RPG Index: Single player Role Playing Games

Friday, 31 May 2013

Dust: An Elysion Tail

For a project that initially intended to span the space of several months, it's amazing that Dust actually took 3 and a half years to come out of development. It was clearly worth the wait though, because Dust: An Elysion Tail is a brilliant platforming game with some intriguing elements to it. This is one of those games that just has absolutely everything it needs to sit on that throne of the gods. It's all so well put together, that there's no particular feature in the game that bogs it down.

Screenshot of gameplay from Dust
It's hard to call a game pretty when it's sporting 2D graphics, but Dust looks fantastic.

Dust is one of those indie games that I came across on steam whilst having a search around for a new title to play. So I bought it with the simple expectation of it being an acceptable way to kill some time. After playing it for 5 minutes, I could tell it was worth the purchase. The action is fluid and addictive, combined with glorious side-scrolling and some tacked on RPG aspects. It's fun, it's polished, and very memorable.

Screenshot of the environments in the indie game Dust: An Elysion Tail
When you get used to the game, you will probably spend more time in the air than on the ground.

The game is about an amnesiac soldier who is struggling to come to grips with his controversial past. Upon waking up in a glade to meet the talking sword of Ahrah, our protagonist is quickly named Dust by the wise sword and it's impudent guardian Fidget. With no memory of anything and a legendary blade, what is one to do? Set out on an epic quest to save the world and defeat your former allies; certainly. Yes, the plot is undeniably cliched and it's been done a thousand times. However, the delivery is something remarkably unique. The voice actors are convincing, and the dialogue is just fantastic. From the subtle comments that break the fourth wall and the hilariously wacky characters will make you laugh. Reed and his precious box anyone?

Gameplay from Dust, summoning a projectile storm
This is one hell of a party trick. It's hella fun being able to summon a storm of bolts whenever you feel like it.

Dust plays like any old iconic platform game with a few twists. Think Mario, Sonic, Rayman. Typically you will be navigating levels from left to right, jumping across gaps and slinging together enemies with brutal sword and spell combinations. What separates Dust from the other games is the style of combat. Aside from being able to hack and slash your way through opponents with the sword of Ahrah, you can kick up a Dust Storm by spinning your weapon at incredible speeds. On top of that, your pet companion Fidget can shoot out various magical bolts that you can amplify by using it in tandem with Dust Storm. It's hard to describe, but you get a very satisfying feeling from performing a perfect barrage of sword and sorcery attacks.

Platforming gameplay from Dust an Elysion tail
Some parts of Dust require you to navigate troublesome terrain, but with your insane maneuverability it's quite easy.

The many other great features of Dust include an inventory and crafting system, which is basic at best, but gives you a nice degree of customization and the instinct to go out and find the materials you need. Killing enough baddies will level you up and grant you new abilities and attributes. It's possible to massively increase your experience intake by keeping your combo going for longer without taking any damage. There are also shops scattered throughout each zone but their only real use is to stock up health potions before going into a dangerous area. The RPG elements to Dust aren't very prevalent, but they are a nice touch that really adds flavor and addiction.

Cutscene in the indie hit game Dust
Since you can spin your sword fast enough to create a tornado, I don't really understand why he didn't put this out.

The art style is adorable, and it's nice to see such crisp 2D graphics in high resolution. The characters and the animations are lovingly designed, and the gameplay is a pleasure because of it. It's one thing when a platformer is well designed and smooth, but when the animations are awesome to watch it becomes something else entirely. Instead of just smashing all the bad guys and heading for the next area, every player gets the urge to look cool at the same time. Dust allows you to do just that, you can sail across the screen with a cascade of missiles to barrage you opponent, and with a little practice you can string together devastating combo attacks that make you feel like a champion.

Conjuring a Dust projectile storm on an Elysion Tail
Enemies attacking your caravan? Dust storm! People throwing trash on your lawn? Dust storm! Wife nagging you? Dust storm!

What impressed me was how this title is a solid performance all the way through. It reminded me of playing Crash Bandicoot and Rayman. But if I were to compare all of these games together, Dust would come out on top. Why? Because it brings back all the great features of platforming that generations grew up on, and blends them together with modern techniques and mechanics. For example, save points are plentiful so you don't have to spend an hour scourging the map just so you can take a break. Quests are managed in the log, so you don't have to sit there and think about what you're supposed to be doing. The story is surprisingly immersive, yet doesn't take itself seriously. At no point during my playthrough did Dust, Ahrah and Fidget get on my nerves. I had a lot of fun playing an Elysion Tail, and I value it above the majority of the money-grubbing trash I've bought in the last 5 years.

A story scene in the indie title Dust An Elysion Tail
Moonbloods are a race that are being exterminated by the General Gaius, the antagonist.

Ultimately, Dust: An Elysion Tail is THE best game I have played designed by one brilliant individual. The only pitfall I can honestly complain about is the distinct lack of difficulty. Even the bosses don't provide a shred of a challenge. Once you have the finesse to perform some of the lethal combos, the only time you will die is if you refuse to use any food to restore your health. Other than that, the last thing I can complain about is that it's too short. By no means is it short, you can probably get a good 20 hours out of the game if you go for 100%. Unfortunately, a third of the game had to be cut short due to a lack of time. If that third is released as DLC, god help me I'll buy it. Even though I hate DLC. I will pay cash money to play it.

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