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.
 [Gal­leries 8 not found]

1 comment

  1. ScrotusKilmystr - August 3, 2011 7:19 pm

    Black & White was an awe­some game looks like the only thing miss­ing in this game is the giant cow that you can slap around for kick­ing your worhship­pers.… did it come ou on the PC? looks like it might be a bet­ter choice for a key­board and mouse


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