Xbox Live's Summer of Arcade continues with From Dust, a strategy game developed by Ubisoft Monpellier that will make gamers hate nature.
What's It About?
From Dust follows a nomadic and adventurous tribe looking to repopulate and settle in various worlds in order to properly prosper. They do so with the help of "the breath," a snake-like god that you take control of that has the power to move nature's matter around in order to manipulate the earth's pattern and make village life easier.
When in any area in From Dust, the first thing you'll notice is the totem poles. When the tribespeople pray to these poles, they're able to create a village and begin to populate. When every pole is worshipped in a given area and villages are formed, an entrance to another area appears, allowing players to be done with the level that they're in.
The object of the game is to have the tribe create their villages, but it's easier said than done.
Why Should I Care?
It may seem like just another god game (even though it's tough to think of games where you actually play god, unless you count God of War…), but this is a lot deeper than that.
As mentioned earlier, the breath has the ability to manipulate nature. It does so by sucking up various parts of the environment such as water, earth, lava, mud, and other things on the screen and moving them to other places. The game's first level keeps things simple by requiring the player to create a bridge by taking earth from a nearby mass of land and dropping it in the water, separating that mass of land with a small island. In doing this, the tribespeople stuck on the island can now move freely along the available earth, thus giving them a wider area to procreate.
The real joy in this isn't just with messing with nature. It's really all about watching nature take its course before your very eyes. In one area you'll be sucking the lake surrounding a totem so that villagers can get to it. That's simple. But later you'll be greeted by tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and other unfortunate events in the climate that will drown and burn your villagers to death. Not only that, but these instances occur periodically, so it oftentimes ends up being a race against the clock in order to create paths for your villagers to get to new areas and totems.
Luckily for the villagers, the breath isn't the only thing helping them out. Also scattered about the world are special stones that give shamans in the tribe the ability to repel water and fire as well as shape certain elements, like turning a bit of water into a prism of water. These special abilities make it possible for the villagers to protect their homes when disasters like tsunamis happen.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
From Dust is a unique experience that very much defines what to really long for in a downloadable game. With the many areas to explore and mess with, there's simply a lot to do. The problem is it's a bit on the hard side, and it's the design that should receive most of the blame. All you do in the game is suck stuff up and put it somewhere else. That's fine for core gameplay, but when it gets to the point where nothing is effective, it becomes too much of a headscratcher to really want to keep playing. There were plenty of times where the game wouldn't let us roll up big piles of dirt even when there was no water to be seen near it. There will also be times where taking too much of something causes another reaction to happen working to your disadvantage, like taking sand resulting in water appearing out of nowhere.
Aside from the imperfections in gameplay, the production values are great. The game itself looks beautiful. The water effects are serene and lush, while the lava is a joy to see solidifying into molten rock. On top of that, the music is pretty cool, and the happiness of the villagers when you do things right really gives you a sense of accomplishment. If that's not enough, there's also an interesting Challenge Mode to boot.
At that, From Dust isn't for everyone. The game is kind of like a cross between something as subtle as Pikmin yet possesses quite a challenge similar to that of Starcraft. With that, it wouldn't be farfetched to call From Dust the most unique real-time strategy available in the Xbox Live Game Marketplace or any game downloading service. If multitasking and stressful objectives interest you, there's a lot to love in From Dust.