August 3, 2011
From Dust: Review
Massive tsunamis, raging volcanoes, brush fires, rapid flooding, epic ewok calls; these are the dangers you must save your ever migrating tribe from in this god game from creator Eric Chahi of “Out of This World” fame. In the vein of Populous and Black & White, you control the breath; able to use the land forms and elements about to help your tribes populate around totems and escape any dangers of the ever changing playfield. Thanks to the innovating game play From Dust always has you looking for different ways to think outside the box to solve the vast number of puzzles you will come across.
The breath, the main force you control. It has the power to roll dirt, lava, and water into spheres for you place anywhere to make bridges, land masses, walls, lakes, rivers whatever the need be. There are several powers at your disposal, as well; your tribes can gain access to songs that repel fire and water with spectacular results. Every time your tribes populate around a glowing totem you will gain a power that is mapped to the D-pad. They range from enhancing the amount of material you can manipulate, to jellifying water to create Moses like situations for your tribesmen to cross a body of water unscathed, to creating a dry spell to suck up water from torrential downpours, and dousing fires to save villages from roaring fires. The powers range from level to level and are yours to have in any order depending on what totems you settle, that having a direct effect on solving each level. Your tribesmen and learn repel spells from totems around the map. There are two; one that repels lava and fires, and the other being one that repels water. During the third level you are introduced to the water repel as you must send someone to gain access to the knowledge and bring them back before a tsunami wipes out your village. Return to your village in enough time and you get to witness one of the greatest spectacles the game has to offer; a rolling tidal wave parted around your village while an epic tribal tune, that sounds remarkably similar to the ewok call from Return of the Jedi. In some of the later levels certain types of plants are added. Water plants absorb water and can be placed to protect your villages from fire. Explosive plants create craters when exposed to heat, providing the necessary tool to reroute a flow of molten hot magma.
From Dust is gorgeous. The water physics are amazing, some of the best in gaming; the way the ground forms as you add more dirt or build walls with molten magma is beautiful. The game does a remarkable job at changing the landscape over the 12 story missions. Towards the end of the game there is a level that takes place in the crater of an active volcano, you won’t recognize the level about 15 minutes in due to the amount of natural forces changing the landscape. The last level had me in awe as you are charged with the task of rebuilding the world; you create massive land masses from the ocean depths and witness something being formed from nothing. The villagers, with their unique masks are visualized well even though most of the time you will be seeing them from a birds I view. There is not much in the sound department but the ambient noises of the ocean, volcanoes building pressure and exploding, and the screams of your tribesmen and women as they suffer hardship are all well done.
There are a few problems that keep this game from greatness. The cursor you control as “the breath” is inaccurate at times, especially when trying to pull trees in a hurry. The controls can take time to getting use to but become natural as you progress through the game. The path finding A.I. can also be a little brain dead at times. I recall having to just lay an inch of dirt so that the brainless tribe’s men could populate around a totem. They do change direction when the need comes but more often than not they are always looking for the hardest route to an objective. The game has a mediocre story at best. You are the ancient power to help your villagers find out what happen to the race before them and that is about the gist of it. The story makes little sense as you just go from map to map trying to make your way to the final map that consist of nothing but a gigantic water expanse that you have to “rebuild the world”; why couldn’t I do this from the beginning and then have the trials of the natural evolution of the earth to deal with. It feels like I am playing the story in reverse. The story also abruptly ends with no real ending, you see a 15 second short that ties nothing up. There is also a lot of trial and error to the game play that will have you restarting levels over and over again; though it is not frustrating to the point of rage quitting. Every time I failed I wanted to go back immediately and outsmart the puzzle at hand. Though retrying the story missions there are opening cut scenes that cannot be skipped and can be frustrating to sit through for the tenth time; luckily during the 30 challenge maps that are unlocked during the course of the main game have no cut scenes and are straight to the chase. Despite these flaws, I had a great time with the game and I am looking forward to completing all of the challenge maps. The game can be frustrating at times but thinking outside of the box can help alleviate some of the said frustration. At least from a technical standpoint the game should be marveled and there is nothing quite like watching a wall of water part and encompass your village while an epic ewok tune trumpets your survival.
+ Ewok calls!
+ Water physics are second to none
+ Unique game play
+ Makes you think outside the box
+ Beautiful visuals
– Inaccurate cursor
– Brain Dead path finding A.I.
– Makes you sit through cut scenes over and over again
– What there is of a story isn’t interesting
– Abruptly ends
Final Score 8/10
Editor’s note- The time varies I put anywhere from 8-10 hours into the main story, it just depends on how many times you have to restart levels. There is a great amount to challenge during the campaign and 30 challenge maps, that are unlocked after the game is completed, that are even more challenging and will put your god like skills to the test. Well worth the $15 price tag and a unique experience that is great even watching someone else controlling the power of the ancients.