Its been far too long between decent "God
Games" and just when you thought this genre has gone the way of the
Roman Pantheon, UbiSoft Montpellier under the watchful eye of designer
Eric Chahi have released From Dust for XBox Live. Not only does
it pay homage to the excellent game Populous
but it also creates some perfect gameplay for the XBox 360.
More importantly, the
hype which surrounded From Dust has finally been justified. Initially I was a little apprehensive as to how a God Game
would work on the XBox 360 and fortunately it has been flawlessly
implemented on this console with sturdy controls.
The premise behind
From Dust is that you play a "god" for a nomadic tribe and with your
assistance, you will assist them move from location to location in order
to better their world as they follow the ancients to greatness.
There is a great stylised introduction for
the game which sees your tribe once again give you life through breath
as they play tribal music with didgeridoos to boot! Once you are given control of their deity, you
engage in a small tutorial which teaches you the basics of the game such
as movement, control and shaping the world around the tribe.
behind From Dust is pure ingenious and although it seems quite
simplistic, as you progress, your god is given more abilities to shape
the world around them. The basic goal in the title is to help your
worshippers populate a village around a collection of ancient totems
that are scattered through the gaming environment.
Once they have
established a village around the totem, you can then give them orders to
walk through an ancient gateway which allows them to start again in a
different part of the world but with more challenges. Thankfully the
player is warned about these challenges through the tribe's Shaman which
are actually disasters just waiting to happen such as flash flooding or
These challenges are the key to the game
and at first I thought this was child's play but when my tribe
encountered its first challenge, a giant Tsunami which killed my
villagers, I had to start again and rethink my strategies. For example,
in order to stop this Tsunami, I had to send a villager to discover an
artefact which would allow my villagers to create a "shield" around
their village through a musical ritual.
The problem was that my villagers had a
time limit before the tsunami would hit and there was a body of water that prevented by tribe from
reaching the artefact. The solution was to use my god powers which allowed me to
collect earth in a ball and then place it over the water in order to
create a new link to the island. This was brilliant gaming!
Essentially preventing these disasters
is the key to victory as you desperately attempt to reshape the land for
your tribe as you move water, earth and fire. Then to add an element of
frustration, your abilities must be used in conjunction with each other
because although you can use earth or sand to stop a flash flood,
sometimes the floods can wash this away.
One solution would be to use
lava which turns into rock and cannot be washed away. If there is an
artefact that is surrounded by water, you can use your powers to lift
the water into the air and then dispense it elsewhere. If you fail to
stop these disasters, you need to restart the level and try again.
Each of your abilities can greatly
influence the world where your villagers live and you need to keep an eye on
the messages from your tribe. Sometimes your tribe can get stuck if they
are caught by a flash flood and if you fail to help them, they may die
and each totem that you populate requires a set number of people. These
totems can sometimes be in areas that may not sustain life.
For example, if there is a totem in the desert, you
can basically turn the desert into
an oasis by moving the earth to create a hole and then filling it with water. Even though
the stages are relatively short, some can be quite difficult to solve,
especially when you have a timer involved. However because the game is so
beautifully crafted and the world is a living breathing entity, the
gameplay is so perfect that even if you lose, you cannot help but jump
straight back into the game. The fault ultimately lied with the player
and not the game.
The control system of the XBox 360 does
take a little time getting use as you use the shoulder buttons and
analog sticks to interact with the island and your tribe. This only
becomes an issue when the timer is ticking down and you are valiantly
trying to reshape the world to save your tribe but even so, it works
quite well on the 360 and can be quite precise at times.
From Dust is a beautifully created game with some great attention to
detail, especially when you follow one of your tribesmen. Although you
can tilt the rotation of the camera, you have two zooms available but
generally the closer zoom is the best option as it allows you to keep an
eye on the action without it being too claustrophobic and detrimental
towards your gaming.
There's some great physics involved in the game,
especially the water effects such as the flash flooding or the quite
frightening Tsunami. The only issue with the graphics is that
sometimes the frame rate drops. The soundtrack of From Dust also has this really
cool tribal theme to it and I loved the use of didgeridoos.
In the end, I have not had this much fun
with a strategy game, specifically a god game for a very long time. It's
definitely the most original game to be released this year, apart from
Ubisoft's Child of Eden and I recommend that everyone with an XBox,
especially those that enjoy strategy games check this title out. It's a
well made game from start to finish that takes elements from Populous
and creates a brilliant successor on the XBox 360. Give it a chance and
let the world of gaming open up to something uniquely different.