Demolish & Build
Developer: Noble Muffins
Publisher: Ultimate Games
Platform: Xbox One
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 03/07/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Demolish & Build has the potential to sate the needs of the more destructive gamers amongst us, promising myriad ways to destroy a variety of building types. I played 20+ hours and experienced all four of the available areas so that I can tell you whether I think it’s worth your time. Let’s find out how I got on.
You begin as an employee in Demolish & Build but very quickly start your own business. The whole premise of the game is built around improving your company rating. You do this by completing jobs and buying/developing properties. Jobs entail (as the title suggests) demolishing and building, mostly the former. Each time your rating improves, a new area opens up for you to set up another office and start working. As the game progresses, your time is divided between doing jobs to earn money and managing the upkeep of your properties (which also earn you money). You can also decide whether to employ any staff to complete various tasks.
When it comes to gardening or any DIY at home, I’m the demolition expert and my partner is the one who manages the construction side of things. Therefore, I was looking forward to the destructive aspect of Demolish & Build. I wanted to smash my way through buildings and hoped to spend my playthrough watching bits of debris flying around me with ease. However, it soon became apparent that gameplay would not always be smooth and hassle-free.
You must obtain a license to use most of the machines with moving parts but there is no guidance on how to use the tool elements before or during the license test. I worked out how to use each one through a combination of button bashing and the general information supplied about the special controls. I think this could have been made clearer for each machine to save wasting time. It’s not ideal to have to keep referring to a picture of the general special controls. A quick visual tutorial, even only for the first machine, would have kept things moving here.
Once I started using the machines for demolition, for the most part it felt like driving bumper cars. Rather than being sturdy, heavy-duty machinery that would take a chunk out of most things they hit, these machines bounced around like they were made of rubber. I also found it frustrating when a machine that in real life would cope well with the terrain instead performed poorly.
I can understand wanting to try and make using the tools realistic. However, I often found using them to be over-complicated. At times, the tool attachments didn’t seem to wield much clout and you often had to be extremely precise. I was disappointed by this because, on the whole, it made demolition a slow and wearisome task. I think some of my frustration here has to do with how jerky gameplay could be (more on this a bit later). Even using the button to find weak spots didn’t guarantee a satisfying demolition.
It is quite a way into Demolish & Build before you get to do any building. Once you do, it hardly seems worth it. There are preparation tasks where you must fetch materials and then use a different vehicle to place them. But most of the time, actual building means pressing the action button four times to put four walls in place. Occasionally there were extra steps like welding or reinforcing with nails. The nail gun was fun to use but not very realistic (you fire the nails from quite a distance).
The welder was nowhere near as fun as it should have been. I spent ages pointing the crosshair at the little green dots indicating where to weld. Moving it a little to the right, a little to the left. The precision needed here tested my patience, it seemed that you needed to point it at precisely the right quarter of a pixel for it to register.
Beware the Island
The last area in Demolish & Build was very glitchy. Here are a few examples: after completing the first stage of building a property, when I tried to start the second stage an invisible barrier formed around the entire area preventing access. Ladders would only let me climb up halfway before I would drop back to the bottom. I smashed a tile in one job and the whole floor/building collapsed, yet I could still walk (seemingly on thin air) as if the floor were still there.
I’m not sure if the next one is a glitch or bad design. To solve the invisible barrier problem I described earlier, I assigned a worker to complete the task instead. This worked fine until the third stage of building the property, where I had to assign the worker twice before they completed it. This kept happening.
I noticed that it happened on stages where building materials were required. When I assigned the worker, it seemed to me that the extortionate cost allowed for purchasing the materials. The price was considerably larger than their usual fee, by tens of thousands of dollars. Perhaps the first time you assigned the job, the worker bought the materials and the second time they did the construction? I don’t know, it was never explained.
Not So Free Movement
I found that there were many things in the environment that the machines and character could get stuck on. It wasn’t always obvious what was impeding movement either. The camera angles did not help here. Particularly with larger vehicles, you frequently could not see the whole of the vehicle. Sometimes in my efforts to get a better look at where I was working, I would be left with a view looking all the way through the building and at the sky outside instead.
When using the character and handheld tools sometimes you need to jump to get to the right part of a building. Often, I found that I had to be very precise about where I jumped or take a run-up to be able to get the character to the right place. I don’t feel that this level of precision was necessary for this type of game. I’m not 100% convinced that it was intentional either. At times it just made moving around clunky and awkward.
A Room Without a View
The graphics in Demolish & Build were completely underwhelming. Most of the time it didn’t look like I was playing an Xbox One game. I found the music to be equally uninspiring. There are four radio stations to listen to whilst in a vehicle, but they play the same few tracks over and over. Thankfully there was also an option to turn the music off. After a while of using handheld tools or walking around, some quite chilled background music played. I would have preferred this to be an option while in a vehicle too.
Near the end of my playthrough, I opened up Farming Simulator 19 to do some mod updates for my partner’s boys. It made for a stark comparison between the graphics in Demolish & Build. I had become used to the toned down, often blocky and poorly textured offering. However, once I went back to playing Demolish & Build, I couldn’t help but notice the drop in quality.
Demolish & Build is Open World so you can drive or walk around between different locations at your leisure. Sometimes the background would load so slowly in front of me while driving that it felt like I was in a constant fog. The scenery and other cars on the road looked very blocky and flat. Any detail that was added looked like it had been hastily pasted on top of angular shapes.
Pouring concrete was a visual disaster. It didn’t seem to matter too much where you poured it and rather than spreading out it stacked up. The worst part here was when I switched view to look at it side on and it had only rendered in 2D. Only a flat surface of concrete appeared (apparently floating in mid-air) which elevated as you poured in more concrete.
Whilst I found a lot of the tools and demolition/construction vehicles to be overly complicated, there were a few that I enjoyed using. The crawler crane was my favourite vehicle and the only one that really fulfilled my expectations for wanton destruction. In terms of handheld tools, the explosive charges were the equal of the crawler crane. I enjoyed a few satisfying moments watching an enormous building crumble to dust after my well-placed charges dealt easily with the concrete. If only the whole game had been like this. However, placing the charges was tedious. I’m not sure why sometimes they stuck to my target and at others they bounced off. Especially when throwing from the same distance.
Two other handheld tools in Demolish & Build deserve a mention, the nail-gun and the handheld jackhammer. The nail-gun made a great noise and although not very realistic (see earlier) it was satisfying to use. The handheld jackhammer was a cathartic tool, it was efficient at destroying things and that was what I was there for, need I say more?
The overall concept of the game wasn’t bad and there were moments when I did enjoy juggling jobs, property development and assigning upkeep tasks to workers. Despite the background loading slowly at times, driving around between jobs hunting for scrap could be quite fun. It provided a change of pace to the other tasks.
However, in the end, the mechanics of the game let it down and if I hadn’t been reviewing it, I would have stopped playing long before I did. It felt like I was playing a game that hadn’t been finished. It didn’t have that polished feel of a final product, especially towards the end.
When it Comes Down to it
Playing Demolish & Build was certainly an experience and not one that I’m likely to forget any time soon. Unfortunately, not for the right reasons. It’s a game that I think had the promise to be a lot better than it turned out. To be fair to the game, there were some enjoyable moments but I think they were overshadowed by some poorly thought through elements of design. I can’t honestly say that I would recommend this game. In my opinion there are much better titles out there in this genre.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can buy Demolish & Build for the Xbox One from the Microsoft Store.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.