From Dust

9.0 Overall Score

Written by on August 5, 2011 in

by Brandy Johnson

From Dust is essentially the story of an ancient tribe attempting to find its niche and a place to safely call home within the world they occupy. The earth has given up and has let Mother Nature do as she will over her surfaces. Mother Nature has not been kind to the tribe and is unpredictable at best; but the tribe does have an ally, the breath. However, the tribe has lost the knowledge of the Ancients to shape the world in which they live and along with it the breath. They are on the brink of extinction if they cannot form the breath of the tribe. The breath must be used to continue their journey through each island territory until they reach their goal:  the sanctuary of the Ancients. The shaman of the tribe connects the tribe to the breaths of the world. Each thing on the earth has its own music which in turn is its breath. To learn the music and breath of a thing is to know and harness its power. The continuation of their journey depends upon the tribe successfully building villages around the totems left behind by the ancients, only then will the passageway open. At the end of their journey will the tribe find their own breath along with the sanctuary of the Ancients?

This is a strategy game where you will not be controlling the people who inhabit the world, but instead you control the elements with the breath of the tribe. Territories in From Dust really do have a mind of their own; you’ll especially need to keep an eye on the ever relentless Mother Nature because she doesn’t leave you alone. The landscape that you’re so carefully sculpting can change fast so you’ll need to keep a watchful eye out. The villages the men erect with a ritual around the totems act as a safe place for the tribe until they are ready to go through the next passage.

“May our totem reflect the movement of the world that is music, but also our nature as men, which is to craft. If we leave, a part of our memory will remain inscribed on it.”

The totems can be imbued with powers from the Ancients; these powers vary but all have their uses, you can also use them together. Placed around some of the territories are stones that have knowledge engraved upon their surface, finding these will help you repel the elements that can destroy the villages. Knowledge you have retrieved from a knowledge stone will be shared with each village after. You just have to make sure that the man sent forth to the other village makes it safely.  You must shape the territory and gather the tools necessary so that the village will be safe from Mother Nature. You control the tribe’s breath; with it you can use the natural elements found amongst the territories. Elements you can control are earth (sand), lava, water and plants. The only “plants” the breath cannot move is coral; being able to move these would have made life for the tribe slightly easier as they are resistant to fire. Once you have a village surrounding each totem in a territory, a passage to the next will become available. On the journey set before them the tribe hope to discover the sanctuary of the Ancients so that they may finally be safe.

I honestly cannot count how many times I caught myself staring at the unpredictability of the elements within the territories as you help the tribe build villages amongst the ensuing chaos of nature. The sand shifts down the lava rock and is also eroded away by water to be deposited downstream. The water and lava correctly flow down the landscape easily finding the path of least resistance. The palms, with sufficient water and earth will cover the territory bringing forth migrating animals. I did notice however that each territory is essentially contained in a square, when the tsunamis roll in it’s a dead giveaway as to where the borders to that territory even though there are outlying graphics. Having two view settings to choose from was a plus because sometimes you needed to be up close, while other times you needed to see further out.

As far as the music goes in the game, didgeridoos combined with an orchestra are what come to mind. It doesn’t stick out in a negative way and blends with the flow of the game. The music usually plays during important events, emphasizing to me that I probably want to observe what’s going on. As you learn to associate musical bits with events it almost acts as a reference to what’s going on. Music is essential to the tribe because it is how they communicate and use the breath; music and breath essentially go hand in hand.

As you journey through each territory you will unlock the Memory of the Tribe. This gives you more information about the animals, the journey, geology, territories, powers, vegetation, and the tribe. The Memory of the Tribe was a nice touch because as you play through the game there isn’t much of a story other than what the narrator tells you. This feature allows you to get a closer look at the tribe you are working so hard to help, if you literally want a closer look at a tribe member you can push the left bumper (on Xbox) and zoom in on them. A random detail I noticed while zooming in; when I looked at the members of the tribe I saw that the women wear triangular masks while the men wear rectangular masks. The inclusion of a challenge mode was unexpected but really awesome. I was wary of it because most challenge modes aren’t all I had hoped they would be. This one is different however, the challenges are relatively straightforward you shall want to pay attention to the hints they do give you though. If you are an achievement junkie, the 30 challenges must be completed but it is not unattainable. One thing I was overjoyed to find was that you could reset individual territories and replay them; granted you would lose what you had done before but you’ll love this feature especially for the last territory.

From Dust is a beautiful game that didn’t require beauty to hide flaws; however, I do wish that it was longer. It was a joy to play and it did not make me feel like I was forcing myself to play it which is huge for me. I only have two things for Ubisoft: 1. Please make more territory DLC and 2. I wish you had included an extra feature in the game like Halo’s Forge Mode where you could play to your hearts content. If strategy games or games that make you think aren’t your thing, I wouldn’t really suggest this one for you although it isn’t super difficult. During that last territory you will probably find yourself lingering on as long as possible, I definitely found myself doing so. Beautiful game, I am eagerly awaiting DLC or a second game stemming from this one.

A copy of From Dust was provided to The Married Gamers for the purpose of evaluation and review.

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