Here I am again, doing another cheapskate article since the wonderful revolution of the Games with Gold reward system for Gold Members. This half-months game is Dust: An Elysian Tale, and I wasn’t actually thinking of doing a review on this game because I wasn’t originally going to download it, the only reason I did was because I was bored… but I’m glad I did in the end. Dust is made by another one of those developer companies we have never heard of called Humble Hearts, yet they made such a great game for their first ever release I have to commend them on it. The game was actually released to the XBLA on August 15 in 2012 and is an action role-playing, beat ‘em up style of game, and it is definitely worth a download if you have 600MB free on your hard drive, which is a ridiculously small size for the detail and length of the game.
Dust is set in the weird and wonderful world of Falana, which is basically a better drawn out, action version Animal Crossing. You play the skilled warrior Dust, as he tries to find out who he really is throughout the entire story, accompanied by a small and annoying orange ‘thing’ called Fidget and wielding awesome talking sword known as the Blade of Ahrah. The game reminded me a lot of The Hangover, only a more extreme version. You wake up in a field, not remembering who you are or how you got there. All of a sudden this sword comes out of nowhere and you grab it, using a strange grabbing animation that shouldn’t really work but does. Soon after comes Fidget, who annoys you straight up from the first word, asking why you have ‘stolen’ the sword from her and proclaiming she is the sword’s guardian. After some extensively long dialogue, you finally get on your way and end up encountering the forest of a million repsawning monsters… to which (depending on what difficulty you play) you completely annihilate because the sword ‘coincidentally’ gives you the ninja powers of a god. The plot is a little flawed in places and conceives the image of a surprisingly small world, indifferent to what the map shows you, purely because everyone and everything everywhere all seems to link up together somehow.
The gameplay is probably one of the most different things I’ve played in my entire life, a mix of an RPG and action, with a platformer beat ‘em up game. The controls are all pretty simplistic, bar the combat, there’s everything you would want in a game, A to jump and control stick to move. The combat on the other hand starts off a little boring, but as you progress it gets better and more complicated. In the beginning, it is simply just X and Y combo’s but if you stick with it, they do something so radical that it will blow your mind. THEY ADD THE B BUTTON INTO THE MIX! But joking aside, after immediately after the addition of the B button, which is Fidget’s magic attacks, you get an extra attack called ‘Dust Storm’, this allows for some amazing combat combinations leading to some hefty combo counters early in the game. As you get further through and start beating bosses, Fidget learns more power types like fire, and that leads to even greater combos and more damage.
There is a levelling up system that brings the RPG style into the game, as Dust can earn experience points and you can chose to level up his defence, attack, health and even Fidget’s power. There is also the use of money, earnt by selling items of defeating enemies, with which you can buy keys that open chests, health items and crafting items to forge armour, pendants and rings to help you through the game. Finally, one of my favourite parts is the secrets in the game, reminding me of the old days, when games actually made you graft for the secrets. Some of the early ones you come across are pretty simplistic, but as you get further in the game, they become harder and more confusing, just how we like it right?
Another thing I would love to do with this game is compare it to others, because it seems to take all its inspirations form a range of different games, which is what makes it so appealing and interesting. Firstly the game instantly reminded me of a free roaming Street Fighter, like the Streets of Rage series. I’m not a massive fan of these scrolling games, but because it is more like a platformer and you can go wherever you want whenever, it makes for a much more laid-back experience. Talking about laid-back though, there are some serious elements that make it a whole lot more annoying. This might seems strange, but it is surprisingly like Dark Souls. The save point system is a lot like bonfire’s taking you bake to the nearest Altar whenever you die, although it’s slightly more aggravating because it reverts to you last save. The enemies are sometimes stupidly difficult, making you think how under-levelled you are for this boss. There are also a lot of bosses that will easily one hit KO you, and some smaller enemies as well, annoyingly breaking your awesome combo counter and resetting your progress on the way. Finally, as silly as this one seems, it reminds me of the original Zelda’s, with the item style and the shops, and a little bit of the design, but that could just be me.
Dust: An Elysian Tail is probably one of the best games I have ever played on the XBLA, and not just because it’s free for half the month (although that is part of the reason). Clearly a lot of effort has gone into this game to perfect it, and although the dialogue is sometimes overly long, the game is stupidly hard at points and the mid-air dust storm can sometimes send you flying upwards for no reason at all, the game feels right. The controls are simple yet clever, unlike the last game, Deadlight and it doesn’t feel embarrassingly childish for the set out of the game.