Xbox Live Arcade’s second week of Summer of Arcade continues with another unique entry from the mind of legendary creator, Eric Chahi (Out of this World/Another World) called “From Dust”. From Dust is a new take on the old-style god game along the lines of the classic Populus. Thrust into a primitive world, you take control of “The Breath”, the power to shape the very land and nature itself, to lead your tribe to totems in order to build their village.
To be perfectly honest, until this game was announced as part of the Summer of Arcade line-up, I had never heard of it, nor was I aware of its development. Being a huge fan of the aforementioned Populous, had I known about this project I would have been very excited for its release. The concept is very well executed and the visuals in From Dust are outstanding. The world that you shape reacts to your every intrusion in a flowing and natural way. The water effects are extremely realistic and mind-blowing; trying to build up the land in front of a natural flow of water, causes the water to pool into a lake and eventually pour over the sides of the newly created embankment or even find another route in which to flow.
When I first began playing From Dust, I was pleasantly surprised to find the kind of game I grew up loving. I immediately thought of Populous and how wonderful it was to finally have another game like that. I was eager to play. The controls are extremely simple to learn and master and the first few levels were quite fun to play as I learned the concepts presented. Unfortunately, this is where the fun seemed to stop and the true challenges presented themselves. Very soon after beginning to play, the difficulty level increased ten-fold. All of a sudden I was presented a challenge to complete within a certain time limit. I hate time limits. I don’t like being rushed, especially in a game that requires careful planning and consideration. Try as I might I just couldn’t finish this particular level and I became very frustrated. So I stopped playing for a day and came back to it later and was able to overcome this particular challenge.
Each subsequent stage presents new concepts and new challenges and puzzles to overcome. From Dust will cause you think in ways you’ve never had to think, and you will be doing things that you’ve never had to do in any game prior. It will bring challenges that may seem impossible, but with much trial and error, they are achievable.
I really want to love this game. The concepts, the challenges, the beautifully realistic imagery, the incredibly real nature physics, all these elements combine to create a truly masterful title. The only downfall is the increasing difficulty of each subsequent area. After overcoming the challenge described above, however, I moved on to the next level, only to be, once again, frustrated and a little confused as to the actual goal of this level. Try as I might, it just seemed like I was going nowhere and accomplishing nothing.
I don’t want to give up on this game though. It keeps bringing me back to try again. That in and of itself, is proof that this is a good game and one worthy of my time. It is a fantastic puzzle just begging to be solved and I can’t leave that alone. This isn’t a game that you’re going to solve the first time you try. It is meant to open your mind to new abstractions and provoke you into new ways of thinking.
Ubisoft, I gave you and hour and I am IMPRESSED.