Destruction physics and chill vibes meet in this demolition sandbox

Recently I tried out physics sandbox Instruments of Destruction, where you build the wrecking machines of your dreams—vehicles covered with rotating sawblades and swinging wrecking balls—and drive them full-tilt into puny, defenseless buildings. It's a smashing good time, perhaps not surprising as it comes from Radiangames, founded by the lead tech artist of Red Faction Guerilla.

Here in Abriss, which launches into Steam Early Access this week, the concept is a bit different. This time you're not building vehicles to destroy brutalist architecture, but creating a standing structure of your own from various parts and pieces. Then once you've cobbled together your killer building, use it to knock everything else down. 

At first you begin with a few tall beams and some super-heavy cubes that can be stacked up and then toppled into a nearby building, smashing through walls and floors like a collapsing crane. But soon you can add moving parts into the mix: a rotator that can be attached to the base of your structure so you can swing it like a mighty steel arm. And eventually you'll add lasers that cut through concrete, bombs that can detonate and take out supporting walls, and even a rocket thruster that can send part of your structure sailing through the air like a missile.

There's even a level where you can cobble together some blocks and let them tumble down a ramp where a giant piston is waiting to propel them into, and through, a bunch of waiting structures. Kablooie.

The physics-based destruction effects are all very pleasing as buildings shatter and tumble to pieces, but there's also a very chill vibe to Abriss. Can using a rocket to launch a heavy metal beam through four skyscrapers, completely shattering them, really be soothing? I wouldn't have thought so, but it's genuinely relaxing to cobble together a few parts and then watch as they utterly whomp some buildings into rubble.

In Abriss (which is German for demolition) you're judged by just how much is left standing after you activate your structure, and it's a simple click to reset each level and try new methods if you want to become more efficient or achieve a total 100 percent destruction score. It also helps that anything red and glowing on a building will detonate on impact, so even if you miss a bit with an attempt, there's a good chance everything will be destroyed anyway. Sandbox mode lets you play with different building and structure configurations, adjust the speed of the physics, and toggle gravity on and off. 

For my money, nothing really beats lasers, glowing hot death beams that cut through metal and mortar like the world's longest lightsaber. Attach a rotator block and they'll spin, cleaving a sizzling path through anything in front of them. Slice away a floor at a time, or stick a bunch of lasers together with connector blocks to carve a whirly path of destruction.

Satisfying. Soothing. Physics-based building destruction is almost always fun, but until Abriss, it never felt quite so chill. Abriss enters Early Access on Thursday.

Christopher Livingston
Staff Writer

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.