From Dust PC Review
Into dust you shall return.
Ubisoft are known for some pretty slick games over the years, but I was genuinely interested by their latest offering; From Dust. Out now on the PC and coming to consoles in the coming weeks, it’s a rather quirky game that provides a fair share of puzzle solving juxtapositioned with some rather frustrating moments.
The crux of From Dust is very similar to games like Black & White, where you played an entity that looked after people, performed miracles, and generally exhibited all manners of godliness. From Dust may follow this pattern briefly, but does so in a much more artistic way. For one thing, you don’t have to worry about micro-managing resources or leading your villagers into battle. Your humble followers are mask-clad villagers who are trying to recover knowledge of the Ancients. This knowledge is scattered across various lands, and tied to totems and magical vaults which you can unlock as your explore each land. Once you reach a totem, your villagers will perform a quick song and dance around it, and stick-mounted huts will sprout from the ground.
While the initial levels of the game are easy enough to master, the real challenge lies in battling the various forces of nature. Early on in the game you are in a level where a tsunami is approaching your village, and you need to discover the knowledge of “Repel Water” – a musical feat that your villages will automatically perform to ward off the catastrophic waves. In addition to this, some totems will also grant you more advanced powers, such as the ability to ‘jellify’ water, put out fires on the map, or even evaporate lakes. You’ll need all of these powers to safely carve out a path for your villagers to travel as they move from one totem to the next. Manipulating the environment is fairly easy – holding down the left mouse button will amass a sphere of whatever you are hovering over, such as land, water, or even molten lava. You can then use these to shape your environment and create a safe path for your villagers – land can be used to create pathways over water or redirect rivers, water can be used to put out fires, and lava can be used to build permanent rock fixtures to protect your villages. Once you’ve secured all of the totems in a level, a pathway to the next land will open up for you to guide your villages through. It all sounds a lot like Lemmings, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The game doesn’t try to put all the focus on you, but instead concentrates on your battle against nature to keep your villages safe while exploring the various levels. You also gain rewards and knowledge for populating the land with vegetation, which is a simple task of scattering land and water around your villages.
This brings me to the game’s flaws – it gets frustrating difficult at the later levels; you’re only given mere minutes to acquire the powers you need before you’re hit by a tsunami or a volcano. And while your villagers are smart enough to travel a direct path to where you point, they mostly seem to choose the most difficult paths to traverse when there’s a much easier way they could have gone, resulting in wasted time to get around the map. The controls also take a bit of time to get used to, as your cursor is permanently stuck to the landscape and cannot move up or down.
Visually the game has a very interesting feel to it, drawing strong inspiration from African architecture and symbolism. There’s a faint background score that doesn’t invade into your experience, and the sound effects and music from the villagers compliments the ambience very well.
From Dusk is a very interesting title to play, but could have been a great game if the controls and difficulty were more polished. It’s something that’s worth a try at least, even if it does bundle with Ubisoft’s DRM and uPlay crud in the background.