Developer: Humble Hearts LLC
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platform: PC (Steam), XBLA
Release Date: May 24, 2013 (Steam)
ESRB: E10+ for Everyone 10 and older
This review is based on the PC version of the game.
A download code was provided by the publisher for this review.
For those who have never heard of it, Dust: An Elysian Tail is quite a remarkable game for several reasons. Chief among them however, is that it is almost entirely created by a single person. Dean Dodrill spent years applying his talent and skills to the game, which is immediately apparent when you start the game. Dust is a 2D action RPG set in a fantasy world inhabited by anthropomorphic animals. You play as Dust, the mysterious hero of the story who is suffering from a case of amnesia, requiring him to set out on a journey to recover his lost memories.
Dust is far from alone on his journey however, as he carries with him the Blade of Ahrah, a magical sword that can talk as well as cut down enemies. However, the comrade you'll be hearing the most is your trusty friend Fidget, a nimbit, which is basically a flying cat-fox. Fidget is the diminutive guardian of the sword who never quite knows when to keep her mouth shut, often punctuating dialogue free portions of the game with a humourous quip or two.
As many of you probably already know, the game originally came out on Xbox Live Arcade. This isn't just a lazy port, quite the opposite in fact, while my preferred control type is still the 360 controller, the mouse and keyboard controls are surprisingly adequate for a game like this. You have two basic attacks, light and heavy, which you can combine to get a combo streak, as well as Dust Storm, your special attack which spins your blade creating a vortex to trap your enemies for added damage. Fidget also plays a role in combat, being able to produce sparks or other projectiles which are very weak on their own, but when combined with your Dust Storm ability can turn into a deadly whirlwind of death.
The enemies in this game are well-varied, though generally quite easy to fight, even on normal, those seeking a challenge should definitely up the difficulty from the get-go. The bosses are a bit harder, requiring you to time your parries and blows instead of just plowing into them. Enemies will drop loot upon death which comes in the form of equipables or craftables. Some of the better items in the game must be crafted using materials gained from fallen enemies, though you can generally get by without crafting much of anything.
While there is an overarching main story you are following, there are also a host of side quests for you to partake in, oftentimes opening up otherwise inaccessible areas for you to explore. Almost every area has secrets for you to discover, providing you with even more buffs as well as easter eggs for other games such as Super Meat Boy and Bastion. The platforming is reminiscent of Metroid, and requires some backtracking to reach areas previously unavailable. The save system in the game comes in the form of glowing monuments that quick save simply by passing them, or you can manually save by selecting them.
While the story and characters felt a bit uninspired, the fluid combat and breathtaking visuals make up for it. If the screenshots had you interested then the $15 price point is probably worth it for you, at $7.50 though, which is the current Steam Summer Sale price, I'd recommend it to just about anyone. As an indie title, its great. As an indie title essentially created by a single person, it's absolutely incredible.
+ Gorgeous visuals
+ Fluid combat
+ Great controls, even with M/K
+ Good focus on exploration and crafting
- Story is a bit of snoozefest
- Awkward unskippable cutscenes
Overall Score: 8.0 (out of 10)
Dust: An Elysian Tail provides a mediocre story and excellent gameplay with a stunning visual flare.