding this system feels is how much easier rarer loot becomes the better your tools get. Earlier on in the game I had a tough time finding iron and steel, as it was only available from certain furniture as my gear was too weak. However as my gear improved I found it easier and easier to get more steel, to the point now where I can scrap entire cars for steel, and considering I’ve only just got the better gear to do so, means all those cars I passed in my adventure so far I can go back to, smash them up and get more steel. In fact I came across a scrap yard at one point and knew this would be the first place I returned once I had the means to scrap them all. It’s a great system and I still haven’t tired from breaking down the game world. The only thing I can say against it is once you’ve ran out of a plentiful material it does become a bit tedious scavenging when you need to. I ran out of wood recently and while there are trees everywhere, it takes time to go tree to tree and harvest wood. Sure it’s easy, but I’m bored. Luckily this is minor and as I said before, the better you get, the easier it all gets.

So how about the zombies? Well ‘scrappers as they call them here’. For most part you won’t really be overcome with them as they come at you in groups of 3 max. You can sneak up behind then backstab them for extra damage which helps for the bigger boys too. The game locks on for you and you strafe around them and attack when the time is right, or dodge to avoid a deadly strike. Much like other parts of the game it’s very simple and doesn’t try too hard to create its own over the top combat system. Much like the gear in the game it’s also rewarding to take on an enemy that game you trouble earlier on and totally destroy it this time around. The first area boss I can now one hit with a powered up back stab. Because of how the maps laid out it gives you a lot of options on how you want to approach an enemy group. You can run in guns blazing, you can scout the area to get behind them, or you can ignore them completely. The games map – for most part – is very open. However you do get to points where you can’t just run to the next area as there are cliffs / rivers and you need to find a way around. One area in particular gave me a proper headache due to the linear nature and I died a lot there. Luckily upon death your spawn back at the last campfire you were at. Resting at campfires heals and replenishes items, but also spawns the zombies in the area again (hello Dark Souls) but this can be stopped by modifying the areas local mast. The island itself is also home to lots of side quests and side activities, such as turret defence areas, tombs which serve as puzzles areas or crates that can only be opened within a certain time limit. Aside from this there is the standard ‘finding all the areas’ such as campfires, radio broadcast and places of interest. There’s A LOT of game here and I’m truly enjoying exploring the game world with all it’s nooks and crannies.

What’s also worth mentioning is the support this game is getting from 10tons over the coming months. The game already supports couch co op and an apparent Switch version on the way. They’ve promised to add new content and updates such as outpost building in the future. Due to the destroy, build, destroy nature of the game I think this game has huge potential to add hoard modes, larger multiplayer games, and base building. No doubt these would come to Steam first but it’s refreshing to see such a game promised support so early on.

Dysmantle is a great open world zombie game that uses its best asset to its advantaged. Destroying the game and slowly progressing your character makes for a rewarding experience by overcoming challenges that gave you grief earlier on. Sure the destroying and looting can get tedious at times and the game did start to annoy me a bit when it became a more linear claustrophobic experience but this was only a smaller part and sometimes the grind is necessary. I would’ve also liked more personalisation of your character as you cannot change the default character, so you’re suck as generic bearded man for the game and different genders / skin tones would’ve been appreciated, but no doubt these could be added in future updates. Dysmantle is a fantastic example of a more vibrant zombie survival game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and gives you a rewarding experience along the way. I’m 22 hours in with just barely half the map opened up and haven’t fully explored what’s even available to me.