From Dust Hands-On Preview - Playing With Fire

Our villagers may think their god has a divine plan, but we're just flying by the seat of our pants in From Dust.

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In the stylish, downloadable god game From Dust your powers may be divine, but they're far from limitless. The brainchild of game developer Eric Chahi, creator of the classic PC action game Out of This World, From Dust puts you in control of a benevolent deity called forth by a band of wayward villagers. For those who played Peter Molyneux's Black & White, you'll feel right at home here. However, the only humor you'll find is what you make yourself by tormenting your loyal followers. You can help (or hinder) them by transplanting different types of terrain to guide them through a barren world. We went hands-on with the game and tried to keep the accidental casualties to a minimum.

From Dust started out with a simple enough premise. By building land bridges and redirecting waterways, we helped our followers from one area to the next. Sending them to a totem made them build a village, and special structures and locations throughout the map unlocked new powers or additional lore about the game's world. Once we had all the totems on a map occupied, our villagers could advance to the next area. However, things got a little out of hand when we arrived in a large, mostly desert region.

The first totem was not too far from our stating location, and it produced a measly village deficient of any plant life. A helpful prompt encouraged us to go green by redirecting the water flow of a nearby lake to bring some moisture to our land. This seemed easy, but then, we hit a water geyser. And another. And another. Before long, we were frantically scooping up mounds of earth in an attempt to redirect the numerous torrents of water. And we couldn't interact with our villagers directly, so if they got washed out to sea, it was up to them to paddle their little bodies back to shore.

A power's duration isn't very long, but it doesn't take long to recharge either.
A power's duration isn't very long, but it doesn't take long to recharge either.

Our first village survived the torrent, but it was now encircled by a makeshift moat. Our next goal was expansion. By building a simple land bridge, we quickly occupied the next totem and expanded our powers. In addition to making the villagers sing and dance, controlling these totems granted us new powers. Two that came in handy during this stage were evaporate and jellify water. Evaporate gradually cleared the area of all water, in addition to ruining all the expensive hairdos of our villagers. Jellify water did just what it sounds like and transformed all the water into a malleable jelly. With the water in this state, we could dig a path through the waves just as easily as digging through dirt.

To complete the stage, we had to get a certain number of villagers to a cave submerged in water. We first used evaporate to clear all the water and then jellified the water to prevent anymore from flowing out of the geysers. With the region's entire ecosystem in flux, we followed our villagers into the cave and onto the next area. This stage introduced two new elements: water trees and fire trees. Fire trees, as you might guess, burst into flames every so often and catch any nearby vegetation on fire. Water trees release an amount of water when fire is near.

Both of these plants surrounded our initial village. From the very beginning, we could uproot and replant the water tress, so we placed them around our village to form an impenetrable water barrier--or so we thought. Just like the last map, things initially seemed fine but quickly fell to pieces. At our lowest point, nearly all of our villages were in shambles. On one end of the map, some poorly placed water trees vomited their contents on all of our villagers, washing them away. On the other end, a creeping wildfire finally caught up with our initial village and set it ablaze through a hole in our defenses.

Building up lush wildlife attracts exotic animals that take up residency.
Building up lush wildlife attracts exotic animals that take up residency.

At this point, our subjects should have realized that their god, frankly, had no idea what he was doing. But, bless their hearts, they had faith and we eventually got things back under control. Outside of the main campaign, From Dust also included numerous challenges to test our godly powers. Some had us putting out fires, while other had us parting rivers for tiny villagers. At the end of each, the game marked our time and uploaded it to a leaderboard. You can match divine wits with your pals when From Dust is released later this year.

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