by Marjolein Verheij
previewed on PC
During Gamescom we had the pleasure of seeing From Dust – formerly known as Project Dust – in action. Eric Chahi and Guillaume Bunier presented their baby at Ubisoft’s business booth. From Dust is a “God” game, somewhat similar to classics such as Populous and Black & White. Contrary to the latter, your followers do not have any human adversaries (AI controlled or otherwise). Instead, your enemy is far more powerful and destructive, namely nature. You protect your followers by manipulating the elements and keeping them safe from natural disasters.
You play as a spirit that the tribes look to for protection. You are represented in the game world by a fancy cursor hovering over the landscape. With it, you collect water, rock, sand, lava, wildlife and trees into a hovering ball which you can then move and deposit in a different location. You can create lakes by dumping water in a hollow in the sand, rivers by removing enough sand to reach the water level, create mountains, drop lava in water to form land and create land bridges that can then be used by your tribesmen to reach otherwise inaccessible areas.
Power of nature
Missions exist of helping the tribe fight the powers of nature. Warnings of coming danger appear at the bottom of your screen along with a timeline that shows you how much time you have to prepare. Those warnings could be anything from tsunamis that are about to flood a village, to powerful earthquakes or volcano eruptions. Not all of the work to fend off these disasters is done by you, though. Tribes can be taught ancient rituals that control the elements through elemental stones found on the map. It is your task to guide tribesmen to these stones and make sure they arrive safely back with them. Doing so involves clearing the way along a dotted line that colours green when the way is clear, or red when something is preventing a villager to safely pass.
If, for example, the villager needs to pass a river, you could build a bridge of sand so he can cross. Doing so can have repercussions though. Your action may just have cut off the village’s fresh water supply, so don’t forget to clear away the bridge after the villager has passed. Don’t take too long either, as the villager will travel on without you and might be about to drown. Underwater currents can be quite nasty, so before exhaustion sets in, you better drop some sand under his feet so that he can rest a bit. Once the villager reaches the elemental stone he has learned the power needed to fight the elements and can return to his village. The path may be just as treacherous as before, so better guide him safely.
Keep them safe
In this breathing, living world you can’t control the inhabitants directly, but only guide and help them. When villagers cross paths with others they exchange elemental powers. Each power learned grants you more abilities. One such ability is the ability to temporarily solidify water which allows you to move water without it turning into liquid the moment it hits the surface of whatever you drop it on. When villages get too big, the tribe can split up. You have to find the new tribe a place where they can safely live.
When the number of followers reaches a critical point, it is time for ‘the big migration’. You can call your followers to gather at a single location on the map after which they can go on to the next map. But be careful, they will still need help to arrive safely.
From Dust will be available via digital distribution only, appearing on Steam, Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade in the first quarter of next year. I will definitely keep an eye on this game as it promises to be interested.