Have you ever tried to defy nature? Fight the elements? Warp the very shape of the environment? Me neither... well, there was that one time when I took acid and... I jest. Seriously though, don't do drugs. It's been a while since we've seen a truly unique and creative game make its mark on the industry, although usually when this happens it happens in the indie scene or the not-as-well-known publishers. This time though, Ubisoft is bringing us a highly addictive yet simple game in the form of From Dust.
Meta-games involve trying to bring back the flora and fauna
Created by industry veteran Eric Chahi, the mind behind Heart of Darkness and Another World, From Dust is described as a Sandbox game, although it has puzzle solving and challenge elements in it. The player takes the role of a demi-god or deity who's been summoned by the people of the land to help live in and traverse the world safely. At the same time, you must also help them solve the mystery of their origins in what must be the most wide spread case of amnesia we've ever seen. Called “the breath', this meta-physical being can use its powers to shape the world around it.
We've only seen a little bit of gameplay (although hands on, which is a plus), but so far it's a mixture of Lemmings-style getting your dudes from A to B along with some environmental-based puzzle solving. Think, how am I going to stop my village getting burned to the ground by that volcano right there? Or, how am I going to help my guy cross the river as it seems not only has he lost his collective cultural heritage, but he has also forgotten how to swim? You never interact directly with the meagre population, only the environment.
The technology behind this game though is probably the most impressive thing – the way the environment is always shifting and changing, how good everything looks as you're warping the terrain... we hope they decide to license this engine out as it would be interesting to see what else can be done with it. Imagine a city-building sim with realistic environment hazards? The control scheme is simple as well, you pick up things with one button, and then drop it with another. You can only pick up one element at a time - so no picking up lava and water, or sand and lava for example. You use this simple drag and drop tool to mould the landscape to what you need it to be.
It's amazing how engaged you can be in something as simple as getting a little guy from A to B. The more romantic types amongst you will appreciate the sentiment of moving heaven and Earth for someone you love, well in From Dust you'll find yourself doing it for someone who you've only just met. In our play through, we had to help a guy get from one village to the next, and we were literally battling against nature to make it so. It even got frustrating at one point, but in a good "I need to do this" kind of way.
The end goal of every level is to get some guys to this portal to head to the next zone
There's not going to much to From Dust, we counted over a dozen levels on the selection screen, but as far as we know there is only the main story mode to play with. Each level will get progressively harder, but you'll have more and more way to effect the environment as you go along. Progression is persistent, so if you play a bit of a level, and move on to the next, then go back, things will be exactly as you left it, although if you've done what little side quests there are, it's unlikely you'll want to. Hopefully Ubisoft will decide to put in a proper 'sand-box' mode aside from the main campaign so that you can have some mindless fun away from the story, but what little there is seems interesting enough.
It's been a while since we've something so unique and refreshing, and honestly we can't wait to get to play more of this interesting little title. There's not going to be a lot too this game, so if the basic concept isn't grabbing you then you're unlikely to be taken by the whole thing, but it's definitely something you need to try out for yourself. There's no news on a release date at the moment, but it will be coming to Xbox Live, Playstation 3, and PC via digital distribution channels. But Whether you view this as the new Portal, a contemporary Lemmings, or simply a simple and fun new downloadable title, this is definitely one to watch for the future.
Most Anticipated Feature:Seeing what you can do with an environment with all the tools available.