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Dystoria

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action
Developer: Tri-Coastal Games
Release Date: Feb. 21, 2017

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.

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PC Review - 'Dystoria'

by Brian Dumlao on June 7, 2017 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Dystoria is a sci-fi, story driven six-axis space shooter with an 80’s arcade vibe.

Buy Dystoria

If you're a longtime PC gamer or love the classics on the platform, you've probably encountered Descent, which was released at the height of the original Doom's popularity. Descent was a marquee title from the studio that would eventually become Volition, and the game provided some white-knuckle action in claustrophobic spaces. It also happened to be a title that many would remember for easily disorienting players, as the 360-degree views could make you feel lost if you aren't paying attention. Dystoria is a fun and simple game from a different development team, but it does share that disorienting aspect with the classic PC game.

The plot is pretty neat, since it seems heavily influenced by the cult classic 1980s movie, "The Last Starfighter." You're a small-town Canadian who's walking through town at night when you see a green glow coming from the back of a building. You investigate and find a brand-new arcade standing there. Before you can plunk down a quarter and check it out, you're knocked down by a column of green light and are abducted by aliens. When you awaken, you find yourself in a room with a computer terminal and a large screen that's displaying ship blueprints. You've been chosen by an alien being known as Omniam to embark on a secret mission, and the computer is there to help you train. With no other choice, you start your intergalactic training.


While the story has a good jumping off point, it doesn't get carried through the rest of the game. Terminal messages pop up every now and then to give you updates on your training and how grateful Omniam is for your help. You'll eventually get messages that warn you Omniam is manipulating you into doing something completely different from what you've been led to believe. It sounds interesting, but the messages seem so detached from the rest of the game that they're little more than window dressing. By the time you reach the end, you don't care enough about the story, so the ending has no real impact on the tale.

With the plot coming straight from the 1980s, it shouldn't come as a surprise to see the presentation skew toward that era's sci-fi cinematic feel. The starscape is sterile, the planets don't feature anything cool, and the stars remain stagnant. The levels are comprised of nothing more than square blocks — some cut to provide diagonal slopes — and the enemies are angular with sharp corners. The ship is also quite angular but smoother in places, while bombs and laser shots are random polygons mashed together. That sounds unappealing, but all of those things are bathed in a heavy dose of neon, which hides the blemishes and gives everything a retro-cool appearance. For many, it'll remind them of "Tron" and "Tempest 2000," so the art style has legs. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is fine, though you'll certainly notice how short those compositions are, as they loop often. The effects are also good, since they're going for '80s movie nostalgia.


The core gameplay can be best described as a single-player arena shooter. No matter the size of the level, your mission is to retrieve three orbs before finding the exit portal that's unlocked by capturing the orbs. Some of the stages change the goal to have you destroy all of the enemies instead. Aside from dealing with a smattering of enemy forces, you can collect scrap and objects from fallen foes, and you can use the material to purchase new craft that have different stats, including better shields and reduced cooldown times for your cannons.

The big twist, as alluded to in the opening paragraph, is that your craft sticks to any surface it meets, no matter the orientation. Its inability to fall means that you can explore every available surface. It gives you an advantage in some areas, as you can position yourself to attack enemies without giving them an angle at which to fire back at you. The newfound ability also creates some interesting puzzles that take advantage of elements like moving platforms and boosts. You can then access unconnected areas, where you can find orbs and pieces to construct ships that otherwise aren't available for purchase.

The camera's snappiness heightens the feeling of disorientation when you move from one surface to another, and that's more of a positive than a negative, since this seems to be an intentional effect. It seems to work best at the default camera angle. You can switch to a first-person view, but that pulls the camera further back and takes the disorientation to more uncomfortable levels. No matter your opinion, you'll be glad to know that the game clocks in the right amount of levels. Twenty-nine stages might seem small to some, but the tricks needed to find the orbs and hidden secrets make the stages feel lengthy. Any more stages would dull the gameplay mechanic instead of heightening it.


The only real issues comes from variety, or the lack of it. The enemy count is very low, and you've seen the entire bestiary after the first few levels. There also aren't any other goals aside from orb collection and enemy elimination. It doesn't take long before things become rather repetitive. This is supposed to be held up by an intriguing plot, but since that doesn't do its intended job, there might not be enough here for some players to push through to the end.

If you're fine with the game's limited scope in a few areas, Dystoria can be a fun experience. There's some brief disorientation due to the ability to stick to all surfaces and the camera closely following you, but it nicely complements the puzzle aspect of the game. The enemy count is very limited, but combat is fine once you start using the environment and angles to your advantage. The game's short nature is fine, as it ensures that the '80s-style presentation doesn't wear thin, but the game certainly could have used more variety in the end-level goals. Dystoria may not be extraordinary, but it is worth checking out if you want something that's a little different.

Score: 7.0/10



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