I've been practically foaming at the mouth to get my hands on this game since it was unveiled last year. It's gorgeous visuals, unique gameplay and the fact that it was designed by Eric Chahi (the creator of Another World) pretty much sold me on the idea long before I knew too much about it. Now, thanks to Xbox Live's Summer of Arcade and publisher Ubisoft, From Dust is finally available and for the most part, it's everything I so desperately wanted it to be. It's beautiful, unique, and makes you feel like a god. What more could you ask for?
Actually, there are still a few things I could still ask for, like better AI, more polish in the controls, and a better camera, but we'll get into that a little later. For the uninitiated, From Dust is a god sim where you're put into the omniscient shoes of a nameless god, tasked with saving his…hers…its worshippers from imminent danger. This is an incredibly dangerous world these people live in, with the constant threat of volcanic eruptions, massive tsunamis, floods and shifting land - for as visually stunning as it is I can't say I'd ever want to live here.
To save your villagers from their wee painful deaths you have a few tools at your disposal such as the Breath, which can be used to carry various elements (water, earth, lava) to another location. You can suck up water and pour it over a wildfire to put it out, take lava and pour it to create a wall, etc. There are plenty of possibilities and as the game progresses you'll have to learn to react quickly, lest your worshippers meet a painful end.
You'll also have several totems that can be activated to give you extra abilities or enhance your Breath power. These totems are scattered about the environment and can only be added to your arsenal when your worshippers have created a village surrounding it. The totems grant far stronger powers like the ability to temporarily solidify or evaporate all of the water in the environment, or instantly put out all of the wildfires. These are particularly useful if you're in dire need of a quick fix, and trust me, in the later levels these powers will be invaluable.
Unfortunately, From Dust is plagued by a few issues that end up making the game more frustrating then it should be. The issue that bothered me the most was the almost constantly awful AI. Guiding these guys toward where I needed them to be was a continuously painful experience, and for some reason there are certain orders you can't cancel. For example, if one of the villages surrounding a totem is destroyed your other villages will keep sending people over to the totem to rebuild the village. Try as I might, these persistent guys can't be stopped, instead they'll just keep sending over people as you watch the reinforcements die.
The controls and camera can also be a little frustrating. The former isn't as polished as I would've liked and can cause problems later in the game when you're defending your villages against tsunamis, floods, wildfires, and volcanic eruptions all at once. The camera can also get a little wonky, failing to show you the things you need to see, and for some reason you can't zoom in or out at certain amounts. You either have to go with the way-too-close view or the camera in the stratosphere option - neither are ideal but the latter is usually what I ended up going with.
From Dust consists of a bunch of different maps where when you beat them you move on to the next, more difficult one. Once you beat the story you can move on to the challenge mode that houses dozens of challenges that give you a limited set of powers, a time limit, and a scenario to overcome. I would've liked to see some sort of sandbox mode with randomized maps and dangers, something like that would've essentially made this game infinitely repayable. Sadly, there's also no multiplayer, though that also would've been interesting to see (especially some sort of cooperative option).
From Dust is a fantastic game and a great follow-up to the Summer of Arcade's first game, Bastion. It's not quite like anything you've ever seen before and there's plenty of content to warrant a purchase. There are a few kinks that need to be worked out but overall, this is a game that everyone should check out, just make sure you don't let your newfound godly prowess get to your head.