Dust: An Elysian Tail Review
Dust: An Elysian Tail periodically stumbles, but impressive visuals and enticing exploration make for a successful journey.
- Gorgeous, diverse backgrounds
- Smooth combat with sharp controls
- Tons of well-hidden secrets
- Lots of content aside from story missions.
- Shallow combat
- Lousy voice acting and boring story.
Your sword is an indecipherable blur. A slashed wolf falls to the ground alongside a dying troll who dared to face your kinetic blade. High above the ground you soar, bringing the fight to the winged demons that patrol the skies. No one is safe in your presence. In the beautiful Dust: An Elysian Tail, the death count grows at an alarming rate; the entire monster population is no match for your keen instincts and merciless weapon. There's a smoothness to the execution that's mesmerizing, as powerful attacks are dished out at a dizzying rate. But that ease comes at a cost. With a flick of a stick and a tap of a button, dozens collapse at your feet, and the breezy repetition lacks the strategizing that could have given this eye-catching action platformer the depth it sorely lacks. Dust: An Elysian Tail enchants and entices, but never envelops you like the best action games do.
Amnesia is a tough circumstance to overcome. The memory-deficient hero calls himself Dust because his past is a mystery to even him. What's not a mystery is the condition of the world he awoke in. Monsters roam the countryside, terrorizing villagers and making a deadly nuisance of themselves. So Dust's quest is clear: Help the innocent while driving the evil beings back from where they came.
Initially, the setup draws you in, using the old trick of memory loss to explain what's happening to both the protagonist and player in one fell swoop. But things quickly take a turn for the worse. Grating voice acting turns even the most sympathetic character's sob story into an annoying ordeal that makes you search for a skip button. The cheeky guardian Fidget that follows your every step communicates in a high-pitched squeal that tempers the enthusiasm of even the most determined individuals. Overly dramatic writing laced with juvenile humor makes for a story that's as tiresome as it is groan-worthy, and it doesn't even stay kindly in the background for you to safely ignore. Long story sequences have poorly developed characters squawking at each other for minutes on end, dragging the happy-go-lucky pacing down to a crawl.
When you extricate yourself from the exhausting story, An Elysian Tail becomes a lot more enjoyable. This lightly structured 2D action adventure focuses on making you feel like a long-dormant warrior hungry for some vengeance killing. As soon as you pick up your sword, you're taught basic two-button combos to see how fantastic your blade can be. A strike across the chest of a scowling goblin leads to an upward strike that tosses it high into the air. Follow it with a sure-footed leap of your own to finish it off where the leaves meet sky, and then rush back to the ground in a powerful slam attack to eradicate the crowd of baddies at your feet.
Fidget hovers just out of danger's reach, but is happy to toss projectiles into the fray when the situation arises. Zooming blue lights drain smidgens of your enemies' health, and you can control these flecks of pain with handy propeller moves. Either stationed on the ground or whizzing through the sky, you twirl your sword like a helicopter blade, tearing meanies to smithereens while diffracting Fidget's energy balls so they mercilessly pelt enemies. Watch as your combo count soars, first registering dozens of hits, and then hundreds more once you learn to link these attacks together. Chimes and flashes of light clue you in when you're tabulating a particularly high tally, and those elements combined with the smooth grace of your master swordplay make for an enjoyable way to chop those who oppose you to shreds.
Within the first few minutes of procuring your blade, you learn these flashy attacks, and it seems as though your repertoire will grow ever stronger during the duration of this lengthy adventure. But sadly that's not the case. Aside from two different elemental projectiles for Fidget, you have the same combos for the entirety of An Elysian Tail. At first, this lack of growth isn't a problem. Slicing and dicing foes is eminently satisfying, and trying to string together a massive combo chain has you working to perfect your offensive swipes and time your defensive feints until you can tear through hordes of enemies without breaking a sweat. But it doesn't take long for you to master your attacks. And once you test every permutation of your modest moveset, it's clear that celestial attacks are more efficient and make for higher combos than ground-based sword swings. So you repeatedly zip across the screen until even your stylish death strikes become tiresome.
The goblins that populate early levels change to lumbering trolls, kamikaze bombers, slinking wolves, and other ill-tempered creatures as you plunge deeper into your quest. Diverse visual design ensures every beast you snare has a cartoonish charm that makes even the brain-hungry zombies endearing, but don't expect deeper strategies when tougher monsters appear. Aside from a gargantuan monster that requires a well-timed parry to daze, you can defeat every creature using the same tactics. Just have Fidget shoot some fireballs while you zoom around the screen like a crazed hummingbird. It's all fun because the sharp controls and increasing experience points tally make you feel as if you're gaining power, but the lack of evolution is impossible to ignore.
This game was awesome! The boss battles were underpowered but pretty much everything else was spot on and fun. I'd have given it a 9.0-9.5
How the hell does this game get a 7? CoD games get 9+ and they're half as long, half as good and several times the price.
The art style in this game is spectacular, the soundtrack awesome, the voice acting witty and memorable and the story unforgettable (dat finale!)
at least a 9.5 for me
The story in this game is great. And I love the voice acting. Yes it is a bit juvenile but this isn't a 17+ game. The only part of the story that I feel is weak is Gaius, he had absolutely no reason to start a genocide nor reason to change the world, if he did, it wasn't explained. The ending is really cliche and juvenile I feel, trying to be Disney like or something...
Other than that... The game is just beautiful and fun as hell. This is the way games should be made, and I would give it at least 9.5. Too bad I'm not a game critic and I don't get paid to write certain high numbers for certain big game companies and only for those...
Disagree, this game has a nice story, and the voice acting is proposital, to give more character to it, yea maybe is easy at times, but c´mon raise the difficult, the guy did the programing, art and story all by himself. Give a little credit.
Can't disagree with this review any more. The story is one of the highlights of the game. The tale it tells of genocide is just awesome, especially how it conflicts with Dust. The combat is also challenging on the harder difficulties and you can make sufficient combo's to keep things interesting.
Everyone is entitled to his own opinion of course, but seeing how this game gets honorable mentions and runner up wins for it's storyline from respectable sources (like GiantBomb) makes me believe this review was 'too much' an opinion of someone for whom this game isn't suited (like letting me write down my opinion on Call of Duty and calling it a review) and should be disregarded by everyone interested in this game. Allot of the criticisms in this review, are actually held in high regard from other sources.
The sword is an "indecipherable blur"??? Only when using the Dust Storm, and it is designed to be exactly that way, and is called a "storm". All of the other MULTIPLE MOVES with the sword are clearly and precisely visible. Watch a slo-mo of the animation if you want to see how incredible Dust's animation really is. Maybe the moves are too precise or fast for normal eyes.
@Mihael-Keehl I totally agree with you, the voice acting is great. Makes me wonder if Mr. Mc Shea played the whole game, or just the demo (not really, it's just an expression). My only point against the game, is that the bosses were a tad on the "easy" side on Normal difficulty, so if someone wants a challenge, then he/she should try the Tough or Hardcore setting.
This was very informative. I've read a few reviews of this game that seemed heavily skewed by the fact that only one person made it. I don't see Toms review as a negative one, just a bit more rooted in reality. Because all I care about is having a fun time with the game, if it's cheap or indie don't affect that at all.
Though I have to disagree with one thing. The art looks like it's taken from a random DeviantArt page. The coloring, the shadows, the character designs, it's all decent at best.
That said, I might try it out some time in the future.
@Belvanie Dean was drawing his art before the internet even existed, in the 80's. Most people on these comments are too young to know very much about the history. That so-called negative art connotation you refer to didn't even exist back then, and Dean certainly didn't take any of his cues from them.
@Rockslide I didn't imply he took any cues from DeviantArt, just that the're is a recemblance. I could also say it looks amateurish. A fact that doesn't change even if he had been practicing since the 40's.
Knowing about the developer, who or how many they are, is just trivia. It doesn't automatically give games (or art) quality.
But I'm sure Dust is a good game, otherwise. Don't get me wrong.
@Belvanie @Rockslide I didn't mean any offense either, and of course art quality is in the eye of the beholder, as it should be. Dean won an art contest in high school and had his character art hanging in the hall of the US congress for a year in 1997. Deviant art didn't exist until later, after the year 2000.
Honestly, when you consider what you're paying for in terms of a game of this quality, I find it hard to give it a 7 out of 10. I think it's somewhere north of 8.5 IMO. This is one of the best 2D platformers to come along in a long time. I've been playing it for several days now, and I'd have to put it right up there with games like Shadow Complex and Castlevania: SOTN. The only negative I would have would be the bosses. They could be bigger and a bit tougher. But other than that, the game is a a marvel. It looks fantastic, plays well, and has a nice assortment of action RPG elements. A must have for any Xbox 360 owners who loved playing games like Castlevania or Metroid. And to think, it was developed pretty much by one man. Incredible.
Overall a decent review, maybe people see it as being more on the negative side, simply since you spent a bit more time talking about the negatives, over the positives. I am a little curious about what sort of improvements to the combat system would have made it less shallow though. When you think of all the major classic side scrolling platformers out there (Ex. Metroid, castlevania.) they had very simple combat systems as well. Mainly, and this is my opinion, is that the focus of a platformer, is to explore, and in some cases get yourself into area's you're not quite supposed to be getting to earlier on because you master the moves. I believe this game did that masterfully. The enemies and combat are just an extra splash of spice that help you get to those area's sometimes, and to provide an obstacle. (Even if that obstacle over time becomes trivial or obnoxious, as is what happens in almost all side scrolling platformers.)
I finished the game tonight and I feel that Tom is pretty spot on with his review. I personally would have rated it an 8 or so, but I can see why he graded it the way he did. The whole story kind of feels like a bad American attempt at anime. Moreover, with a few exceptions, the whole game puts off a furry vibe with the characters. The gameplay, however, is quite fun and it sucked me in just like all the other great metroidvania games out there. Combat is really fun for the first half but adding a few abilities to your sidekick is not enough to even out the experience. I'm not really a stickler like Tom is in this department, but I do not disagree that it becomes repetitive and can see why it is a point for contention.I'd also argue that the crafting system is pretty bad considering the lack of customization.
The voice acting isn't THAT bad, in fact they do a pretty damn good job. And while the basic story isn't very original its done well and doesn't get in the way. But even if you can't get past those two things the artwork is (for the most part) very beautiful and well done, the combat is fun and flashy, and there is tons of exploration.
@capthavic Plus, all the voice-acting is courtesy of Newgrounds users, who aren't even professionals (so obviously it's not perfect). Dean needed voice-talent, and knowing Newgrounds is a great way to get a large group of people together on one site who all openly love to volunteer on projects in their spare time, he simply left a community shout-out and bam, more than 30 people signed up to lend their talent presumably for free (since that's what NG is all about). Considering Dust has become one of the best-selling games on XBLA, the fact that all these volunteers are able to actually be paid now seems too good to be true. If Newgrounds' completely unnecessary adult-content side could be toned down, I'd say it's in the top ten best websites ever.
@capthavic I agree. I thought the voice acting was rather good and I enjoy the combat. This is one review I have to disagree with.
@awoody17 I bet the reviewer is refering to that little orange fox thing's voice. I find her voice to be as hilarious as her jokes.
@xDeadMarchx Eh her voice didn't really bother me but I can certainly understand how it could rub people the wrong way. Maybe as someone who has heard a fair amount of anime/jrpg dubs I've just heard waaaay worse voice acting :P
I have to admit that I love how active Tom is in the comments section. Usually when reviewers get bashed for pointless reasons they don't say anything but I am glad Tom gets on here and defends himself. From the endless horde of haters that have inhabited gamespot these past months.
Looks good - although its seems pretty much like a rip off of Vanillawares excellent Wii title 'Muramasa : The Demon Blade'
@TomMcShea You mention that this is a lengthy adventure. About how long did it take you to complete?
The combat system as you mentioned doesn't seem to be able to hold attention for too long. Do you think that the game (Cutscenes aside) is too long of an experience and could have benefited from being shorter? This game looked interesting to me, but if the combat is really as shallow as it appears, I don't know if it will be quite my cup of tea.
@QuestLegacy1990 I sunk in more than 17 hours to get to 103% completion... and then accidentally deleted my save. I appreciated how long it was. Cutting out the story would have made it more palatable, though.
Maybe the context of time is the difference but this game was highly reminiscent of Symphony of the Night. I shutter to think what the outcome of a Tom McShea review of that classic would look like. I'm just curious how this game could share a lot of the same flaws and strengths with the "...the best 2D action side scroller ever..." and get a score 2 points lower.
Also Castlevania: Symphony of the Night getting a 8.9?! Shame on you GS. If Ocarina of Time is a 10, SOTN is definitely a 10.
@requul1 I first played SotN on XBLA (I missed the PSX version somehow) and loved it. Just a fantastic game. Score wise, I probably would have given it a 9? 9.5? Not sure, but it's one of the best Metroid-style games I've played.
Ok so based on this response from Tom: "I don't often compare to other games in my reviews. I'd rather explain what a game does on its own terms than fall back on comparisons that may not be helpful to every reader." Which I agree with, generally. My Zelda v SOTN comment doesn't make much sense...
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@badboy The "Published by Microsoft itself" part probably means it will take at least one year to happen. That's what usually happen with MS-published games selected to Summer of Arcade.
Though if I waited for Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, which is awesome, I can wait for this too.
@RubMyDucky Interpreting a Good score as sub-par? Never change, RubMyDucky, never change.
@TomMcShea You consider a 7 to be a good, respectable score? It's near disrespecting.
@TomMcShea Tom, the problem here is that the standards for every other reviewer on gamespot and other video game websites are different. You like to review games how movie critics review movies. A movie getting a 7/10 is considered good, but in the video game industry, a 7/10 is borderline failing. If we look at this review on YOUR review grid, then yes I can understand why this game gets a 7 and Zelda got a 7.5. But comparing it to gamespot and IGN's review scale, everyone automatically assumes this game is a failure and then bashes the critic for the low score. Keep your head up. You're doing a fine job.
@TomMcShea My review of Tom's review and defense of his review and his snappy retorts to low blows is a 8.9 out of 10. A 10 if he had been meaner and thus funnier. But I gotta dock him 1.1 for taking the high road.
@TomMcShea Standing up for your justified score against trolls who constantly question your ethics for no reason other than being a whinging little child? Never change, Tom, never change.
The little fox thing said it best "There's just no pleasing some people" lol, seems this review is in stark contrast from the Quick looks and reviews i've seen elsewhere. I respect everyone's opinion, but I find Toms reviews are typically lower on average than everyone elses and take that into account when i read them.
I always thought people read others opinions to hear opinions outside of their own as opposed to reaffirming their own. To point out specifics where you disagree is one thing say, in terms of the voice acting or animation. Now insulting a person because he has his opinion is silly. He is entitled, especially considering he makes his living having one. Don?t like it take it with a grain of salt.
I read the review and I got that it was basically a fun enjoyable game with some flaws. I enjoy games of this type and after reading the review decided to give the title a shot. So soon I to can have an opinion as on the game as well and a lively debate is always worth having, just maybe keeping it constructive could make it carry a little more weight. Enjoyed the review and even the comments as they prove as fun to read as the actual reviews at times.
I've put about 4 hours into the game yesterday, and while I agree the combat is shallow, it is FUN, which I think is more important. The game basically takes a big cue from the in house Vannilaware games if anyone is familiar with them (Odin Sphere, Muramasa, Princess Crown); and there is lots of Metroidvania exploration.
The voice acting is a bit goofy, but I wouldn't necessarily say it's bad given the direction the game goes with, and the visuals, particularly the animation on the main character are really great (Symphony of The Night). I don't care for the "Deviant Art / Hobby Artist" quality of the character portraits, but thats a minor gripe. PLAY THE DEMO. I'm pretty sure more gamers are going to find this game fun and interesting if they give it a chance.
besides any review tom mc shea is always negative maybe you have to be to be a reviewer but he's always a whiny baby and he needs to get that thermometer out of his ass.
@asapp7 This review isn't negative, though. I had a ton of fun playing Dust and said that in the review.
Yeah now shallow combat didn't apply to me, the combat is a major highlight of the game, it's flashy and fun.