Teardown (2022)

Voxels were the next big leap in gaming at one point, and it feels like everyone just straight up forgot about them. Voxels are basically individual cubes that various objects and worlds can be created from millions of them. Teardown utilizes voxels to create a world that is able to be destroyed in a fascinating, yet odd way, and its almost two year Early Access time has allowed the game to be much more than I was anticipating.

Teardown sees you as a nameless and unseen character who owns a small family business that is a demolition company. Your mom tells you to go take some jobs, and instantly you become a criminal. Yeah, it’s weird and sudden and doesn’t make sense. Your company is struggling, and you need business. A mall contacts you to demolish a small log building in the cover of night right next to the new mall being put up, but even though it seems fishy, you go ahead and do it anyways. Well, the next day you find out through the local news that “a mysterious stranger destroyed a local landmark and old building”. The cops are suspicious, and basically blackmail you to do some dirty work for them.

Throughout the story, you basically get pulled in several different directions, becoming the “go to guy” for various fueding families and companies to destroy each other’s property and steal items for each of them from the other. It’s really a bad story as everyone is just hiring you to demolish property from the other person who is employing you. You have no dialogue or say in the matter, and it just comes off as really poorly thought out and executed from a story standpoint.

The game itself drew me in right away from the moment I saw it. Even though the graphics are blocky, and feel more like a lazy Minecraft ripoff, the game itself is nothing like Minecraft. You take a job from one of the emails you get, and are transported to a small map. In that map, you have an objective, either destroy or steal something. And for the first few levels, it’s really fun just destroying everything in sight with the unique physics engine. As from the start you only have a sledge hammer, fire extinguisher and spray paint, but will quickly unlock more items, like a blowtorch, pipe bombs and guns. Which can be used to complete your objectives in any way you see fit.

The issue that I ran into quickly is that the game really isn’t a demolition or sandbox game… It’s a puzzle game. As the items you are tasked with stealing in each map are tied to alarm systems, and once you take the item, the alarm is tripped and you have to steal all the required items within a set 60 second time limit and escape. That hard time limit requires you to plan a full route and to use trial and error to leave with all the items in a single run. This is where I quickly stopped having fun. The game is a bit deceptive, since it all comes down to how to steal the items all in a single 60 second run and drops the whole “demolition” act.

Spending  45 minutes on a single map only to plan for 44 of those minutes and make a mad dash to the exit just wasn’t my idea of fun. I originally got caught up in the whole story of trying to do a job that I was hired for, and destroying places as a twisted sort of loyalty revenge for my employer. Taking out a family inherited business, or destroying their fleet of work trucks while dumping their safes in a river. That was the more enjoyable and fun part of the game to me.

Luckily, the game has two parts, and the second part (although it takes a while to get to) changes up the theft and alarms gameplay quite a bit. You’ll spend a good chunk of time outwitting deadly robots and narrowly escaping security helicopters and planting evidence. And with the robust customizable options and mod support, I finally unlocked the true potential of the game in the back half. Using mods really catapulted this game into a much more interesting experience.

Mods both engrained in an official capacity and Steam Workshop support allows tons of new weapons, items to be spawned and even full new maps and levels to create tons of havok in. Even a simple item like a Jetpack allowed me to fly around much quicker than dealing with one of the very wonky vehicles that were much harder to control than it should have been. And it gave me a chance to continue on with the story much easier than spending a few hours trying to execute the perfect 60 second heist.

Teardown in my opinion suffers from an issue of trying to be something entirely different than what it seemed to be. It should have focused on being a single player story game about a failing Demolition company who’s owner takes on contracts to destroy tons of property, instead of being a heist planning game. It’s really a shame as I was initially really interested with the game and quickly soured on it while playing the lengthy first part. Once I installed some mods and got to the second part of the game, I started having a much more enjoyable time with it. The voxel technology, especially coupled with mods makes for a very hilarious entertaining several hours, but the game just doesn’t have much more than that. If it were that contract to destroy buildings, I could see players going back more and more to see how much damage could be racked up on repeat attempts. If I had it my way, the game would have been more of a melding of the mechanics of a game like Blast Corps, with Burnout’s crash mode to tally up the damage as much as you can. And that would have been the perfect game.