by Chris Priestman
reviewed on X360
A Sprinkle Of Fairy Dust (cont)
The other outstanding element of fantasy is related to the totems on each level and the powers they grant the player. Upon inhabiting a totem, the player gains a power that they will need to use to beat the level. Each one has a very cool effect that is complimented by the beautiful graphics and physics present in the game, such as jellifying water so that the tribe can run through ravaging rivers without getting swept away – Moses is not the only one who can manipulate water you know. Needless to say there are plenty more of these powers, but they really are best discovered with a fresh face for the best initial impact. Being experimental with these powers and combining some of them together to create a more powerful or totally different effect is left for the player to discover once again. This hands-off approach by the developers is something that I personally cannot praise enough as it rewards players through their own efforts, rather than the ‘Simon Says’ hand-holding of too many other games.
Heart Of Darkness
As we near the end of this review, I cannot help but think that we will finish with a slightly disappointing result, as the story mode of From Dust certainly does. Not to spoil the ending (as if there is something to spoil) but it goes with a pretentious attempt at summarising the way of nature and therefore life that really does not suit the rest of the game. It’s as if the French developers suddenly remembered their artsy-film background and brought in a Francois Truffaut wannabe to provide a ‘thought-provoking’ ending. Needless to say, it is anything but thought-provoking and almost teeters on making the whole journey of the game feel pointless.
Moving on from that, the gameplay is where it is all at and the requirements of the last level certainly make up for the shoddy final word from the developers. What it does not do though, is offer a reason to replay the story mode outside of pursuing achievements. I was actively pursuing a reason to replay the game’s story mode and would happily sit there for hours creating my own island. But there was no point. Unlike other ‘god’ games, From Dust focuses on an entirely different type of strategy, one that does not see the tribe grow or advance, one that does not provide an enemy outside of fleeing from nature. You could sit there for hours spreading vegetation over the land that you may or may not have created, but it only goes so far. Animals are attracted to the land when there is enough vegetation, but unlike the wonderful concept art, the only one on show is a giant slug-type creature, and that is all. Once you have reached 100% vegetation there is nothing left to do but sit there and watch…nothing. So once you have got bored of that, which will happen very quickly, you may hunt around for the other game mode known as challenge mode. These are even smaller microcosms of gameplay that merely have you manipulating the elements to achieve whatever perilous objective is at hand. Don’t get me wrong, these challenges are fun to do and are even plentiful. Adding leaderboards to these also encourages replays to beat friends, but it’s just more panic-stricken strategy mini-games. The player barely gets a chance for some downtime anywhere in the game, and when you do, the progression stops very quickly and boredom sets in even quicker.
And On The Seventh Day…
Summed up, From Dust is a more strategical and fast-paced take on the ‘god’ genre and it is fantastic fun and really motivates the player to complete the task at hand. Unfortunately, it misses a great opportunity by forgetting that sometimes gods need that seventh day to take a break from the manic state of the world. All the tools are readily available which makes the absence of a mode to solely cater to the creative parts of our brain even more frustrating. Other than that, the content delivered is worth checking out for those yearning for another ‘god’ game, and I have only the utmost praise for the sound design and colourful visuals of the game. There are plenty of jaw-dropping moments that are enhanced through these elements – the erupting volcanoes are scary, and the tsunami waves are daunting. But because of these impressive and perilous threats that put the player on edge, it seems a necessity that a more relaxed game mode should be provided.
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