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Review – From Dust (PC, PS3, Xbox360)

2011 – Ubisoft – One Player

The Good

  • Interesting Gimmick where you manipulate the world using literal God Power
  • Eventually there is a sandbox mode, which is neat.

The Bad

  • The gimmick is way more limited than it is made out to be and the world tends to “right” itself
  • The above makes a lot of the levels frustrating since you try to do X but it just sort of fails…
  • By the time you unlock the Sandbox, you’ll hate the game play.

In Depth

Ok, I tried… I really tried. If possible, I try to complete a game before I do a review of it. This means being late to the game most of the time but it also means I get to experience all that the game has to offer, which is the way it should be. There are exceptions for various reasons, some games don’t have a real ending, some are repetitious enough that it’s clear nothing more is going to be gained by continuing onward.

Others become so frustrating and irritating I just can’t being myself to finish it no matter how hard I want to. From Dust is one of the latter set there.

From Dust I really want to like this game more than I do. It’s an interesting concept, though the actual experience isn’t quite what I expected from what I saw before it’s release. I expected something a bit more micro and less macro in scale. The basic premise is that you control “The Breath” which can manipulate and move around materials on these little microcosm worlds as you assist tribes of worshippers in their growth. It reminds me a bit of Black & White though the game plays very little like Black & White.

The world is very sandboxish, you can pick up and move dust and water and later use lava to create stone as you wish. There are also some helper powers you gain through control of villages such as being able to absorb more material faster for a short time or the ability to Gel the water so it doesn’t fill back in. The enemy is the environment itself, which becomes increasingly more turbulent as you progress. There actually is a game over scenario too, something I didn’t realize until late in the game. If enough tribesmen get killed that you can’t form a new village, you lose (5 people needed).

From Dust The real issue is that this game is very tedious and not really as sandboxish as it’d like you to believe. Based on placement of the villages and hazards, there’s often really only one solution to any given problem. You may see alternative solutions but there will often be hidden roadblocks to prevent these. For example, if a village is submerged underwater, you likely will have to use blasting plants to blow a hole in a wall to drain it. You might think “Oh, I’ll box it in and then such all the water out” but the game already is ahead of you and will have dropped a spring of water to constantly refill the area. If that makes sense.

From DustThere’s also a few puzzly strategic elements that are easily avoided. There are some plants that show up later that do things like create fire and water. Water plants can be used to protect against the fire plants and visa versa. This would mean you’d need to move them around to clever positions to keep your villages from being destroyed by flooding or fires. Great idea in concept to add a new level to the game. In reality, the plants are hardly worth bothering with, you can simply pick them all up and shove them all in a clump off on the edge of the map and completely avoid either flooding or fires.

Also as mentioned, it’s tedious. Did I mention that yet? I think I did like twice now already. You pick up dirt, drop it elsewhere, pick up dirt, block a stream, pick up dirt block some lava. It gets pretty boring, pretty quickly. The game isn’t that short but I couldn’t get myself to care about playing more than one level in a sitting to to the repetition of the game.

From DustI’m also going to go on a bit of a rant here about The ridiculous spike in difficulty later in the game. Later, there are many volcanoes to content with. Irritatingly, there isn’t an effective way to stop a volcano, and as the stage progresses it tends to consume the map. Your villages can be protected from burning with some in game shield devices but it makes travels even more annoying since you have to now also constantly redirect lava flows. The final level (where I stopped) seems designed to punish the player for being smart. The first round, i captured the closest village and quickly became overrun by constant floods despite my best efforts. I tried again and went instead for a farther village across the map, which I succeeded in capturing except now, out of nowhere, lave starts pouring in from the sides of the map. It’s as if the game realized I’d messed with it’s desired order and just flat out punished me for it.

As I said, I really want to like this game more. It looks very nice. The water flows nicely and the physics behind the dist is decent, though slightly more fluid than it probably should be. The concept of shaping the world is great. The whole thing is just hampered by somewhat spotty execution all around and a trudge of gameplay.

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