Dust: An Elysian Tail – Review
Before we get into the review of Dust: An Elysian Tail, it is only appropriate to pay homage to the scope and the aftermath of this project. The game itself, which includes everything but voice acting, soundtrack, and part of the story, was created by Dean Dodrill. Give that a moment to sink in.
That beautiful landscape, the words on the screen, the motivations, the skies, and the combat system – all of it was done by one man. You wouldn’t expect such a polished game to have been done predominately by one person given how much time and effort goes into creating one. This piece of info only makes the playing experience of Dust that much richer.
Dust is an action side-scroller with RPG elements embedded in it. The story doesn’t seem to be held down with the typical lengthy cut scenes RPG fans are used to, and it has enough exposition and voice acting that you get a satisfying story. You awaken as the green furred anthropomorphic character named Dust, in the middle of a field. Upon waking up, there is a winged creature that comes to you. Its voice is pitchy and may be a slight drawback for some players, but they would be silly to let this deter them from playing the game, especially since this contrasting element with the main character is endearing when it begins to develop.
You’re also introduced to a sword that talks. As odd as that sounds, this too will become an endearing character. Its voice, in contrast, is more muted and low. The story itself doesn’t go into unfamiliar territory, as it is revealed quite quickly that innocents are being murdered and you’re responsible for making sure that the end of the world doesn’t happen. This typical storyline is forgivable mainly because the narrative doesn’t attempt to shove lengthy, over complicated themes down your throat, which can get a little bothersome when you know that the story isn’t doing anything different.
Combat wise, the game starts you out simple, with two main attacks. One is the regular slash attack and the other is a “dust storm,” which is a consistent attack. “Dust storm” combos with the magical abilities that Dust will get from his pitchy flying sidekick. Due to its side scrolled nature, combat becomes a bit of an endurance test as each side becomes overwhelmed with enemies.
You’ll be forced to combo left, and then right, and then left again, constantly keeping enemies off of you. It can be a little tedious after a while, but not enough to make you want to punch your screen. This is where the fun of combos comes in. Luckily the combo system is highly responsive.
The RPG elements come in the form of experience points, which are given from each enemy you kill. You upgrade your stats just like any other RPG. They also drop currency, healing items and sometimes they’ll drop blueprints for other weapons and items used to create them. There are also multiple side quests that you can do during your adventure. Some of these come in the style of treasure chests that are locked and in slightly hidden locations. This too is fairly familiar to RPG gamers.
However, this game isn’t without its flaws. Some of the layouts seem to be a little too traditional in their borrowing of the platform style of gaming. At points it is a little frustrating with how inactive the rest of the world feels. You’re scrolling through it, but you’re not able to do much with it but look. However the platform aspects are where things can get even more wonky. At times we were a victim of the limitations of the environments and died because of it.
For instance, trying to jump and maintain balance on the platforms, only to be pushed off screen by enemies or given a very Mario-ish death via missing the next platform can be irksome when it happens over and over. This ruined the slicing and dicing at times, but not enough to ruin the overall experience.
Ultimately, Dust lives up to what is good about indie games, which is when given financing, they can make beautiful things that would otherwise run the risk of being over looked or worse yet, never created. Regardless of the platforming hang ups, which are surely going to frustrate the hell out of you at times, once you make it past them, it’s a pretty decent game.