by Chris Priestman
reviewed on X360
Clash Of The Titans
Many a year has passed since us mortals have had a chance to take the reins as a mighty deity. Over the years our hands have caused the destruction of civilisations, foiled the plans of overzealous dictators, and created tropical paradises. Quite rightly, the ‘god’ sub-genre of games is a much sought after one, especially as they crop up infrequently and are rarely fun to play when they do. This is why From Dust will immediately grab the attention of the needy and the desperate; those long awaiting souls grasping for a sense of power.
Using a well-known formula, From Dust manages to weave its own take on the genre to a pleasant result. The focus of the game is not so much on creating your tribe or civilisation and then taking control over all of the land for yourself. Instead, players partake in what can only be described as an epic battle between a god and Mother Nature.
Let There Be Light!
Considered the first ‘god’ game, Populous introduced a lot of the core elements of the genre. Creating tribes, manipulating land, and spreading the influence of your population are perhaps the most basic tenets. Following suit, From Dust begins its story mode with the creation of ‘the breath’. This is your cursor and will be the medium through which you will interact with the environment; to shape and sculpt, to destroy and rebuild. You owe your birth as a deity to your loyal tribe and it is these mask-bearing voodoo people that you will be shepherding as they traverse the dangerous lands of their ancestors in order to find ‘Sanctuary’ – a mythical, promised land. It is this journey, the persistence to keep going forward rather than advance technologically or build a bigger population as is usually the case in ‘god’ games, that makes From Dust comparable to Lemmings. In fact, From Dust seems to be a perfect middle ground between Populous and Lemmings – a strange combo that offers a fairly unique play style.
The story mode is split up into 13 separate lands that you must take your tribe across. To beat one land and move onto the next, the player simply has to get their tribe to create a village around each totem, of which there can be up to four. Upon doing so, the exit of the level is opened up and the tribe can then travel through it and move onto the next area. Of course, each land comes with a challenge and the game does a good job of ensuring that every terrain has a unique feel and provides a matching threat to your people. The game starts off with a very relaxed tone, it simply explains how to help your tribe across rivers by picking up spheres of sand and laying them out like a bridge. At this point in the game, you can only use the resources of the land, whereas later on you are granted the power to actually create these resources out of thin air – this is something that was not used nearly enough in the game.
The problem with adopting the Lemmings style of gameplay is that it rushes the player through each land rather than allowing them to become more attached to their creations. There are some marvellous island creation tools present in the game, especially in the latter stages, but they feel very underused. An extra game mode that gives the player the space and time to simply create their own island and have a tribe inhabit it, while occasionally throwing the odd danger at them, would have extended the playtime greatly. I remember spending a whole summer making islands with the map editor in Far Cry: Instincts, and I am very sure that From Dust has the potential to induce a similar addiction in me, yet it misses the opportunity. Instead, to extend your otherwise rather rushed stay on each story-related island, there are extra sub-objectives. In each area there is a memory stone to find, and spreading sand over the majority of the terrain to encourage the spread of vegetation until you have created a palm tree paradise is a further challenge. Completing both of these sub-challenges unlocks memories for the tribe. These are simply forgotten histories of the various lands, animals and tribal practices – interesting for some but the majority will probably just be interested in the attached achievement.
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