Review by Mike Ibarra

Game Review: Dust: An Elysian Tail

Game Review: Dust: An Elysian Tail

Starting from being a simple indie title, it caught the attention of Microsoft back in 2009’s Dream.Play.Build challenge and stayed in development for over 3 years. That was until it's release as one of Xbox’s Summer of Arcade titles, the showcase for major indie titles throughout each year. And now it has made its way to Steam for people to enjoy on the PC. Designed and programmed by only one person, this game looks promising. But is it truly worth the hype or will it bite the dust? 

What is this game about?

Basically you are this soldier who has lost his memory about who he is and what is his purpose in life. You start out the game fighting against a bunch of enemies in a mini-tutorial showing you what buttons to use. After that, you are in the forest alone until you are woken up by a magical mystical sword called Ahrah and also its guardian, a little foxbat called Fidget. And so your journey to find out who you are starts, also you will find out the truth about your past.

Yeah, the premise can sound funny or weird but as the game progresses, the story gets more and more interesting. Even if it is as clichéd and predictable as it can get, it truly sucks you in and gets you wondering what happens next. In summary, the storytelling is really good. 

The voice actors in this game are really great too; even Fidget (this game’s “Navi”) is really adorable and likeable. Some of the interactions between the characters are really great and it is pretty entertaining to hear, whether they are serious conversations or just funny remarks about something.

How do you play this?

Dust is a 2D Hack and Slash/Beat’em Up platformer, so it is really easy to pick up and play. Of course you can play this game in two ways, smash the buttons and kill all the enemies to advance to the next area or do combos along with Ahrah’s Tornado ability and Fidget’s magical powers (there’s even a piece of conversation where both your companions tell you this); the game pretty much encourages you to do the latter since they help you to take on enemies a little more easily, there are even achievements for high number of consecutive hits. But you also have to be careful and not overuse the Tornado ability since it can hurt you back if you do.

On PC, you have the option of using 3 set of controls: Keyboard, Keyboard and Mouse and Controller. The keyboard controls are your standard for PC gaming. You use WASD for movement on your left hand, while you have the rest of the movements on the right side of the keyboard. And the space bar for jumping by using your thumbs. It feels natural but a little bit clunky. The Keyboard and Mouse combo on the other hand feels better for those without a wired controller; you use the keyboard for movement while you use the mouse buttons to unleash your attacks. Props to development team for thinking of this. But of course, this game is better played with a controller in mind since this was originally an XBLA title. You can also customize your controls however you like. So if you don’t like the default setting, you can change it to what suits you the most.

This game also has RPG elements. You gain experience for each enemy you defeat and level up and gain more stats for Dust or Fidget. It is not as expansive as other game, it is pretty basic stuff. You gain other abilities and more stats as you find items and the Ability Orbs. You can also craft items to make Dust stronger.

Also, there is a lot to explore and lots to do in the world of Falana. One of the main points of Dust is that it is “Metroidvania” style of game and there is lots of secret loot scattered throughout each region in the game. You do not have to explore everything, you can pretty much beat the main story and be fine, but again it is encouraged by the game itself to complete all the areas and find every little secret and treasure in them. There are also special areas where you must beat them in a certain time and get more points and compete to have the highest score in the leaderboard.

As for the difficulty in the game, you have four sets of difficulty, starting from Easy (a.k.a. Bobby Blackwolf mode) to Hardcore. Easy and Normal are suitable for people who are new to the genre and do not want to hassle with enemies that much, but Hard and Hardcore are really difficult. You’ll find yourself repeating the same areas over and over, especially if you are still not strong enough, because the enemies spawn a lot more and actually deal more damage than in the easier difficulties. It can get frustrating but challenging as well. You will have to strategize you attacks and use the combos and abilities wisely. 

What other things can you expect from this game?

The graphics are amazing! It is one of the best looking indie games out there. The character designs may turn some people off because of the “Furry” design, but even then those look really great. Every single detail of this game looks so good; it will keep you in awe throughout all of it. The music is also really great, it really captures every moment in the game so well. From action packed songs to really calmed and soothing ones.

The PC/Steam version is pretty much a straight forward port of the XBLA version. It does offer your traditional graphical settings and customization and nothing is lost in comparison. In fact, the PC version offers you 1080p resolution, while the XBLA version runs on 720p. Unfortunately, there is nothing more for those who already bought the game on their 360, other than prettier graphics. 

What is the final verdict?

Dust: An Elysian Tail is probably one of the best indie tiles ever released. Developer Humble Hearts and designer/programmer Dean Dodril truly made this game into something really worth purchasing.

There are really just a few things that bother me in this game and they are minor flaws that do not interfere with the game play. The combat system, while repetitive, is fun and the exploration and side-quests in the game will keep you entertained for quite a while.

Dust is a must have for every Xbox 360 owner or Steam user out there. So go ahead and give it a least a try, you will find yourself liking the game right from the start and never want to let the controller go.

Price: 1200 MSP on Xbox 360; 14.99usd on Steam
Acquisition Method: Purchased

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • Fun combat
  • Challenging
  • Lots to explore and side-quests to do
  • Excellent graphics/art, music and voice acting
The Bad:
  • Combat system can be repetitive
  • Story can be predictable and clichéd

Mike “deft” Ibarra is a staff writer for the VOG Network. You can follow him over at Twitter at @act_deft

Review by - 6/1/2013 5:16 PM703 views

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