From Dust screenshot
From Dust screenshot

The game presents a living, breathing world, where you're just as at the mercy of the elements as the villagers are. There's no denying it's a huge technical achievement, but the dynamic nature of the experience is to the detriment of the game itself. It feels sacrilegious to say so, but often the game simply isn't enjoyable. It can be incredibly frustrating trying to get your villagers where they need to be. At times they'll get stuck on seemingly flat pieces of land, or faff about for no particular reason - waiting for that volcano to erupt, or for a tsunami to wipe out their village. Time plays a huge role in the game, and getting things done before the disaster strikes is imperative.

The game has the ability to make you feel distressingly powerless. Whilst From Dust is about manipulating your environment, it would have been nice to have a slightly more extensive range of commands to dish out to your villagers. Getting the little chaps from A to B is a constant struggle. I'm well aware this is what the game is all about, but it's challenging for the wrong reasons. Questionable AI and a single command of 'go here' - which randomly assigns five villagers to the task, who often aren't the best people for the job - is at the root of the frustrations. Being able to choose who you sent, or at the very least which of the other villages they left from, would have made things much easier.

The experience takes on more of a sandbox form at the end, and it's here that things start to become a lot more fun. With the creative freedom to do whatever you want with the land (and create the totems themselves), the notion of your godlike nature is reinforced.

As you progress through the story challenges are unlocked in a separate mode off the main menu. Here, you're presented with bite-size problems in which you'll need to use the powers of the Breath to overcome. One such puzzle has you helping the tribe cross a series of waterfalls, demanding that you absorb the water before it carries the poor villagers downstream.

Another challenge presents a countdown to a tsunami, with a village sitting nervously on the beach in front of it. The idea is to get a villager, who has the repel water power, back to the village in time. He's standing on a mountain miles away from the village, however, and will never get there in time - not unless you can find a rather unorthodox way of speeding his descent. There are 30 of these challenges in total, extending the life of the 8-10 hour story considerably.

From Dust is a glorious reminder of how fascinating a good god-sim can be. Both from a technical and visual perspective it's hard to fault, but the 'game' gets lost somewhere amongst all the incredible things you can do with the terrain. There's a poor sense of progression to it, ultimately; once you've set up all four villages, you're off and onto the next area. It never feels like your efforts are leading to anything.

It's easy to appreciate From Dust, but harder to enjoy it. Regardless of this fact, it's an important game - bold, innovative and different - and well worth checking out during the summer drought.

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IndoorHeroes's Avatar

IndoorHeroes

Penny Arcade's strip on From Dust... Click for Image
Posted 10:58 on 29 July 2011
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

I *think* I can see where Jamin is coming from, in regards to some of the issues which marred the experience for him, somewhat.

However, rather than see frustration in seeing a level I have spent an hour on getting destroyed, I see it as a learning experience. Think about what natural elements could come into play, and adapt my approach. There is a Save feature, but it is very easy to forget about once you get into the flow of the game. And to be honest, I don't think it mid-level saving should have been included.

The philosophic elements are very beautiful and thought-provoking - truly an experience that is highly, highly recommended. All I know is that I want more - I do hope more levels, powers/interactions and challenges will be added. There is potential with expanding the wildlife/animal aspect.
Posted 00:35 on 28 July 2011
dav2612's Avatar

dav2612

I'm rather curious about this one, will certainly give the trial a bash.
Posted 15:14 on 27 July 2011
Jamin's Avatar

Jamin@ CheekyLee

It is something special, but that doesn't stop it being a frustrating game to play.

Seems to me like the game has been given an easy ride by other journos. It's like I say: it's easy to appreciate, but much harder to enjoy. People might bang on about how technically impressive it is and get all guffy about it because it's Eric Chahi, but it's got its problems.

7/10 is a good score. And this is a good game.
Posted 14:45 on 27 July 2011
87Sarah's Avatar

87Sarah

I'm kind of unsure whether I'm interested in this or not. I'll download the trial version and see how it goes... woah total de ja vu typing that :s
Posted 14:37 on 27 July 2011
CheekyLee's Avatar

CheekyLee@ Clockpunk

Sums up what I thought exactly. Good job I don't care about scores, really, isn't it?

Incidentally, this is the third review I have read, but the first to complain about AI pathing. I will give Jamin the benefit of the doubt, and try the demo first, but I am pretty sure already that this one is going to be something special.
Posted 11:36 on 27 July 2011
Endless's Avatar

Endless

Sounds like Viva Pinata got serious :P
Posted 20:33 on 26 July 2011
scaz2244's Avatar

scaz2244

seems il wait for it to be cheaper and go for Bastion instead
Posted 18:54 on 26 July 2011
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

Ah well, I'm still buying it straight-off. This is the sort of gaming experences we need. If only it were Kinnect/Move compatible...

Although when I heard Jamin had done the review, I did think: 'Oh gawds, it's getting a 7' - and lo and behold. :p
Posted 18:31 on 26 July 2011
Wido's Avatar

Wido

I will be downloading the trial version of this. It is completely different from any game I have seen from other games.
Posted 18:21 on 26 July 2011

Game Stats

Technical Specs
From Dust
7
Out of 10
From Dust
  • Fantastic physics
  • Captures 'nature' well
  • Could do with more commands
  • Villager AI can frustrate
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 01/01/2011
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3 , PC
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Strategy
Rating: PEGI 12+
Site Rank: 2,827 29
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