Stardew Valley, Story of Seasons, and Harvest Moon all have you working the land, eking out an honest life among the (mostly) honest people of some quaint town in the country. Sure, there’s twists and turns in these games, but for the most part, they’re idyllic. These games have gained a massive following because there’s something cathartic in the repetitive. You put in the hard work of farming, chopping wood, tending animals, etc., and in return, you’re eventually rewarded with a better house, equipment, and maybe even marriage and a kid. Damnview: Built From Nothing is what would happen if those games took a more realistic approach to the life simulator to powerful effect.
In Damnview: Built for Nothing, by Sindie-cate Arts and Brainwash Gang, you’re not some chosen one. In fact, you didn’t even inherit a farm or anything glamorous like that. You’re on the bottom rung in a world full of anthropomorphic denizens in a city that’s harsh to its inhabitants. This modern habitat is continuously closing in on you, and the game was described to me as exemplifying the hostility of capitalism. Damnview shows what can happen when the love of money is emphasized over all else, and it’s up to you to carve your niche to survive.
In Damnview you won’t be planting rows of crops and milking cows to make a living. Instead, your first job will reflect your place in society. To pay your rent each month and buy the food you need to keep your character alive, you’ll need to take what you can get. You get a few options of how you’re going to make a living.
While many of the jobs are still being implemented, in the demo I was taken through I saw a segment where the player worked at a laundry mat. As the real-time clock passes, you’ll work your shift. NPCs drop off their dirty clothes, and you have to wash it. It’s not a simple matter of just throwing it in the washer and dryer with a button press, though. Each type of clothing has its own detergents and settings that have to be used. Elsewise, you’ll ruin the laundry and risk being fired.
Working takes up stamina, which you’ll need to replace by eating and sleeping. However, taking the laundry mat working as an example, your pay will be low, and as such, you won’t have access to healthy foods. You’ll likely only be able to afford junk food and have to face the consequences for dining so cheap.
You don’t have to be on the straight and narrow, though. In Damnview you can choose to take to the alleys and turn to more illicit activities to augment your income. Slinging drugs and smuggling are just two of the possibilities if you want to be a criminal. However, with this lifestyle comes risk. If you’re stabbed, you’ll lose health, stamina, and be on the hook for hospital bills.
You can also be caught by the police and have to do time in prison. If you’re sent to jail, the game won’t just advance. You’re going to have to actually serve your time. During the demo, I was told that depending on what you’re sentenced for you could have to play up to an hour or two of real game time in the joint. When you’re inside, the game continues. You’ll have to get along with other inmates, do prison jobs, and have the option to engage in jail pastimes like smuggling contraband.
Risk versus reward is a significant part of Damnview, and those who do well will get to slowly pull their way out of the bottom. Save enough, and you can get a better house, or get a chance to go to school so you can become more marketable. There’s no overarching narrative here. You set your goals and go for it. The game will react to you in turn. Random events will spice up Damnview, but the gameplay is very much about the routine and the grind.
I left my demo very much wanting to see more of this game. The hand-drawn environments are gorgeous and show a complexity that a lot of recent sprite-based games lack. Damnview: Built From Nothing is poised to make a splash with its unique take on life simulators and I can’t wait to see more of what Brainwash Gang and Sindie-cate Arts has in store for us.