From Dust

From Dust Review for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360PS3PC

The first game in 12 years from Éric Chahi.

Review Verdict Read Review
7Out of 10
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From Dust screenshot
From Dust screenshot

Mother Nature is a cruel mistress. She cooks up storms, gives birth to tsunamis, spreads fires and - in a rather unladylike fashion - belches red-hot lava from fissures in the earth. She wipes out entire villages on a whim, without a care in the world for their half-naked dwellers. As the sole villain in From Dust, she's a powerful adversary indeed.

Thankfully, you're more powerful. As the Breath of God, fuelled by the unwavering faith of an itinerant tribe, you can quite literally move mountains to protect them from her wrath. You have the ability to influence the very geometry of the land: you can build bridges of earth, redirect rivers and part seas. And you can do all this dynamically, sculpting the landscape like a potter might a lump of clay.

The physics in From Dust, Eric Chahi's spiritual successor to Populous, are nothing short of astounding. The simple act of picking up soil from one location and depositing it in another is a small technical marvel. Watching the world react to your divine interventions is without a doubt the game's strongest asset.

As the god of a tribe of wandering, mask-wearing nomads, it's your job to ensure their journey through the world is a safe one. Each new territory shares the same objective: to create settlements around four totems dotted about the environment. In terms of its moment-to-moment gameplay, you're helping the tribe reach these totems by building a path there. With a village at each of the four idols, passage to the next area is granted.

It takes five tribesmen to activate a totem, whose prayers will cause the surrounding area to spring into life. As long as there's soil connected to the area in some way, plants and shrubbery will spread like a beautiful virus, eventually attracting wildlife to the area. Covering 100 per cent of an area in vegetation is the secondary objective for each level (and a feat worthy of an achievement).

With each totem successfully acquired you'll be awarded a new power. Amplify the Breath, for example, enables you to scoop up much larger quantities of matter. Jellify Water solidifies the seas, allowing you to guide your people through alleyways carved in the ocean, just like Moses. Arguably the best of the bunch, Infinite Earth, lets you dump as much soil as you like on an area in a set period of time; this is particularly helpful in volcanic areas where soil is thin on the ground.

From Dust is a god sim, a strategy game, but safely guiding the tribe to each totem is a puzzle, more than anything else. Often you'll need the power of a specific totem in order to reach the next one. Working out the right order is at the crux of the solution. Each village is constantly at risk of being wiped out by a natural disaster, and it's your job to ensure this doesn't happen. Special items about the game world need to be collected in order to keep the village safe. The power to resist water, for example, is vital in surviving a tsunami, forming a little imaginary bubble around the village. Should fire begin to spread through the lands, you'll want to have some Water Trees planted near your settlements, which expel large quantities of the wet stuff, stopping the flames in their tracks.

There's definitely a right way to go about doing things, and while the game holds your hand for the first few areas, you're quickly left to your own devices, forced to work things out on your own. Working out what to do can descend into trial and error, however, and once lava comes into play (which solidifies once deposited) this can permanently ruin a map, forcing a restart. For longer levels, some of which might last up to an hour, this can be quite upsetting.

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10 Comments

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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: 4,235 37
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