Dystopika Review — A Night City of Your Own

Dystopika is a short, relaxing little city builder with no economy or restraints.
Dystopika Featured

As the intro to Dystopika describes, it’s a tiny game built over a year, inspired by one person’s travel across Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam and the late nights spent wandering their vast, sky-scraping cities. It’s a game with no management, resources, economy, or end goal—you’re just here to relax and build a cyberpunk Night City of your own.

The “goal” in Dystopika is just to build a city you enjoy looking at.

Dystopika gives you several categories of buildings to place against the shadowy backdrop of your soon-to-be Night City, allowing you to place randomized or specific buildings from a fairly generous list wherever and however you want. There are no resource requirements, placement restrictions, or any such limits on where or how many buildings you can place.

Dystopika Night
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

While there are no economic rules or production chains in this city builder, Dystopika does have something of a progression system, unlocking new decorations to place around the map as you increase the number of buildings placed in your city. This rewards you a little bit for building your city by progressively giving you more to place without necessarily overwhelming you with choices right at the beginning.

But what is a cyberpunk city without capitalism? Once your buildings are placed, in addition to decorations that function as anything from holographic whales to neon signs, the game also gives you a “lightning brush” that allows you to “paint” neon lights and advertisements across your city, filling in the dark space with bright and colorful lights that really bring the scene together.

An incredibly interesting way Dystopika accomplishes its free-form, aesthetic-focussed city building is by choosing to exclude any sort of road placement or a ground floor at all.

Dystopika Building
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

As you zoom in to the ground level of Dystopika, you’ll notice that not only is it shrouded in the darkness of the game’s aesthetic lighting choice, but that it is, in fact, made up of hundreds of tiny, barely there yet unmistakably shaped buildings and streetlights. As you place skyscrapers and other buildings that would obstruct this mass of presumably tiny homes and businesses, the environment instead forms around the inclusion of the new building, taking shape to match the nature of the building you put down realistically and forming a little district right before your eyes.

You don’t have to worry about snapping to roads or anything because they don’t exist, at least not in any way you can see. But that doesn’t mean your little city feels unreal; the game’s incredible use of light and shadow just makes it feel like your roads are out of sight but still there and functioning for all of your tiny cyberpunk citizens.

It’s remarkable how well the game adapts to the freeform placement of buildings, making almost any placement feel seamless and natural, but that doesn’t mean the system is totally infallible. At times, you may place a building in your cyberpunk city only to find that it clips every so slightly into another or has a neon holo-billboard blocked by the placement of another building.

Thankfully, this is never really a problem because you can freely demolish everything, and buildings can be rotated and moved around after being placed. Each building can also be grown, or shrank, which changes the look of the building in proportion to its new size, giving every peaceable object in the game more like two or three models on its own.

Dystopika Fog
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Relaxation is the name of the game in Dystopika, and the soundtrack certainly helps sell that. Several droning, calm yet unmistakably dystopian and cyberpunk tracks are available to play as you design your city. I usually play City Builders games with Netflix or YouTube in the background, but I found it hard to pull away from Dystopika’s score and just let myself drift off to the vibes it wanted me to feel.

Dystopika wants you to enjoy the look of your city. Once your city is constructed, you can view it with several filters that change the weather and time of day. See your city live as it goes from dawn to dusk (but not noon; that would fight the aesthetic too hard) and rain to shine to deep foggy nights. It’s a game built for screenshots, sharing with your friends, or otherwise just sitting back and staring in awe at what you’ve built.

Dystopika Day
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

While Dystopika is certainly an impressive game, with cool city-building tech, a great soundtrack, and visual effects, it is, at the end of the day, only designed to be looked at and appreciated for its aesthetic values. With no economy, production chain, or really any city-building mechanics to keep you invested, I see Dystopika as a game you play once, maybe on occasion, but not one that’s going to demand too much time from you, and really, that’s ok.

Not every title needs to be a huge time investment or really something that you enjoy for more than a few hours on your day off, and for that, Dystopika hits the mark. However, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I would love to see this tech implemented in a more “serious” city builder. While I don’t want Dystopika itself to be changed too greatly, I’d love to see the developer make more of a city-building title sometime in the future.

The Final Word

Dystopika is a small, relaxing game about building an aesthetically pleasing cyberpunk city with no restraints on where or how many buildings you can place. While your time with the game may be short-lived, you’re bound to enjoy it and feel utterly relaxed, which is exactly what Dystopika wants to do.

9

Dystopika was reviewed on the PC. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles on our Game Reviews page! Dystopika is available on Steam.

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

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