From Dust was announced a few months ago as the next game from legendary French game designer Eric Chahi, the man behind Another World and Heart of Darkness. He claims that the game will be the spiritual success to the Populous franchise, and on first glance, it's very easy to see why.
Players effectively assume the role of a God in From Dust; they have complete creative licence over what can only be described as their domain. Whether it be land, water, magma or any other type of matter, the player can bend the map to his will. What was immediately obvious was just how much creative licence the player has with this power, and how amazing it is to see the landscape react to changes that are made.
That's all well and good, and if I got my hands on the game, I would probably spend hours just playing around with those mechanics, but sometimes it's good to have a purpose in life. In From Dust, the player's purpose is to create a safe haven for the villagers that inhabit the land. It's a mutual relationship though, so by helping the villagers protect themselves from certain natural disasters, they will give the player new abilities to use, such as the ability to stop the flow of water for a certain amount of time.
The developers have stated that there will be numerous maps, all with different amounts of villages, natural disasters and of course, landscapes for the player to have fun with.
What also struck me though, was the ability to solve problems in almost any way thinkable. For example, in our demonstration the village was threatened by a tsunami. Now, the logical way to stop this is to help the villagers to defend themselves. To do this, players have to guide one of the villagers to a totem, which teaches them an ability. When he makes his way back, the village can now defend itself. That's a quick way to solve the problem, but we were assured that if the player had enough time, they would be able to build a huge land-mass wall in front of the village to try and deflect away the tsunami - I would personally love to see that happen, as the physics are rather impressive.
This is just one aspect of the game though. The developers have stated that there will be various game modes for players to enjoy, and in all honesty, it feels like they're spoiling us. Tower Defence and Adventure games were mentioned to us, but even if they weren't there, I feel that the main package would be more than enough to satisfy. Especially because it sounds like there will be a playground mode, where players can just go in and manipulate the land without having to worry about objectives.
This might sound like a boring mode, and to some it probably would be boring, but the game actually implements a real-time erosion system. If you leave the game on over-night, for example, you will come back in the morning to find that the river you created now has wider banks, or that the small waterfall you created has now created different deltas. The scope is immense, and what's even more impressive is that this is a downloadable title, not full retail.
The game is scheduled for release in Spring 2011 and I can't wait to get my hands on it. The game is already looking very polished, so I can only begin to image how good it will look when it's finally out there in people's hands.