God games used to be all the rage just a few years ago, but sadly they’ve taken a back seat to more conventional real time strategy games and the ever persistent shooter. Now, developer Eric Chahi, the creator of Out of this World, is bringing the genre back, but is playing god still as much fun as it used to be?
From Dust starts off with a small group of what we’re lead to believe are early human beings undergoing a religious ritual to summon what they refer to as “The Breath”. As The Breath you gain the ability to manipulate matter, but you’re not a god, you’re not all powerful, instead it’s more like you’re a tool the tribesmen have summoned to help them battle nature, not control it. Throughout the game you’re tasked with using your powers as The Breath to help guide and protect the tribesmen. Those same tools can, however, also be used as a fun diversion to create interesting situations and impressive constructs.
Controlling the breath is simple and intuitive. In its default state it appears as a brown worm-like cursor tracing along the ground. From there you can suck up water, sand or lava and deposit it wherever you want within the level. The amount of matter you can absorb and deposit at one time is fairly limited so during the more hectic challenges the game will require both speed and careful planning.
The levels can best be described as puzzles. In each you’ll be tasked with helping the tribesmen settle villages on different totems sparsely spread throughout the map. The tribesmen can’t pass through water or lava flows so it’s up to you to create a safe path. This gets extra challenging when the game introduces regularly reoccurring natural disasters like volcanic eruptions, wildfires, landslides and tsunamis. Once a village is settled vegetation will start to spread around it, this provides an extra challenge as you can cover the land with sand while providing a source of water to help the vegetation spread for extra points and challenge map unlocks. As the game gets increasingly complicated and difficult you gain access to more powers and abilities. You’ll be able to freeze water in place, summon a black hole to erase matter, increase the breadth of your…breath, or summon an endless fountain of sand. Later in the game you’ll also find different elemental plants naturally occurring in the landscape that can be picked up and strategically placed.
As you shape the landscape it dynamically forms and naturally changes shape, depending not only on what you do, but also what occurs in nature. Lava will cool and turn to rock, water will flow, and sand will spread. The law of entropy is undeniably present.
Graphically the game looks stunning. Seeing the sun set over a mountain you raised only to be blotted out by the even taller tsunami approaching is truly a sight to behold. That being said there were a few times we wish the game could be a bit brighter, as some of the levels can get too dark when not looking directly at lava or some other light source. And we were surprised how well the game handled while using a controller for a strategy simulation game.
From Dust is a great god game. It may be a bit on the shallow side of mechanics compared to previous games in the genre, but it makes up for it with excellent and streamlined design, innovative and challenging levels. It houses a great challenge mode featuring some truly spectacular scenarios providing the opportunity for hours of sandbox fun. It’s surprisingly long for a bargain game and features a great deal of replay-ability. The story might be a bit too new-agey for some tastes, but take solace in the fact that it’s barely present. It serves only as a basic premise, and it’s completely throwaway. We have no reservations recommending a purchase of this absolute gem, but we must warn everyone, From Dust requires a constant internet connection to play. If you have no problems swallowing that jagged pill, then enjoy.
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Name: From Dust
Available on: PC, Xbox 360
Developed by: Eric Chahi
Published by: Ubisoft
Release date: August 17, 2010
EG Score: 4 out of 5 / “Worth Buying”