Microsoft has closed this year's summer of arcade with the action platformer RPG, Dust: An Elysium Tale. After spending three years in development, the game produced mostly by one man has finally made it into the hands of players, and they might not want to put it down until its done.
The beauty of Dust comes from its entirely hand drawn and animated creation. The combat is as smooth and flowing as Dust's garments flapping in the wind. His world and its environments are its hero's equal with their diversity and inhabitants, good or bad. Except for one late in the game, cutscenes have largely been passed over in favor of mostly static characters with moving mouths. If anything this is an opportunity to take a good look at the anthropomorphic cat people in Dust. There are a wide variety of characters to converse with so there will be plenty to look at.
With physically minimal conversations, it's up to the voices of Dust and everyone he speaks to to give anyone their personality. The cave dwellers have a certain southern charm, old people are old, kids are kids, and one of the town’s artist, Gianni, is a douchebag. Fidget, your kitty fairy sidekick, is the liveliest of the main characters. Dust can have passionate moments but for the most part he's pretty even keeled, and it doesn't make for good chemistry between the protagonists. Your sword talks as well but he doesn't add much to the conversation. The music in Dust is by and large peaceful, although it never rises to a point that will excite the player. Maybe alerted, but never genuinely excited.
In the vein of Metroid and Castlevania, Dust sends players into levels that demand exploration to fully experience the game. The kicker is that early in the game, parts of levels are designed so that in that moment they are unreachable. But when the player has learned the proper skills, the game will show them the world and all its sparkling, shimmering, splendor. That's because for all the exploration and killing of bad guys there is plenty of loot and treasure to find. In addition to leveling Dust and his stats, players will find blueprints and be able to craft stronger gear. If a player finds enough treasure keys they can also open cages to free Dust's friends, like Dishwasher: Dead Samurai and Super Meat Boy.
There are also quite a bit of quests, and that includes fetch quests. To alleviate some of the fetch quest frustration, players can sell an item to the shops which will stock it from there on, saving players from farming too much. Instead they're left to wonder along with Dust who he really is, and who he will become. The outline of Dust's story is quickly apparent after the first boss fight but there are some twists towards the end. There are also some moments of open conversation that could affect how things will go.
Combat is easy to pick up on your way to saving the world and discovering who Dust is.
Your own combat never becomes cumbersome as the complexity of fighting comes from the enemies and variety of ways they attack. It's up to you to learn how to use the abilities of Dust and Fidget to overcome the situation. The fights are enjoyably hectic but it’s easy to get lost in the moment, along with losing your life and your progress. If you die, Dust doesn't send you back to the last checkpoint with your gear and stats, it sends you back to your last saved game. It's old school like that and it adds to the challenge, giving you that extra motivation to not get lost in the crowd or try to just rush through an area. Between the fun combat and the old school challenge, Dust combines it to create one really good experience.
Dust is definitely a game worth coming back to, if only to make sure you've seen the world and found every secret Humble Hearts has hidden within it. The combat is clever, the game just looks good, and deserves to do more than collect virtual dust. Even if you don't do all the sidequests you're still looking at a good six to eight hours of satisfying action.
While it has weak points in its audio and the story is relatively by the numbers, Dust: An Elysium Tale is an otherwise solid XBLA title. Fans of Metroidvania style games will enjoy this and it balances the RPG and action well enough to entice people who aren't a fan of seeing the letters R, P, and G right next to each other. With summer coming to a close, Xbox 360 gamers have been given a nice way to end it.
7 - Good: 7s are very fun that has solid appeal. It has obvious issues that stick out, but can still be enjoyable by anyone.
|Bryan Baker is the Community Manager, Promotions Manager, and a Jack of Several Video Related Trades here at ScrewAttack. He's been gaming since the MS-DOS days and still gets a little joy out of using CD and CD\. If anyone's gonna make an obscure reference in the office, it's this guy. If you don't understand him sometimes, don't panic, there's probably a longwinded explanation.|
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