Guide the tribe with the Breath of God.
The God sim is a genre that is not seen very often on the consoles. But From Dust, created by Ubisoft, could well be the game that changes that, hopefully encouraging more developers to pander to the “God complex” that many gamers like to indulge. This is the second title in what is shaping up to be an epic XBL Summer of Arcade, with PC and PS3 versions being available by the end of the year.
What perhaps stands out the most, right from the very start of the game, is the way it looks. The living environments in which the game is played, consisting of an island, or group of islands, surrounded by ocean, are absolutely stunning and enjoyable to watch without any interaction. These islands are under siege from nature, with the likes of massive tidal waves washing over the terrain making for some very compulsive viewing.
But these natural disasters, and other obstacles, must be overcome in order to progress through the game and guide a nomadic tribe in the footsteps of their ancestors. Each level, of which their are 13, will require the player to help their tribe reach up to four totems that are distributed throughout the level and create villages. Once this has been accomplished, a portal will open and the player can guide the tribe through it to the next level. With such obstacles as rivers of lava and water, or trees that burst into flame, along with natural disasters such as the hugely impressive tidal waves, the player will need more than just good will to ensure their tribe is successful.
The player can use the breath of God for most tasks. Using the trigger buttons, the player can suck up and release various resources around the level, such as sand, water or lava. By moving these resources around, the player can redirect rivers, create bridges and build protective walls, enabling the little tribespeople to reach their totems and set up villages.
The physics in the game all work in a very realistic way, allowing for multiple solutions to the games problems. Crossing a river, for example, can be accomplished by filling a point in the river with sand and creating a bridge. But the water will still be flowing, resulting in the river redirecting and causing problems elsewhere, or just flowing over the bridge. The player could try to simply suck up all of the water, but will find that this is a short term solution and their tribespeople may not have time to cross the dry riverbed. Another solution could be redirecting the river nearer the source and hoping that it doesn’t get in the way later in the game. The levels start out nice and easy, but as more elements are introduced, things certainly get more complex and the player will likely have to try different approaches before finding one that works.
Once totems have been reached and villages founded, other powers may become available. These powers are much more limited in their use, but supremely useful. Generally they only remain active for a set time and the player will have to wait until they can use the power again. But without these powers, such as being able to “jellify” all of the water on a given level or dry up huge areas of water, the levels may be impossible to solve. It is even possible to combine some of these powers for even more impressive results.
Then there are the tribal powers. By collecting artifacts that may be hidden around the levels, the tribe is able to gain certain powers to help themselves. Early in the game, the tribal village is under threat from tidal waves. By collecting the nearby artifact, the villagers can burst into song and create an invisible shield that forces the tidal wave around the village, leaving it unharmed.
Beyond the 13 levels of the main game, the player will also unlock timed and scored challenge levels as they progress. These levels each have their own rules and a leaderboard for players to indulge their competitive side and compare their skills with their friends. Whilst this partially makes up for the relatively short main game and adds replayability, more levels for the main game would be welcome and perhaps is something that we can look forward to in DLC form at a later date.
However, amongst all of this beauty and god-like power, there are a few minor annoyances to the game. Little things such as creating the perfect route for your little people to follow, only to have them choose their own more hazardous route instead, and the limitations of the totem powers in that the player can only use the powers available on that particular level and not carry them through all subsequent levels, are by no means game-breaking but make the game more difficult than it should be.
But I really am clutching at straws to find these problems. All in all, From Dust is an incredible game which, although perhaps not lasting as long as would have been nice, will enthrall players with it’s beauty and it’s grasp of the physics of nature.