There are some games out there that are meant to be artistic statements, focusing on uniqueness of mechanics and visuals in order to communicate a greater message or tone. From Dust attempts to become one of these memorable games, but unfortunately, it doesn’t pass. I played a fair sum of the levels, and I must confess that my interest tapered off a little too quickly.
The premise of From Dust is that you are God. You control a wormlike creature called The Breath that can shift and alter physical matter at will. Levels begin with tribesmen emerging from a hole in the ground into a vast, gorgeous world of water, stone, sand, and lava. You guide them to ivory totems that they surround with villages, and once you hit the requisite for villages, you can proceed to the next level.
It’s not that easy, however. Tribesmen cannot swim, nor can they climb steep terrain, so it’s up to The Breath to alter the land around them to make it traversable. Drain lakes, create land bridges, block off volcanoes, create walls that deflect lava, etc. The tribesman pathfinding is annoyingly incompetent, meaning that half the time your faithful will wind up stuck in front of a little puddle or slightly tall rock. Nothing that’s impossible to remedy, but when you’re racing against the clock, you want them to just hurdle over it or die trying.
It’s technically impossible to lose unless all your tribesmen die and there are no villages, or everyone is overcome by a natural disaster. While that typically doesn’t happen, the pathfinding can result in a tsunami swallowing all your villages and spitting out a “game over.” Yeah, screw you too, ocean. To hell with water.
While I’m complaining, I may as well include The Breath’s flaw. The Breath likes to spin around in circles when idle, and it doesn’t exactly beeline when you try to move it evenly. Thus, expect finer movements to be rendered impossible. As before, this typically won’t cause any problems unless you’re trying to clear up one of the tinier terrain messes that cause issues with the tribesmen’s pathfinding.
The positives to From Dust are more about tone and experience than they are hard mechanics, which can be a disadvantage if you nit-pick with those sorts of things. So instead, think of it this way: You’re god. Build a mountain, break down a volcano so it spews lava into the ocean, maybe even connect all land-masses so the nature generated from villages covers the entire stage. Or, if you’ve had it with the puddle-sqeamish villagers, drown them in a torrent of molten stone. You’ll feel like an ass potentially, but that hardly matters if it makes you feel better.
So, is From Dust worth its price on Steam? Survey says: BUZZ. A game that relies purely on aesthetics and simplistic puzzles and time trials shouldn’t need to be paid for. Make it freeware and I’d go easier on it in regards to criticism, but if I have to pay to play this admittedly beautiful spectacle of pathfinding-bug prone puzzle shit, no deal.
Tom Francis of PCGamer touches on the same subjects in his review; aesthetics over bugs, a constant battle. Here’s the link in case you want to double check that I’m not making all of this up. Not that I would do that. Wink wink. http://www.pcgamer.com/review/from-dust-review/