Indie Review: Dust: An Elysian Tail
Ashes to ashes...
- Worth The Time?Every second of it.
- Things LovedThe amazing visual style, the intense and gratifying combat, the interaction and chemistry between characters, the amount of exploration and secrets you can discover is amazing, the various cameos that make an appearance, the story is well thought out and even emotional at times, the animations are smooth, lots to do, RPG elements, music is amazingly atmospheric, IT WAS MADE BY ONE DUDE.
- Things HatedPlatforming sections can be a bit infuriating at times due to some finicky controls, some broken combo moves that just destroy everything, not much replayability.
- RecommendationBuy it immediately if you have the points. It's not just for side-scrolling fans, but for everyone that's looking for an amazing experience.
- Quick ConclusionFun, intuitive, gratifying and completely worth every second that you spend with it. I herald it as the best arcade game I've played on the Xbox 360 and that's saying a lot.
- Name: Dust: An Elysian Tail
- Genre: Action RPG
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: No
- Platforms: Xbox LIVE Arcade
- Developer: Humble Hearts
- Publisher: Microsoft Studios
- Price: 1200 Microsoft Points
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
It’s not often that an arcade game comes along that completely surprises a person. When I first heard of Dust: An Elysian Tail (which will be called Dust from now on for obvious reasons) I seriously thought it was a sequel to the game From Dust that released a while ago. I was also completely confused and puzzled by why the title has ‘Tail’ in it as most of you no doubt have wondered. The game was made by one man and one man only and that baffled me to the point where I actually lost some sleep contemplating how the hell this guy pulled it off so beautifully. You can read the entire history and back story about the development of the game in our preview. Do it. I’ll be here when you get back.
Right, that’s out of the way let’s dive into the game itself. You play as Dust, an amnesic warrior trying to figure out who he is and what his destiny is. He wakes up in a forest and gets greeted by a talking sword (not even kidding) called Arrah explaining to you that he was summoned to you with a purpose. Along comes a flying weasel-like cat bat thing (or Nimbat for short) called Fidget, who is the protector of the sword. The three of you go on a magical adventure full of intrigue, emotions and revolutions. Not the most elegant explanation of the story, but I really don’t want to spoil anything to any future players of this game. The events of the story really come as a shock or a surprise and you just have to experience it yourself. It almost drove me to tears twice when I played it and if that’s not an accurate description of how amazing the story is then I don’t know what is. All the characters that you can interact with are some form of animal such as rabbits and Dust himself is a sort of wolf-like, bunny creature. The chemistry between out three heroes is genius and it even breaks the forth wall sometimes. Arrah is the serious guy-sword and Fidget is the quirky comic-relief character. They really grow on you after a while.
The first thing you notice while going through the world is that it really is pretty. The visual style is impressive with the environments and backdrops being incredibly colourful and vibrant. This visual impressiveness continues throughout the entire game with various environments opening up to you such as a snow area and even a volcano area. There is even periodical weather changes where it rains or snows in random intervals. This really adds to the fact that the environments feel alive and teeming with life. The animations are fluid and really helps immerse you into the game. There are small things you notice such as the background vines waving back and forth when you the excellent Dust Storm combat move that I will talk about later.
The music is excellently composed with orchestral pieces giving that epic atmosphere. I sometimes went back to earlier levels just to listen to the music again because it was just so engrossing and beautiful. The voice acting is solid and never a pain to listen to. Even your squeaky-voiced Nimbat companion isn’t irritating at all which is honestly a huge surprise. The quality of the audio never goes down throughout the whole game and always succeeds in providing an excellent atmosphere.
The real meat of this game comes from its combat system, which I have described to be Castle Crashers the RPG. It’s a hack-and-slash 2D sidescroller at heart, but it pulls it off so beautifully that you can’t help but fall in love with it. Basic attacks come into play with your light sword attacks and your heavy sword attacks, but you’ll hardly ever use them when the next mechanic gets introduced. Dust has the ability to pull off a move called Dust Storm that makes his sword spin at a high speed and just obliterate everything, but can also harm him when it is used for an extended period of time. You can also do it while in the air and just spin attack everything like a hedgehog on crack. On top of that you also have Fidget’s projectile attack, while useless on its own, gets turned into a super move when used in conjunction with Dust Storm. When her projectile attack comes in contact with your Dust Storm it multiplies the velocity and amount of projectiles available and just kills everything in your path.
This can be quite broken when you have levelled up the damage of the projectiles to such a staggering amount and equipping items that add multipliers that you just murder anything that dares cross you without the tiniest bit of effort. It still is gratifying as hell and you will always have a good time killing enemies. If you plan to play this game soon then start out on the Tough difficulty setting. It will make it a lot more challenging and fun. Expect to pull off 1000 hit combos in no time.
The game has treasure chests and rare items for you to acquire and if you want to get them all you have to do some exploration and that is always fun. Some areas can’t be accessed until you have obtained a certain skill such as wall climb or double jump that you only obtain later in the game. It gives you enough incentive to go to previous levels and explore every nook and cranny searching for new treasure or secrets. This is highly addictive and I spent a good 5 hours once just going through all the old levels with my new powers. There are 12 secret chests in the game that contain cameos from other arcade games and they really are a great surprise and you always want to find out what the next one is. The first time I opened one of those chests and out popped Super Meat Boy I just got all giddy and happy.
Dust will take you a while to complete with my playtime being 23 hours in total, but bear in mind that I did everything that I could possibly do within the game (for achievements obviously). There are 6 individual challenge stages that you can complete and each requires a different tactic to complete especially if you want the highest rating. There isn’t much incentive to replay the game however and once you have done everything, you don’t really want to do it all over again which is a shame because I really wanted to play some more. The game is just insanely addicting. I can guarantee that you will not be able to put it down once it hooks you.
There are some minor issues concerning the platforming where it can be a bit fidgety (see what I did there?) and makes you slam into hazards that slow you down and drain a considerable amount of health. It can be quite infuriating at times where you know you dodged a spike hazard and still end up on your ass with a quarter of your health gone. That’s really the only major complaint I have for this game.
The experience of Dust: An Elysian Tail can’t really be summed up with a few words and you just have to play it yourself. If it’s not the story that drags you in, it’s the combat or the environments. Truly a game that deserves to be on every Xbox 360 owner’s game list. Buy it, you’ll thank me later.
…Dust to dust.