From Dust: You'll Learn to Love It - User Reviews -
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From Dust: You'll Learn to Love It

From Dust is a game that emphasizes the power of nature and humanity's feeble attempts to control it. The player takes control of The Breath, a character-less demigod with limited control over the elements of nature, and the task at hand is to allow your tribesmen's safe passage throughout each stage. For example, one stage involves building a village and protecting it from a tsunami. While you cannot control when the tsunami comes, nor can you stop it directly, you can take lava from a nearby volcano, and build up a wall that will stop the tsunami in its tracks, or, if you didn't build it tall enough, you are forced to watch as the village is obliterated before your eyes.

There is no real sense of plot, as all the player knows is that these tribesmen are on a journey to discover the secrets of their ancestors. The journey will take the player through more than 10 different stages, each with its own unique character, although each stage always involves the player trying to save a village from one disaster or another; one stage might have a series of volcanoes and ask you to stop the flow of lava from burning the tribesmen to death, while another area might involve saving villagers from a devastating earthquake. Even though the plot is vague, and there isn't any form of character development, there is a strong sense of progression and pride as the player begins to understand and master the intricacies of each map.

In terms of audio, the game really only has one or two pieces of music that are played usually during cutscenes or during uneventful moments in gameplay. The environment, however, is full of interesting sounds; tsunamis create a dreadful rushing sound expected from a high-speed wall of water, and volcanoes reverberate with their eruptions and tremors, and villagers play music to protect their villages from water or fire, with each respective one having its own music that the villagers play to repel it. Needless to say, while From Dust may not have much in terms of a man-made soundtrack, the orchestra instead comes from nature. No doubt this was a deliberate design choice by the developers, to emphasize the power of nature, and its daily interactions with humanity.

Every new stage begins with the player having to investigate the map, identify threatening natural disasters, plan a strategy accordingly. Totems mark each map, and there can be anywhere between two to four on a map. Each totem marks a spot where villagers need to make a village, and only once each totem is populated can the player and tribesmen progress to the next world. Each village can be threatened by its own natural disaster, or multiple at once. Typically, each stage sports anywhere between one to three natural disasters to be averted. To help protect against flooding and wildfires created by the environment, a tribesman can be sent to investigate a rock that allows the tribesman to learn how to repel water or fire, at which point the tribesman will go back to the village carrying a kite, and once at the village, will tie the kite to the totem. From then on, that village is impervious to flooding and/or fire, depending on which kite was brought back to the village. This is the only process in which a village can be saved from the elements, and villagers cannot be told to go anywhere that isn't a marked destination, such as a totem, kite-rock, or memory of the tribe.

Established villages can give powers to the Breath, such as allowing it to take up more matter to help aid it, or Infinite Earth, where an infinite amount of earth can be placed by the Breath for a limited amount of time. These powers are incredibly helpful if the player needs to elevate a village from flooding, or douse some flames with sand, although this later tactic doesn't help much. Villages also spread vegetation from their epicenters, and this vegetation will eventually cover the entire map, wherever there is earth to grow on, and the player is given points for spreading the vegetation throughout the area, until all of it is covered, at which point animals will migrate to the area. Problems arise when lava touches this vegetation, as it immediately starts a wildfire which will eventually engulf the village if there is vegetation leading back to the village.

Villagers are also not the smartest beings on the planet, as they will sometimes, not often, get stuck randomly on a pathway to a totem or kite-rock, which is especially when an impending volcanic eruption or tsunami threatens the security of the village. This can, however be easily remedied by taking up a bit of water or sand with which to push the villager towards his goal. If done correctly, the villager will resume his path towards the objective.

Aside from the story mode, which will take a good 7-10 hours to complete, there are around fifty challenges to complete, but players can expect to go through at least half of them within an hour. Completing all challenges can take anywhere between half a day to an entire day's worth of gameplay, each challenge is timed, and your time will be placed on a leaderboard consisting of your friends' times and worldwide times. Other than boredom, leaderboard competition and achievement completion, there is no incentive to complete all of these challenges.

From Dust is a visually unique game as well, as each stage is rife with color, from yellow sands, bright blue rivers and oceans, to deep crimson lava. A bland desert will eventually turn into a vibrant green forest of vegetation towards the end of each level if the player waits for vegetation cover the entire map. The villagers look like plastic toys, but from the typical birds-eye perspective of the Breath, one doesn't notice all too often until they zoom in to look at a specific villager. There isn't much incentive to zoom in like this, but it can be fun to look at the scale of the world from a human's perspective, especially if there is a giant volcano looming in the distance.

Overall, From Dust is incredibly fun, and works well on consoles thanks to its simple and intuitive control scheme. While some annoyances come from watching your villagers get stuck, as they stupidly ask you for help while the clock counts down to their impending destruction at the hands of a natural disaster. This can lead to restarting a stage, which will inevitably look much different towards the end, due to the player's use of leveling or raising parts of the map. What once may have been a series of hills could turn into a giant wall of stone after an hour of tinkering with the map. There is no other game I know of that stresses the point of human futility at the hands of the awesome power held by nature. A great experience overall, with only a few annoyances along the way.


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