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Game Review: From Dust

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By: Stephen Crane

From the start Ubisoft's latest release, From Dust, sets itself apart from most games out there. It lacks the bright colors, the catchy music, and the quirky sense of humor many games in its price range seem to exhibit. Instead, Ubisoft has taken the time to create a visually stunning game that feels larger and longer than it actually is.

Unlike other games where you play a deity (in this game, a force known as the Breath) you really don't get to mess around with or do all that much to hurt your villagers without being severely punished. It almost seems like Ubisoft has gone out of their way to make sure that making your tribe's life hell is as boring as possible. This is both a plus and a minus. It's good because it makes the desire to actually complete the objective all that much more interesting. It's a bit of a let down, though, because what's the point of being a deity if you can't make the occasional follower cry?

If you're not making villagers cry, the challenge of the game just might make you cry. Just starting off is pretty simple, but then the learning curve builds up fast enough that you're scrambling to recover everything in one area of the map just so you can bide time to fix what's on the other side. Sure enough, just a few maps into the game one half of my map was on fire while the other one was slowly sinking. That also isn't even mentioning the time trial maps in the challenge mode.


 

The game's challenge is definitely a plus. It's not an insult to your intelligence and even though you don't see a real time limit in the campaign, the map changes fast enough to almost create its own. If you take too long your Pangaea can into an island chain.

The fact that this was made by an amateur geologist is plain. His love for environments and how the elements interact with each other is obvious. The map occasionally shifts on its own which forces you to adjust and understand what is happening. What in one map was your enemy can also have its uses further down the line.

If you're a completionist, there is plenty of challenge finding all of the "memories". Each map has a vegetation level you can help with. As the land slowly fills with palm trees and vegetation you see animals show up. Eventually enough vegetation unlocks a memory. A memory is a little paragraph that helps with the world building and can occasionally unlock a new challenge map. You learn a bit more about the tribe's past and slowly piece together what happened to get the tribesmen into as primitive a state as they are.

The villagers are also an interesting point in the game. They didn't decide to have the voice actor speak English with an almost racist accent. Instead they speak in a completely different language (Possibly some form of African? I have no idea) with English subtitles. As you piece together the history of the world, it really starts to feel complete. That being said, you'll only get to read everything if you like reading, are interested in why you're doing what you're doing, and if you are absolutely a completionist.

What I find so great about the game is also what I ended up disliking the most about it. After a while you start to catch on to the challenges and then things start to get stale. It lacks the unpredictability of other puzzle games. After I complete a level, I see no reason to try and go back and do it again. Eventually each new puzzle to wrap my head around becomes another headache instead of something I grin at and really want to put my head towards. It's the sort of game that is excellent in small doses. In fact, that might be the best way to play it.

From Dust recognizes its limitation in players' attention spans and each map is excellent and short. You won't end up glued to your computer like you would at other god games like Black & White or (arguably) The Sims. Each challenge is short, digestible, and occasionally interesting to sandbox in. All in all, if you want to race through the game you can probably complete it in about six hours without finding everything. The last map… let's just say the last map will make you dance for joy when you finally beat it, then hide your controller for the night to save you future frustration.

Final Thoughts

All in all, From Dust is a beautifully rendered game with a high concept. It will keep you playing through its (relatively short) campaign and make you start wondering where else its essential game mechanics can fit in. Does it have a place in other games? Ubisoft has hinted at promises of expanding the concept, and  I can't help but want to see more.

The Verdict

Buy the game. It's only $15, and if you like a challenge or a series of puzzles to take you out of the habitual fragging, then this is perfect for you. If you hate games with the occasionally frantic pace, this may not be for you, though. It's not a twitch game, and it isn't exactly the deepest storytelling. It's just a cool game mechanic done remarkably well (though not perfectly) for a few hours. It will also be coming out for the PC on August 17, and the PSN some undisclosed time in the future.

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.

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