From Dust Review

By Darryl Kaye on August 7, 2011

When the developer of a game like Another World starts talking about his new project, everyone sits up and takes notice. And when From Dust appeared last year, that's exactly what happened. It was initially because Eric Chahi was involved, but after they learnt more about the game, it was because they were in awe of what the possibilities of this unique creation were. Now that the game's released, we can finally see what it's truly capable of.

From Dust contains a minimum story, but it's enough to give the game a purpose. You play the role of a god-like being who has been have been summoned by a nomadic tribe. They want to restore things to how it was before and through their aid, you will gradually get stronger.

You never directly control the villagers, they choose their own path based on your suggestions, so it's quite an interesting relationship. They need you, but you are also quite reliant on them to gain powers and complete levels.

Before we get on to that though, it's worth talking about the actual gameplay. As you take up the role of a deity, you have no physical form. Instead, you are represented by a small cursor in each level. This cursor is then used to affect the matter that's around the level, allowing you to constantly exert a level of influence over proceedings. What makes the game unique though, is that you aren't all-powerful. Quite often, you will only be able to use your powers to postpone something - in a way, it's quite passive aggressive. Almost everything you do within a level will have a consequence of some kind, and you may well find you're the one that's inadvertently created sticky situations, should they arise.

In each level, you will be able to pick up earth, water and lava, and you can use this to landscape the levels the way you see fit. However, while you can use them to your own benefit, they will always be doing their own things too. For example, a volcano will almost always be spewing out lava and creating new passages. Likewise, water will always be eroding the earth in the level, which could lead to dire consequences as new estuaries are created without you realising. There is also the combination of things like lava and forest regions, which, if left unchecked, can be rather nasty.

You need to have eyes in the back of your head sometimes, especially on the larger levels.

Management of the realm does become a bit easier as you progress through the game, as founding new villages can lead to the the acquisition of new powers. Powers such as, the ability to jellify water, or the power to make water evaporate. They can make a terrible situation become a little more manageable.There are some problems though. While the physics are unbelievable, it does feel as though the mission system doesn't shine through as best it could. Some of the levels are a bit frustrating and some of the gameplay elements included are borderline useless. For example, fire plants and water plants. You're supposed to use them for defensive purposes, but more often than not, they are just a pain. It's often easier to just remove them completely so they can do no harm, and defend villages yourself.

Other times, it feels like you're being rushed. You might even get the feeling that if you did something wrong at the start of the level, you're best to just start it all over again. And that presents its own frustrations, as there's no way to skip the cutscenes that appear between levels.

It means that only about half of the levels can be enjoyed as it feels the game was intended to be enjoyed. The others are just there to pad things out a bit, and it's just a case of getting through them so you can try and get to the next good level.

Despite being a downloadable title, From Dust looks amazing. Everything from the water effects, the lava, the spread of fire and even placing dirt, happens exactly how you feel it should. Ubisoft Montpellier absolutely nailed it. Sure, the actual tribesmen look a bit dodgy, but the game isn't really about them anyway. All they do is facilitate things and choose the worst pathing options known to man - another element that sometimes turns the game from being fun, to something which is unnecessarily stressful.

There are a decent number of levels in the basic campaign, and the last level will keep people occupied for quite a while. But if that's not enough, From Dust also features challenges for you to enjoy - it then becomes a bit more about using your powers wisely, to complete objectives as quickly as possible.

Final Thoughts

From Dust is an amazing game, if viewed from a technical perspective. The way everything reacts is just blissful to watch and interact with. But somewhere throughout its transition to an objective-based game, a piece of the magic was lost. It's a shame, because it mars the overall experience.

Physics are fantastic.
Watching how a level transforms from beginning to end, is magical.
The last level.
The routes the AI choose to take.
The concept doesn't work for all the levels.
Sometimes it can be frustrating.
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