From Dust Impressions – Where Playing With Fire Is Encouraged

As a veteran of such sim games as Black and White, The Sims, and Sim City, From Dust had an undeniable hold over me.  I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this beautiful looking God-Sim style game.  I mean, who doesn’t want the power to shape the landscape using water, fire, and earth?  Oh yeah, and helping the people against natural disasters as well I guess.  Thankfully, the wait was over on Wednesday when the game finally released on Xbox Live as part of the Summer of Arcade promotion.  I could now flex my god like abilities and I figured you’d like to know how it went.

Impressions after the jump….

As a combined effort from Ubisoft and the mind of  Eric Chahi, From Dust sets you as a deity only known as “the Breath”.  Unlike something like Populous or Black and White, you only have powers over the land.  Your main goal is to protect a tribe from natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions and tsunamis and help them expand on the map.  You’ll also discover powers and tribal abilities to help the defense against Mother Nature.  Once you complete your objective, a door opens to the next world and you’ll have to safely escort your tribesmen there.  As you progress, the maps get more challenging introducing more disasters, new powers to discover, and trickier layouts.  For those who want an even bigger challenge, there’s a separate mode which tasks you to complete an objective within a short time span.

I am stunned by the art design in this game.  It’s stunning.  I’m also floored by the technology present in this game with its erosion and terrain deformation.   Just sitting there watching the game, you’ll see rivers change course, earth erode, mountains form from cooling lava, and even plants and wildlife take over.  It’s really great watching this just happen naturally as you play.  I never got tired of placing earth, forming a wall and watching what the water would do.  It either eroded and water started to trickle through or the river actually found a different path down to the ocean.  I never got tired of creating land bridges, putting out forest fires with water, or even creating new mountains to protect the village from a tsunami.  It’s all very impressive.

Controls are very simple as the left stick moves your cursor, the left trigger picks up the elements, and the right trigger releases it.  You can zoom in using “LB” but sometimes I found it tricky to really see the area I wanted to place the material.  It’s not always precise but it’s still good enough as is.  I can’t comment too much on the difficultly level as I’m still on the beginning stages but I have heard that it does ramp up in the latter stages.  Makes you wonder why the tribe constantly thinks it’s a great idea to build a village at the base of an active volcano.

I would have also loved to see some sort of “sandbox” style mode as well where you can just lounge around playing with the elements till your heart’s content.  With all the fantastic deformation elements going on, I found myself wanting to just play around with the map diverting rivers, forming new mountains, or just flooding areas.  It’s not a huge knock against the actual game or anything, just something I would have liked to see added.  Who knows, maybe DLC?

When Microsoft first announced this year’s Summer of Arcade lineup, I was a bit underwhelmed.  I wrote a bunch of these games off and I can see now that I was wrong to do that.  In my opinion, Microsoft is 2 for 2 so far.  I’m hoping next week will introduce us to another gem.  Definitely do yourself a favor and download the trial of From Dust.  It’s very cool and unlike most other things out there.

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2 Responses to From Dust Impressions – Where Playing With Fire Is Encouraged

  1. fazor3d says:

    I’ve only gotten to play this for a very little bit (think I’m on the fourth “level”? The first one that introduces lava. And yes, I’ve already accidentally burned my villagers to death (though some did get swept out to see in my ensuing attempt to squelch the flames. It’s not my fault the trust their survival to a god who’s also a clumsy idiot.)

    It’s *neat*, but I’m a little put off by the controls. For as fast as you have to react to some things, the places I try to drop land doesn’t seem to be accurate enough. Maybe I just need practice? I also found it a little “boring”; I think the game world needs more music or sounds or something. When there’s nothing in particular going on, it just seemed too quiet.

    Just my two cents. 😛

    • gamercrash says:

      Now that you mention it, i can’t recall the music at all. For me, that’s an issue.

      You’re right about dropping land and stuff. I’m thinking it’s a bit inaccurate due to the camera angle. You’re either in too close or too far away. Maybe they need an overhead view or something like that? Trying to make a straight line is a bit tough.

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