Review

From Dust

Ubisoft’s God Game Is A Breath Of Fresh Air
by Annette Gonzalez on Jul 27, 2011 at 05:30 AM
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Release:
Rating: Everyone 10+
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also on: PC, PlayStation 3, PC

A tribe embarks on a perilous journey to recover the knowledge of an ancient civilization and explore uncharted territories. With the forces of Mother Nature working against them, the tribe requires aid from “the Breath,” a higher being with the ability to manipulate the earth and elements. Out of This World creator Eric Chahi successfully realizes his ambitious vision of allowing players to control a living, breathing world in From Dust. Fans of god games are in for a unique downloadable experience when staving off disasters while helping the tribe survive.

From Dust is less about building a civilization and more about controlling the environment to protect it, so if you are looking to create and customize villages, look elsewhere. As the Breath, you create paths for migration toward different totem poles by absorbing land, water, and lava, then strategically placing it to clear paths, redirect water or lava flow, or create bridges. Manipulating elements is as easy as moving an airy cursor over the desired matter, using the left trigger to absorb it, then using the right trigger to release. Leading five AI-controlled tribesmen to a totem causes them to automatically populate a village at that location, granting you special powers such as jellifying water, increasing matter absorption, or quickly dousing fires (all of which are mapped to the control pad).

The concept sounds simple, but later maps in From Dust put your puzzle-solving skills to the test. The difficulty surfaces as you attempt to populate all totems in an area against timed natural disasters like volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. Quickly figuring out the most efficient strategy to gain the powers to proceed toward each totem across wildly different environments – plus creating and maintaining a safe haven for tribesmen until the area is cleared – makes for addictive and frantic gameplay.

From Dust sometimes suffers from pathing problems that make leading AI tribesmen frustrating since players have no control over which direction they take. The villagers occasionally get stuck in geometry or take the least-efficient route despite your best environmental efforts, costing you precious time between timed natural disasters and leading to do-overs. These issues aren’t frequent enough to detract from the overall experience, but are annoying on the more challenging maps later in the game.

From Dust also offers challenge maps to complement the main campaign. The maps give players bite-sized timed tasks such as safely leading villagers across canals or dousing raging fires with water. While the challenges offer some light entertainment, you’ll likely sink the most time into playing deity in the main game. With a great variety of maps and tons of secrets to uncover, From Dust’s amorphous sandbox ensures a consistently entertaining journey.

8.75
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Game Informer's Review System
Concept Establish villages and aid a tribe in their survival against the dark forces of nature
Graphics The morphing effects are impressive, and the environments are varied enough to remain interesting
Sound Crashing waves, tribal tunes, and the call of your tribesmen are heard throughout
Playability Accessible controls allow you to easily experiment with the constantly changing environment
Entertainment Fans of god games or strategy titles are in for a good time
Replay Moderate