Monday, August 1, 2011

From Dust (XBLA)

Play Time: ~1hr (Demo)

What Happened:
Another Summer of Arcade game! I've been following this one for awhile, so I was excited to see that the demo was out.

In From Dust, you control "The Breath" - a spirit which can pick up and put down sand and water (and maybe other things beyond the demo?). You guide a group of men to set up villages in different environments. You pick a goal for them to traverse to (in the demo, you mostly send them to totem pillars to start villages), and then they pathfind on their own along the terrain. Your job is primarily to help create a path for them, by picking up dirt and making walkways across the water. In the last level of the demo, you also guide a single scout to a knowledge stone - he needs to bring back knowledge about how to save the village from a tsunami, and you have a limited amount of time to do it.

What I Liked:

Visuals. Really pretty game. I think that's primarily why it's been getting so much attention. The cutscenes between the levels and during the intro are beautiful and well done. The world is inviting, and you want to play around in it.

Idea. Very cool idea - although so far very simple seeming (I can't help but think that there's a lot more to this game when you move beyond the demo).

Satisfying. Sucking up and dropping sand is surprisingly satisfying! It just, feels right - and the visuals and sound really help. You can tell that a lot of time and effort was put into making this feel correct as it is the core of gameplay.

What I Didn't Like:

End of demo. The end of the demo was really abrupt and sort of confusing. I'm still not sure if I actually got to the end, or just failed somehow... but then, it's just a demo. ;) I assume they were busy putting more polish into the actual game itself.

Uncertainty. Even as I wrote out the gameplay description, I started to wonder if that was really all there was to gameplay, or that I'd missed a lot of stuff. I followed along with the tutorial and what they told me to do.. but I wonder if you can do a lot more if you play around more? I should look it up. :) There were a few moments in the demo where I honestly felt confused about how things should be working - in one case, I sent men to a totem and built them a pathway... but then only 3 out of 5 went there, and nothing really happened for a long time. Eventually just by playing I put some more dirt there -- and then they came. As I was saying above, it's probably just a case where this is a game where you need to discover more things on your own, and I missed that fact.

How Do I Feel About Continuing?

Honestly, I'm not sure! It definitely has my interest, but it never really got to a point in the demo where I felt like I could see where it was going. It all depends on the level design, really - when I'm doing playing through Catherine and Twilight Princess, I might buy the full version just out of curiosity.

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