Jamie is a freelance video game writer, you can follow all his video game related content on analogaddiction.org.
Published August 13th 2012
Dust: An Elysian Tail is a gorgeous painting in motion
There have been many memorable gaming duos over the years from the likes of Banjo and Kazooie, Ratchet and Clank, and Jak and Daxter. These couples have become synonymous with gaming culture and they are about to be joined by another; Dust and Fidget. Humble Hearts is the pen name of Dean Dodrill. He has personally been able to create one of the best games available on Xbox 360 and one of the best games to be released this year. Dodrill captures your attention with stunning visuals, but keeps your attention with an interesting narrative and great interaction between the array of unique characters.
Dust: An Elysian Tail' is a RPG platformer, set on a 2D plane. Like most 2D games these days the background is alive with movement, from the blustering winds in the mountain environments to the luscious trees in the forest. You travel through the world navigating small puzzles, which are fairly easy to figure out most of the time, and traversing environments which may require the subtlety of a precise jump to progress.
At first you will be introduced to our protagonist known only as "Dust". Soon he is introduced to a talking sword known as Arah and its nimbat guardian known as Fidget. An evil General known as Gaius is hunting down every Moonblood and trying to eradicate their existence. Our gang of heroes must travel the land in search of Gaius to stop his evil plan, with some very interesting plot twists and a story that is very detailed. The narrative is a strong point; I was always able to keep track of what was going on and why. The character progression of Dust and Fidget becomes a key factor of the narrative, their interaction between one another appeared natural and their growth throughout the campaign is appreciated.
These characters were able to really capture my heart, the dialogue in this game is written with some great natural flow and it is really summarised well by the voice actors. Their sublime acting was able to compliment the lines very well, adding more vibrance to simple conversation and some great emotional depth in the more serious sections. Dust doesn't know who he is; his memories are missing and this makes him very relatable. Many of us go through hard changes in our lives; trying to find out who we are is a big part of our existence. Who hasn't been lost in the world, questioning who they are and wanting to do the right thing no matter what the cost? Dust wants nothing more than to help out those in need, becoming the selfless hero anyone can respect.
Not only does the narrative deserve your attention but so does the gorgeous art on display. The game's art style looks absolutely amazing. Through various environments including snowy mountains, forests and volcanoes you are treated with an amazing spectacle. This game looks like they have brought a water colour children's book to life, alive with vibrant colours and lush environments. Sometimes I needed to stop progressing through the level to take a moment and just soak in the art around me. It is breathtaking to see and actually made me wish there was less combat so I could enjoy the scenic adventure more.
The combat itself is fun. Although lacking variety with only a few moves to choose from, the ability to master these moves becomes a pleasant experience. I had a blast going from battle to battle being able to master my enemies using some cool techniques such as the slide, to knock my enemies down, and then treat them to a taste of my blade. Fidget also adds to the combat herself, having mystical powers of various forms. Being able to unleash electricity or fire onto your enemies never got old for me and allowed for some great visuals. Though the lack of variation within combat itself may get boring for some, fans of Devil May Cry style combo meters and mastering move sets will feel right at home.
One of the very few negatives in Dust is the save point locations, I found them to be very brutal at times. Repeating parts of a level is common within gaming, but the save points felt very spread out. A few sections of the game had me playing for 15 minutes at a time, before dying and having to do that exact section again. All the experience points gained or items collected are then void and you begin right back at the save. This does become quite annoying.
As for items themselves, these are either dropped by killing enemies or found within treasure chests throughout the game. These can be added to your load out to increase various stats such as attack, defense and luck. Collecting blueprints will also allow you to create stronger weapons and armour to increase your stats. The RPG elements are fairly addictive and the fact that leveling up comes thick and fast means you will always have more skills to delegate and always feel rewarded for progressing through the game. Finishing the game I was almost level 40, though the delegation of skill points and finding that next item never wore thin.
The online component of Dust is restricted to leader boards, displaying your best hit-combos, fasted way through the dungeon type arenas known as trials and enemies slain, this will add to some friendly competition between friends. The 'Trials' are pretty basic, setting your the task to destroy a certain number of objects in the best time possible. There are 5 overall, scattered throughout the game world.
Dust: An Elysian Tail is a masterpiece; my experience with this game was memorable. From the great narrative that connects you with the characters, the beautiful visuals and fun combat this game is easily one of my favourites of this year. Dean Dodrill has been able to capture all the assets of a fantastic title and put them together to create a game fit for retail shelves.
I recommend the journey of Dust and Fidget to anyone looking for a great adventure. These two characters have become another great duo in gaming. I personally hope this is not the last time we see these two great characters, as they have become some of my favourites.
Positives • Gorgeous art style
• Fun combat
• Great narrative
• Lovable characters
Negatives • Brutal save points
• Combat lacks variation