GAME NAME: Dust: An Elysian Tail
DEVELOPER(S): Humble Hearts
PUBLISHER(S): Microsoft Game Studios
GENRE(S): Metrio- Vania
RELEASE DATE(S): 08/15/2012
First off, Dust is a gorgeous game. Looking at still images really does not give this game justice as good as those stills may look. The fluidity with which Dust moves is astounding. When you start swinging your sword around, the screen quickly turns from a scene of tranquility to a flurry of destruction. Coins drop, numbers pop above heads, and hot flashes of blade cut your enemies in twain. If watching Dust sounds fun then playing it is like being on an inter-dimensional roller coaster.
Combat takes up a huge chunk of the gameplay in Dust and is thankfully, very good. I takes about five seconds to go from nothing to a two hundred hit combo with every enemy on screen juggling into the air. When they finally hit the ground there is nothing but a carcass and bits of gold or crafting items left. All the chaos on screen lends itself to a type of positive reinforcement that makes you itch for your next encounter. It is just pleasing to see the utter destruction that you are causing on screen. When the dust settles it is just you, looking really cool.
There are a few issues with the combat though. For one it is a little shallow; there are a few combinations and you end up using them all quite frequently but it can be a bit repetitive. Sure, tossing around an enemy by your feet into another baddie is cool, but how many times can you watch that? Sadly the leveling system will only boost your stats and never gives you any new attacks; what you have is what you have. The other issue that seems to pop up quite a bit is the parry system. When an enemy is about to attack you there is a split second where you can parry the attack and render the foe vulnerable. Pretty straightforward concept, but in the chaos of battle it is really easy to get lost as to which enemies are attacking and from where. Some sort of indicator, such as a flash or audio cue, would have greatly helped greatly; especially in the final hours of the game where it is tougher to land a blow without a parry.
The other half of the game is spent handling platforming puzzles. These sections are almost always fun and interesting but can occasionally become tedious. This is because Dust is built very much like a Metriod game, which means that there can be quite a bit of backtracking after you collect the skill that you need. Only once did the back-and-there-again gameplay become laborious during a story mission. Like Metriod, there are a ton of secrets in the world of Dust and a healthy supply of side quests as well. So if you want to earn 100% completion expect to spend quite a bit of time jumping and running.
Something this game really has going for it is the level of polish within it; whether it is the silky smooth animation or the fully voiced cast. Every time you get a new quest you will get some sort of explanation as to its parameters as well as some, usually quirky, voiced dialogue. While there are a few “Collect (Number) of (Item) quests” there are actually a surprising number of interesting missions to play. That, mixed with your companion critter constantly breaking the fourth wall, allows Dust to command a charm that is near impossible to not smile at.
Overall this game resonates an aura of pleasantness that is hard to ignore. The main story is about eight hours long but there are enough secret areas and side quests to give you another couple hours of enjoyment as well. The missteps are more than overcome by everything else that Dust does right. The quirky dialog, interesting story, exciting combat, and plethora of content make this game well worth playing.
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