by Chris Priestman
reviewed on X360
In God We Trust
Your tribe are not merely lemmings, they do actually feel like they have a culture and a history to them. In between gameplay they talk about their journey in their own native tongue; they talk about the breath as their saviour and only hope, and it is these small moments that make you care about them. However, you will not realise this until you cannot help but hold your mouth open in shock as their villages are swept away to a chorus of screams in your first experience with a tsunami wave. The game’s aforementioned tranquil nature soon departs when the worst of nature’s disasters are thrown at your vulnerable tribesman. The game very effectively adds peril and panic to each situation by issuing a timer before the next natural disaster, and if it strikes before your tribe are effectively guarded, then you have to watch them as they are made victims to your inability.
The initial shock of failure is enough to force you to find the cause to help your tribe on their journey, and you will be damned if they do not make it. Again the problem with these very short timers (a tsunami every 3 minutes!) is that it pushes the player along too quickly and never gives you much downtime to enjoy just playing with the tools that you are granted. Not to mention the occasional AI fail as the tribe complains about not being able to traverse land that you have carved out for them. Though rare, these moments feel unfair as a tribesman cries out about a quite obviously traversable bridge or hill, and it is because of this that he dies. This is especially annoying when that man is passing on the knowledge of how to fend off a tsunami from village to village, and his failure means the destruction of one of your villages.
The game does do a great job of making you feel powerful though, but it is clear that you are still very much at the mercy of nature. There are certain little tricks that you will pick up through the game’s course, and the great thing about this is that the game does not force-feed them to you, it allows room for players to think for themselves. The same can be said about the many inevitable mistakes that will be made. You may want to spread the vegetation as far as possible so that you create a mini paradise island, but keep the grass and the trees out of the way of molten lava as a forest fires spread fast. Before long your villages will be crying for help as they burn to the ground. You think to yourself, there is an easy solution! Absorb some seawater and pour it over the village, problem solved. But now look what you have done, you have drowned them and the dead bodies float out to sea like an army of dead ants. Over and over again you will have moments of apparent genius, to then have them dashed right in front of you. Eventually though you will become a much better shepherd, but your flock will always stumble across a new challenge in each level.
A Sprinkle Of Fairy Dust
From Dust goes a little further from the limitations of realism though, and is certainly improved by adding fantastical elements to the game. The most apparent is the ability of each tribe to fend off tsunamis and the wrath of volcanoes by chanting and playing an aboriginal tune. In fact, the whole sound design of the game is very strong – whether it is used as an auditory cue, a background track or to flesh out the culture of the tribe through their foreign dialect - the sound is a near spot-on realisation. More creativity on the developer’s part comes in half way through the story mode when fire, water and exploding trees are introduced. They are as you would imagine; trees that either spread fire, explode or douse flames with water upon contact. Moving these around each area makes the game feel a little more like a tower defence game as you place them strategically to protect your villages from the might of nature. This surprising element certainly helps to mix up the gameplay from just tediously picking up and distributing lava, sand or water.
Beautiful to look at, challenging and exciting gameplay, strategical approach to the ‘god’ game genre
Rushes players too often, misses opportunity with island creation tools