From Dust is finally something original in a market full of rehashes and remakes.
HOW FROM DUST WORKS
From Dust is a breath of fresh air in a gaming market that is full of rehashes and remakes. Finally, something original! The goal of From Dust is fairly simple- you play as "The Breath", basically the hand of God, and that gives you the power to manipulate the very elements of the earth itself as you see fit. The Breath has been summoned by a tribe of mask-wearing people who have lost their connection to their ancestors' vast knowledge, and require your assistance to regain this knowledge.
How do you gain this knowledge, you ask? Well, your tribesman will start out simple by building a village. The goal of each level is to create a village on every totem that is placed throughout the level. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, not quite. You see, the main enemy in this game is not some invading alien force or giant monster. Instead, the enemy is nature itself. While attempting to spread your people throughout the land, your path will be impeded by terrors of nature such as volcanic eruptions or tsunamis.
Therefore, it is up to you as The Breath to manipulate the environment and alter the paths of rivers and other dangers in order to accommodate your tribesman and assist them in reaching their ultimate goal.
Like I mentioned previously, From Dust is finally something original. The initial thrill that you get from picking up your first giant ball of earth and placing it as you see fit NEVER gets old throughout the entire game.
But one thing about From Dust- most people will have the tendency to pick up this game thinking that it is a god game like Black and White, but that is not entirely true. While you do have godlike powers, this is more of a puzzle game than anything else. Finding new ways to get your tribesman to their goal is always fun and exciting. The game provides a respectable challenge, especially in the face of some of the later levels of the game, that will most likely cause you to restart a few times in order to get off to a good start.
Also without trying to spoil too much, for those of you that are looking for a sandbox mode to create your own islands of your design- keep playing. This option becomes available as the game progresses. This is also an excellent addition to the game, and even with all of the hours spent in the campaign solving the puzzle-like levels, I have probably spent twice as much time just creating my own islands- quite literally, from dust- as I did with the rest of the campaign.
The game also features a challenge mode that requires you to complete a single objective as quickly as possible using the powers available to you. This provides another great addition to the game, and there are tons of challenges available to keep your brain itching to find a solution.
The game does suffer a few downsides, though. As fun as it is to mold the land to your liking, the AI of the villagers can be frustrating at times, as they will often take routes to objectives that put them directly in harm's way. This will force you to stop whatever you are doing at the time to accommodate to a single villager, and before you know it one of your villages is flooded or the entire level is on fire.
Also this game would be much more accurate on PC, as sometimes the cursor is hard to place in the proper position with the thumbsticks. This can be maddening at times, especially when the heat is on and precision is required.
The gameplay of From Dust is a great breath of fresh air, and is a welcome original entry into the Xbox Live Arcade library. While there are a few flaws that could have been removed with a little extra polish, the core gameplay is still enthrallingly satisfying and will keep you coming back for more.
Let me start off this section by saying that I don't believe I've ever seen water physics as perfect as in From Dust. The environments themselves are beautiful and breathtaking, and watching water flow ever-so-naturally over rock outcroppings is outstanding. Not only does the water look pretty when it moves, but it also performs like water in the natural world. By that, I mean that water will erode through sand over time and create canyons, while simultaneously depositing the sand that has been washed away in other locations. This can create some truly awe-inspiring visuals, especially after watching an entire mountain erode away in mere minutes, and watching as a giant delta is created at the mouth of the river from the sediment that is taken from the mountainside.
This is the best part of From Dust, watching the environment evolve and shape itself as time passes. Like I mentioned, rivers will erode through earth and create rivers and deltas, plants will spread across the earth right before your eyes, and lava will cool and form into rock. The lava can be particularly awesome as well. One level in particular places you in the middle of the ocean with very little land around, and a small volcano in the center. By the end of the map, the small volcano will have grown into a giant, towering Krakatoa and fills up the majority of the map with new rock.
Not much to say here, there is a very minimalist soundtrack that doesn't provide a whole lot to the game itself. To be honest, the songs that your tribesman play in order to repel tsunamis and the like are probably more fun to listen to than the game's actual soundtrack.
The sound effects are great though, from water flowing to lava cooling with a gush of steam. Your villagers also have a range of sounds they can make, like the songs mentioned above, or even screams of terror to let you know that their village is in danger, but unfortunately the sound is scarce and spread apart. This game could easily be played just as efficiently and as enjoyably if you had the sound turned completely off.
The campaign itself is fairly short. However, there are so many ways to just mess around on the levels, and replay them to find different solutions that you could easily get a good 10 hours out of the campaign alone before completing all levels and secondary objectives.
Also the sandbox mode that is available later on will doubtlessly create a playground for any gamer that could easily take another dozen or so hours before you get tired of it.
This on top of the challenge modes create for a fairly decent amount of playtime, but regardless it is still a bit short, and anybody who doesn't spend all of their time messing with the game's physics could probably be done with the game in under 10 hours.
OVERALL SCORE- 7.5/10
From Dust is original, and that alone makes it worth playing. The game could be better on PC, and would also benefit from a little extra fine tuning before release. However, all in all From Dust is a great game that keeps you thinking in a new and imaginative way, and that alone is worth at least a shot. Try the trial today!
PROS / CONS
+++Original, exciting gameplay.
++ Amazing visuals and element physics.
++Provides a great challenge that keeps you on your toes.
+++Sandbox mode is a blast.
--Suffers from bad villager AI.
---Short length, needs more maps.
-- Forgettable sound and music.