We are born from dust, so let's grab some and have some fun
Video games are one of the only available mediums which allow us to feel like a god, whether it's bagging a 25 kill-streak or topping an arcade game leaderboard. When games take it that one step further and actually put you in the role of a god, it's suddenly pretty easy to understand where all these evil deities of legend came from - because, you know, being bad is so much more fun.
From Dust does its best to stop you from being evil. Even when you try raining hellish lava down on your villages, or flood the plains with what feels like the entire ocean, your people will simply respawn seconds later and continue their hunt for answers. This rather restrictive basis gushes through the seams of From Dust, giving you enough power that you definitely feel like some sort of god, but stopping you from taking part in a completely sandbox experience.
And yet, being whatever kind of god you want to be is not what this game is all about. Just as thatgamecompany's Flower asked you to be nice, and guide a pretty little petal through constantly gorgeous locations, From Dust has set up one of the most enchanting and visually-pleasing scenarios for you to gush over, and you are going to sit back and admire it, damn it.
Everything about this game is glorious. On each level you are tasked with helping a group of tribesmen create a series of villages then escape through a portal. You do this by grabbing dirt, water and lava out of the ground with your other-worldly powers and dumping it out of the way.
It feels like the perfect balance of power and chaos, are everything is affected by the laws of gravity. When you dump water, it sloshes around and runs into the surrounding areas. Dirt can be used to make walls, and guide water in different directions, potentially moving a rushing river and allowing your men to progress. In this way, you move your guys slowly through the world, creative their own little civilisation.
A tropical island AND I'm God? Sounds like the perfect holiday...
But there's more. You can do far more than simply moving stuff, thanks to powers you gain from taking over villages. Water can be parted to allow men to run along the waterbed, Moses-style. Raging fires can be extinguished at a moment's notice to allow you to get your guys out of there. Your powers will also become stronger over time, making for some Katamari Damacy-sized controlling.
The various set pieces are what really keep the fun going. No two levels are the same, and each has its own theme. Tsunamis are introduced, and are seriously epic to watch rolling in. Exploding trees come into play, making life incredibly difficult for you and your guys. And later on... well, let's just say it gets hella weird.
Remember when I said you can't really be bad? The great thing is that you can at least try, and when you do, it's pretty hilarious. There aren't really any consequences or killing your people off with ridiculous amounts of water and lava landing on them, but watching little people floating off into the sea or getting smacked around by tidal waves is pretty entertaining.
From Dust is a magical experience, but it could have been just that little bit more. The Xbox 360 controls aren't as precise as we would have liked, meaning that putting down dirt in exactly the spot you wanted can be tricky. The camera is also completely awful, only allowing you to look from two viewpoints - a 35 degree angle, or from the top. Restrictions on the camera are always a bad idea, period.
There's not really a difficulty curve either, as each new level introduces a new concept and spends most of the time trying to make you go 'wow' at new sparkly things. It did indeed wow us many times, but also proved pretty simple, and we found ourselves powering through the game with ease.
As mentioned previously, the game is rather restrictive too. It's a god game, yet there isn't really that feeling of sandbox gameplay - you have a set, usually linear mission, and you need to complete it using your powers. If you stray from the path, nothing much happens, and you'll quickly fall back into your expected role again.
Seems like a bad situation, but you'll be laughing at their expense soon enough
FROM DUST VERDICT
Still, From Dust really is an experience you need to have. There are plenty of levels, a challenge mode to tackle, and lots of secrets to find. Plus, you haven’t really ever played anything like this before. Sure, Black and White let you chuck people around, but From Dust lets you dump mounds of earth on them, then drown them all in a tsunami. You surely can’t turn that opportunity down.
TOP GAME MOMENT
The first time you accidentally block off a river and cause it to run through your village. Oops.