Elements of Destruction Review
So, what is the best part of playing SimCity? For some, it would be the building of the city itself. Getting that city that works well and makes tons of money is definitely something to be proud of. A lot goes into making a city that would be efficient. If you're playing SimCity 4, maybe you're more worried about making an entire region of cities that work well with each other -- a bigger challenge than just building a single city. However, there is another breed of gamer that focuses not on building the city, but on destroying what they've built by throwing disaster after disaster at their poor little creation.
Elements of Destruction for the Nintendo DS gives you the chance to focus on the pleasure that comes from destroying a city via natural disasters. The game tries to have a story, putting you in the shoes of a mad scientist who simply wants bad weather events to be appreciated. Seriously, though -- do you really need a good, story oriented reason to go about destroying tons of buildings? The little bits and pieces of story that do appear are played out in a rather bland way, with text popping up over a simple background. Why couldn't there be some basic video of a thunderstorm or tornado causing damage? The DS has proven in the past that it is more than capable of something like this.
The game starts off fairly tame, only giving you access to tornadoes and lightning storms. The first level is simple -- summon up these storms (be wary of your energy available up on the top screen) and destroy stuff. You get more energy for destroying buildings, so if you're low, use a nearby powerup and destroy huge swaths of buildings. The powerups really add a lot to the game, too -- tornadoes, for example, start off somewhat weak compared to what happens when you fully power them up and they level cities simply by touching them. Eventually, you'll build up to throwing meteors and blizzards at cities. The kind of destruction you are capable of causing really is amazing.
The problem with the game is that the graphics are really basic. While I understand that the DS wouldn't be capable of high end graphics for every building, I do think that allowing a sort of first person view, even with very basic 3D graphics, would have been incredible. Possibly a way to save a level after you beat it, where you could get on the ground level and watch the disaster from a first-person perspective?
There's also one other major flaw with this game. Part of the fun in destroying your creation in a SimCity game is that there is no limit on the amount of destruction you can cause. In Elements of Destruction, though, your mission is over the moment you reach the level's goal, be it destroying specific buildings, or causing a certain amount of damage. A simple option that allows you to continue playing after finishing the level would have been nice. Alternatively, there could have been a free play mode for any level that you've beaten, letting you rain down any kind of destruction you want on a city. Even better -- why can't I create my own city to destroy?
Finally, this game really doesn't play out as the early levels lead you to believe that it may. Early on, you just destroy buildings in as efficient of a manner as possible, not having to worry about anything but wreaking as much havoc as you can. Quickly in the game's first set of missions, though, you'll run into buildings that will 'eat' various destructive elements, forcing you to destroy them with other elements to continue on. While this is a nice idea, it really takes away from the god-like feel you can get early in the game and turns it into a slower paced style of game, which is nowhere near as fun as it could be.
Elements of Destruction really is a great idea for a game. It gives you a chance to get into a godlike role and just go crazy destroying a city with various forces of nature. Within the limitations of the platform that it was released on, Elements of Destruction does fairly well. While more could have been done with the design, the game still manages to do fairly well with what is there. As a budget title for the DS, I can definitely recommend picking this one up, so long as you understand that there is no sort of sandbox mode whatsoever. Without said sandbox mode, the only thing to keep you coming back to Elements of Destruction is an attempt to get a better time on each of the levels.
Now, I'd really like to see a game like this released on the 360 or PS3 -- I can only imagine what a system with that type of power could do with a game like this.