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Dystopika Is A Cyberpunk City-Builder*

Just build the city, never mind the neural networks or megacorp diplomacy

I had big plans for last weekend. I was going to reinstall Wolfenstein and blast some Nazis. I was going to try out F1 24. I was going to maybe even dabble in some Civilization, because VII's reveal has it on my mind. Instead, my free time ended up getting blindsided by something else entirely: a cyberpunk city-builder* called Dystopika.

* Note: it is not the kind of city-builder the existing genre would have you assume. You do build a city here, yes, but...that's all there is. Dystopika is more like Tiny Glade, Townscaper or Summerhouse than Cities: Skylines. You're given a blank, very dark canvas and are left to "paint" yourself a city, dropping certain types of buildings here, and others there. Drop enough of them, or do enough with the ones you drop, and you can unlock some more stuff.

You can adjust the height of buildings, add decorative effects (like neon lights and huge billboards), adjust the weather and time of day, and take some very nice photos. And that's it! There are no budgets, no rules, no emergencies to deal with, no sewerage links or power lines to bother you.Dystopika is, despite its lack of challenge or variety, a wonderful timesink.

What few tools it does give you are enough to conjure a megalopolis out of nothing, but alongside those sweeping gestures it's also able to provide hours upon hours of meditative honing as you zoom in to see tiny flying cars buzzing around and delicately place holographic adverts and landing pads on rooftops, as though you were holding a tiny pair of tweezers.

While its ease of use and freedom of expression are hallmarks, another star of Dystopika might be its soothing Lo-Fi Beats To Blade Runner To soundtrack, which complements the "action" perfectly. Listen to the music in the vid above, it just hums along like this forever, it's lovely.

As superficial as it is, Dystopika is still a really good cyberpunk game, if only because--unlike, say, Cyberpunk 2077, which was burdened with having to reconcile the genre's aesthetics (mission accomplished) with its subject matter (eeehhh)--this is just zeroing in on the former without even bothering to deal with the latter.

Which is great! I absolutely do not want to play an actual cyberpunk city-builder. This is not a fictional space known for its strong central services and tax revenue! Focusing solely on the aesthetics and allowing us to do nothing else but swim in the vibes is just fine, thank you.

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