From Dust

In the midst of The Summer of Arcade can be found Ubisoft‘s latest XBox Live Arcade (XBLA) title, From Dust. A spiritual successor to the ludicrously loved Populous, it offers a taste of a classic, with modern day perks. Traditionally, god-games have tended to be an area ravenously lapped up by the PC gaming crowed and shied away from by the console players. The genre tends to be better suited to mouseplay than a controller and that’s been accepted… maybe a little too easily. From Dust is a valiant effort to stop us from thinking such terrible thoughts, and instead, lose ourselves in something a little different.

The tale told in From Dust is a simple yet effective one. You manipulate a nomadic tribe who, following in the path of their forefathers or “ancients”, seek to form villages and wield powers to manipulate the environment in order to create a sanctuary. Along the way they learn the secrets of those who came before, which follows the old addage of “with knowledge comes power”.

The gameplay is set as a first person god perspective, with no ability to directly control your tribe. Whilst you may be powerless in that respect, be prepared to change the world, literally, as you control a ball that allows you to pick up environmental assets (water, soil, or even lava) and move them to more convenient locations. As you pick your way across the wilderness, you have to be a guiding hand to the tribe. Whether it’s building a bridge of sand across the river, redirecting a lava flow, or jellifying water to slow that incoming tsunami, the habitat has everything you will need. Each level involves reconstructing villages, up to four, whilst battling the elements and repopulating the area with fresh vegetation. It is essentially an exercise in balancing the forces of nature so they help bring order, instead of the initial destruction. Once the villages are resurrected, your villages may continue into a cave to bring you to your next challenge.

As you complete levels, new challenges will be unlocked. Separate to the campaign, these are puzzle-like levels, a couple of minutes long. Your powers will be limited, and your task specific, as you battle the clock to save the villagers in time. These can get tricky rather quickly and are really an additional level of gameplay once you’ve mastered the campaign mode.

Graphically, From Dust is beautiful. The speed at which you can carve a completely new landscape is staggering when you see how naturally the transition is made. With the elements being your only foe, the emphasis on the landscape has really paid off. It can be so pleasurable just to watch the terraforming take place after you move a river’s route.

The controls may be a little fiddly at points, but there is no point in the game where you will wish for a mouse. The simple pickup and drop system is instantly accessible to gamers of all ages, whether previous they have previous god-game experience or not.







One response to “From Dust”

  1. Dave avatar

    Ah, thanks for this, I was interested in this one but not sure whether to bite the bullet or not. Decision made 

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