Developer Nesalis Games and publisher PlayWay are mostly known for their plethora of simulator titles, and their latest game — Arena Renovation — has just been released in Early Access on Steam. The simulation genre has always been a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine; you’re much more likely to find me cleaning up a virtual dilapidated boat or run-down train station than spending time tidying my own house. Therefore, I was excited to give Arena Renovation a try ahead of its release date, and here are just a few thoughts on the roughly four hours I’ve played thus far!
Having played many titles from PlayWay, I felt right at home with Arena Renovation, as it actually plays like most of their other games, especially Train Station Renovation. Just, unsurprisingly, without the trains. What this means is that it’s a very laid back, relaxing experience that allows players to go at their own pace, completing tasks in any order and customising each section of an arena as they see fit.
The arenas themselves start out relatively small, although the early missions still take a while to fully complete! The opening level sees you renovating a small gymnasium, with a single changing room and utility room. Acting as a tutorial, you’ll get to use almost all the available tools to demolish, clean, paint, and more. It felt like a good way to ease myself in, with a relatively small area to tidy and the helpful tips popping up each time a new task began.
The basic flow of gameplay is that each room within a map has three gauges to fill: one for cleanliness, one for renovation, and one for furnishings. Cleanliness will increase as rubbish, debris and graffiti is removed from a room, whereas renovation is all about covering up cracks in the walls, tiling the floors, and giving the whole place a fresh coat of paint. Furnishings allow players a little freedom to customise the space, as there is a huge range of furniture and decorations to choose from. Much like House Flipper, after purchasing let’s say, a toilet cubicle, you can then place that anywhere in a room you’ve deemed to be that arena’s bathroom. There are limits, of course, so don’t play like I did and try to create some weird tennis court/bathroom hybrid.
With such a varied list of tasks comes an arsenal of tools at your disposal. None of the equipment feels too different from each other in how they handle, and simply serve to clean or fix parts of the map; the hammer destroys large debris, the power washer cleans graffiti, the trowel covers a portion of a wall or ceiling in plaster, and so on.
Subsequent levels are larger in scale, meaning it’s going to take anyone who wants to fully complete one a good amount of time. Levels are unlocked by progressing far enough in the previous one, and completing any specific tasks displayed on the heads-up display. These tasks are unique to each arena, with one example being a football pitch that needs new turf placed down on areas stripped bare of grass. There’s also the option to move away from the goal-oriented main path and purchase your own arenas to spruce up and sell on for a profit. These work the same as the standard missions, but add some replayability if you’ve finished them.
Practically any action in Arena Renovation rewards players with experience and cash. Earn enough experience, and you’ll level up and gain stat points, used to make processes quicker, or easier. For example, speeding up how quickly you can swing a hammer, or how much rubbish you can carry before needing to take a trip to the bins. It felt rewarding each time I levelled up, and I appreciated that the skills actually made a noticeable difference in-game.
Arena Renovation doesn’t look too bad, it’s got a wide range of paints and tiling for players to make an arena as lively or drab as they see fit, and the general environments are nice, with a particular nod to how great the lighting looks in some indoor arenas. I did come across a number of bugs during my time, including an object I needed to break with the hammer getting stuck under a floor, so I was unable to 100% that level. Floating geometry, clipping issues, and more are prevalent, but nothing game breaking. The game is getting constant updates pushed through, so I’m hopeful these will be ironed out soon enough.
It isn’t going to wow fans with original ideas, as Arena Renovation plays it safe by sticking to the formula of other PlayWay titles. That said, there’s no reason why someone who’s a fan of the publisher wouldn’t enjoy this one as well, and it certainly had me spending more time on a football pitch than I ever would in the real world!