Title: Dust: An Elysian Tale
Developer: Humble Hearts
Publisher: Humble Hearts
Released For: PC (Windows, Mac OSX, Linux) , Xbox Arcade, Playstation 4, IOS
Reviewing: PC (Windows)
DRM and DRM Free Versions Available
Released On: May 24, 2013
Immerse yourself in the magic world of Dust: An Elysian Tale on a quest to find your true identity. You’ll play as the mysterious Dust, and with your trusty sidekick Fidget who totally isn’t Nall from Lunar 2 we promise because Fidget’s orange and a Nimbat you dolt. Along the way, you’ll pursue your destiny while trying to stop an evil force from sweeping over the lands of [insert generic name here] all the while learning about your mysterious past and helping people who have a tendency to never move more than twenty feet. You’ll fight airships, you’ll fight monsters, you’ll swing your sword, and you’ll make vwooshzheeooshzoozoosh noises. There’s collectibles, there’s side quests, there’s something about Metroids and Vanias, and there’s Fidget. We could probably sell you on the game alone with Fidget.
Gameplay wise, let’s break it down into two segments: story, and combat.
Story wise, Dust: An Elysian Tale is an amnesia story. No, not the game Amnesia, actual amnesia. If you thought you’ve been dragged through a series of predictable plot points before, you’ve never been trotted through a predictable series of plot points like this! Without spoiling the story, if you’ve ever read any story in the history of existence that dealt with forgetting who you are, congrats all zero of you, because that means you won’t know what happens! Joshing aside, while the story is rather cookie-cutter, there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with it perse, it’s just ‘there’. In actuality, it’s the events in between the story rather ironically and the characters that make the story more interesting. While dust is about as bland as a cardboard standee of Alan Wake in the beginning, he actually grows to be far more interesting down the line. Again, without spoiling anything, it’s the side characters that have the personality and the ones you’re going to want to invest your time in for. The story has some personality, but it’s clearly outclassed by the character interactions and dialogue. Particularly, the interactions between Dust and Fidget are some of the better interactions we’ve seen in a game like this and no we’re not joking. One word; humor.
Combat is broken down into leveling up, finding gear, crafting, collectibles, and beating people up making vwooshzeeooshzoozooshing noises with your sword. Leveling up revolves around beating up baddies for XP, and thus leveling up and putting your level into any one of four allocated areas to increase that said stat. Finding gear revolves around getting loot via challenges or quests or crafting them using loot dropped by enemies or chests. You can either find keys for said chests lying around, or you have the option to buy keys and other gear and basic crafting and health materials from the merchant which you can purchase from gold you get from said dropped loot. Trust us when we say that you’ll need to stock up on food. As for the collectibles, there’s indie gaming stars [Super Meat Boy included] scattered around in locked chests across the level areas, and it’s your job to find ‘em and set them all free. As for the vwooshzeeooshzoozooshing bit, it mainly revolves around button combos to perform certain moves. It’s a bit basic, but the game does basic combat really well. As an example, we often were switching out our clothing and armor to get different stat boosts. Particularly, 3x loot drop was helpful, because it meant having to rarely buy food.
There’s also a variety of enemy types available to brutally stab, most of which have unique attacks. Pretty cool honestly. While some can be annoying during the heat of combat, it’s mostly a nitpick rather than a full on complaint.
Visually, the game looks gorgeous. Between it’s beautiful 2D animation to it’s color pallet, Dust is visually one of the most colorful indie games I’ve played. This isn’t referring to just the art style either, but the game and level design as well. Everything has a nice, visual cohesion between levels. The only real complaint the game has visually is that the 3D bits of Dust during cutscenes are going to take some time getting used to. In fact, the cutscenes really reminded us visually of mid-year Sony Playstation game cutscenes where they’d often try blending in FMV with 3D animation or character models. That, and (during cutscenes) most likely due to time and budget, the character animations look far worse than in-game. However, it was interesting at some points watching the 3D models clash with the 2D ones. To be frank, it’s the 2D animation that shines here. It’s not by any means ground breaking, but it’s stylized and cohesively beautiful. Some nice added touches included bits in the background that moved when Dust would use his ‘storm’ attack.
The audio is also particularly well done. Everything ‘feels’ the way it should in terms of weight, with no small part of that being thanks to the excellent audio. Dust’s music is fantastic, and the voice acting is also fantastic. One of the voice actors did seem to have quite an obviously worse microphone than everyone else. There was also the problem with the dialogue not matching the tone of the voice at certain points besides with Dust and Fidget. This is particularly noticeable when the general is speaking. Besides that, the voice acting is fantastic. As for the two main protagonists, Fidget may be one of the better sidekicks we’ve had the pleasure of having around. Fidget is basically Nall from Lunar 2, the annoying voice (albeit a different one) included. Fidget does make some ‘4th wall breaking’ jokes that feel out of place, but they admittedly did get a chuckle or two out of us. Okay, maybe not a chuckle, probably a smirk. Probably several smirks. Okay, I may be ashamed as to just how many stupid things I smirked at…which was just about every time they made a joke.
As for the music, it’s great. Sure, it’s basic at a few moments, but the music during most of the combat segments and wandering around bits was well done.
As for the controls, this is a platformer. We played the majority of the game with our Xbox One gamepad, and it felt great. We switched occasionally to a keyboard and mouse configuration to see how it played and while it’s okay, it’s clear the game is designed more towards controllers in mind.
As for settings, there’s a fairly robust set of options for the most part to pick from. The highlight being that there’s a colorblind mode. Kinda cool to see that in an indie game honestly. While you have no option to rebind your controller configuration, you do have an option to rebind your keyboard and mouse layout to your choosing. Everything else in the settings department is fairly standard. The game is also locked to 60 fps, though that may be due to the animations being linked to the framerate. At least, that’s what we’ll guess.
As for entertainment, was the game fun? Yes, yes it was. While Dust: An Elysian Tale does show it’s indie skin in some departments, it has far more than enough for us to suggest this game for anyone who enjoys a good 2D, hand drawn platformer with some (I’ll regret saying this) ‘funny’ humor. It’s story does have a few drawbacks, but it’s still regardless one of the better games from it’s year of release and (to be frank) one of the best 2D platformers we’ve had the pleasure of playing. Overall, if you’re even slightly interested in 2D platformers, we’d happily give Dust: An Elysian Tale a good recommendation from us.
- Side characters
- Enemy and character variety
- Excellent atmosphere
- Well designed audio
- Great art style with vibrant colors
- Plently of game to explore (10 – 12 hours on average)
- Puzzles can be occasionaly annoying
- The story is cookie cutter