Hands-On: Dust Elysian Tail

For Microsoft’s 2012 Summer of Arcade titles such as Deadlight, Tony Hawk HD, and Hybrid were getting the majority of the attention, but it would be the game that was overlooked by most that would be the one most worth checking out. From the moment I heard about Dust: An Elysian Tail I knew I needed to play it. A game in the same vein as Metroid and Castlevania but one with combat similar to action heavy titles. A game with Beautiful art direction and a length that assures gamers get more than their money’s worth, and all made by one man. Artist and programmer Dean Dodrill poured his heart and soul into the creation of Dust for over three years, painstakingly bringing every aspect of this world to life, and what a beautiful world it turned out to be. I knew I wanted to play Dust in 2012, but I just never got around to it, now I feel terrible knowing that I would have fought hard for this game to grab an award in our End of Year nominations. Its just that good.

I was hoping to have a review up by the time Dust: An Elysian Tail finally got a second chance at gamers with its release on Steam, but unfortunately my days have been rather hectic and busy these past few weeks (thus the lack of content) but now with Dust launching on Steam today, I am writing this up instead. I have put around nine hours into An Elysian Tail and I still feel there is a decent amount of content left for me to discover. From the games main story, to its numerous sidequests, and loads of secrets to find and collect; Dust offers gamers plenty of bang for their buck.

Dust begins as many games do, with its main protagonist waking up confused and lost and suffering from amnesia. It is not long however before a mysterious sword appears and speaks with our hero, imparting a quest and offering to help him recover his lost time. What follows is a story with humor, loss, and more depth than first appears. Another surprising touch to the story is that it is offered up not only with simplistic cutscenes but decent voice acting as well. Protagonist Dust offers up a solid balance of innocence and strength while his sword, Ahrah, offers guidance and wisdom. The groups third participant is the one most likely to divide players. Fidget is a nimbat with a high pitched voice and goofy sense of humor and is the games main comic relief, oftentimes breaking the fourth wall. I enjoyed Fidget from the get go, but even those who don’t should find themselves warming up to her in time.

DUST

Once the game properly begins and players take control of Dust the first words out of their mouth should be “wow.” Dust is a beautiful game with colorful environments and extremely fluid animations, a game that looks as if you are controlling a Disney film. Dodrill has infused his world with enough detail and life that easily makes Dust one of the best looking titles on the Xbox Live Marketplace. The beauty of Dust comes through best during combat however, where each and every animation blends together seamlessly and you feel you always have control of Dusts movements, when a small mistake is because you faltered and not the game. From the blur of the blade to Fidgets spells, Dust isn’t short of nifty special effects either.

While Dust is a 2D platformer similar in make to titles such as Metroid and Castlevania; allowing players the ability to backtrack and open up new areas with newly obtained skills or gadgets, its combat is anything but. While Metroid, Castlevania, and even Shadow Complex offer up rather slow and deliberate combat scenarios, Dust is an extremely fast paced game with swordplay reminiscent of DmC or Ninja Gaiden. It is not long before players can conquer an entire screen’s worth of enemies, both in the air and on the ground, in one long seamless combo. Controls are fluid and simple enough to manage, but the game offers up enough choices and strategies to keep it interesting throughout. What begins with simple hacks of the blade Ahrah can quickly turn into a string of air attacks sending enemies in all directions before spiraling forward grabbing one such attacker and smashing him to the ground before spitting out fireballs with Fidget, fireballs that Dust himself can manipulate with twirls of his blade. The three heroes gel so perfectly, in control and style, that Dust is an incredibly enjoyable game to lose hours to.

While you journey to discover the truth and to save the world of Falana, Dust will gain new levels and new equipment. While the role playing elements aren’t as integral as one may like, you are allowed to improve Dust’s strength, magic, defense, and endurance. As for equipment players may manage Dusts attire, rings, and improvements to Ahrah. The game even includes a crafting system, allowing players to hoard various materials from around the world and bring them to a master blacksmith to forge new gear.

While one man created this title, as mentioned previously, the sound design had some help. While the voice acting is solid overall its the music found within Dust that you will remember. Hyperduck SoundWorks, a company based in Ireland, have put together an incredible compilation that boosts every act you perform in the game. From soft melodies to sweeping ambitious scores, Dust seems to have it all when it comes to track selection as well. Just listen to this sample.

With a massive world full of secrets to discover, combat that is always thrilling, and a story and writing that is genuinely interesting and fun, Dust An Elysian Tail is a complete package. This is a game that can compete and stand tall with many AAA titles, a game that has enough passion and love that it spills out into everything it does. This is a game that was sadly overlooked when it released on the 360 platform, a game most scoffed at because it featured talking animals and looked “cute.” I truly hope that this second chance at life on the PC platform brings Dust the attention it was robbed of initially. This is a sidescroller that deserves to be mentioned along with the classics it lovingly borrows from.
Chuck

Hands-On Rundown

  • + World and animations are terrific
  • + Plenty of content
  • + Combat is satisfying
  • + Soundtrack
  • – Boss battles are hit and miss

“Hands-On Impression”

Incredible” 

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