July 27, 2011

Summer of Arcade: Week Two

Lasting First Impressions of From Dust from Ubisoft

From Dust boxartXbox 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.

About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.



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  1. Mecandes

    Loved this game for all the reasons you talked about, except I felt the opposite about the difficulty – I enjoyed being challenged, and required to think differently and tackle the sandbox from a different angle. When a game is as cool and open-ended as From Dust, I don’t mind replaying levels. To me, its part of the old school charm – games used to be more challenging! (These days we get games like Molyneux’s Fable that hold your hand the whole way and provide almost no challenge whatsoever.)

  2. Sean Evans

    I absolutely agree, though perhaps it didn’t come across clear enough. At first I thought I didn’t like the game simply because I was getting frustrated on what I thought was going to be fairly straight forward. The fact that it kept bringing me back for more was proof that it was a great game. I agree that each level will probably take more than one play through to figure out and that’s what’s great about it. It really makes you think things through and try new ideas.

  3. I won’t hold my breath, but I’m kind of hoping that From Dust will be some kind of breakout hit that encourages others (are you listening, Molyneux) to bring us more games that don’t easily fit into one of the established genres (fps, rts, platformer, etc.). Sometimes I miss the early days of gaming, where there was a lot more risk-taking and wild creativity brought to us by studios like Bullfrog. (I say the same about every game released by Double Fine — please, let this be a hit, because these guys deserve it and I want to see more creativity).

  4. Sean Evans

    We certainly need to see a resurgence of new and innovative titles emerge. The entertainment industry as a whole is stuck in a lather, rinse, repeat cycle right now and titles like From Dust, as you said, could have the potential to show the industry that risk-taking can pay off. I believe we as gamers appreciate this more than they think we do.

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