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06/05/2011 Specialist Reporting Gamer News
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From Dust XBLA

From Dust




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Other GamePeople columnists have reviewed this from their perspective - huh?:
Microcosm Gamer (360)
Novel Gamer (360)

From Dust has been released on XBLA and been provided for us to preview/review by the publisher.

Believe it or not we are still playing it. Here are some extracts of what we made of it in chronological order:

"From Dust makes me feel good. Its chaptered gameplay, sense of creation and responsibility to nurture what you've made meant it was an experience I could enjoy in manageable mouthfuls..."
- Juvenile Gamer (Thu, 08 Dec 2011)

"From Dust makes a nostalgic return to the god sim and for the first time reveals something of the joy of being a creator of lands..."
- Novel Gamer (Sat, 05 Nov 2011)

"From Dust offered not only a god-powered microcosm, but one that echoed an unknown world of nurture and parenting..."
- Microcosm Gamer (Thu, 15 Sep 2011)

From Dust XBLA Release

06/05/2011 06:51

From Dust 360/PS3 has created a stunning palette of visuals and mechanics, but I wonder if it has have the convincing to find equally fresh incentives for gameplay without falling back on the usual gaming memes.

God Sims were magical in the late 80's. Populous opened the door on a world that, at the time, felt almost heretical -- taking control of your minion's destiny at the click of a button. However, although technology and ambition have matured over the intervening years the god-sim genre still struggles to reach even that first bar of achievement.

From Dust is a new god game from Ubisoft, and as you can see has a lot to live up to. Visually the game looks very much the part with an aesthetic close to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. But it is the mind behind the creation that offers the most hope of success here.

You see, Eric Chahi's pedigree goes back to the 80o's as well and the days of the Amiga. He was responsible for the visual style of Future Wars and Another World.

From Dust is a god game where you control nature rather than people directly -- as was true in Populous, you influence rather than control your tribe. Here though the nature is based on simulation in real time. The game's real time physics make for a wide variety of engaging (and impressive) interactions.

The natives here are in the form of weathered-skinned, tribal-mask wearing male individuals. Your goal in the game is to help these natives survive various natural disasters. Different individuals wear different masks that signify their abilities. A shaman for instance can predict an approaching tsunami.

It is certainly very impressive, but not without some substantial challenges. Firstly the game needs to work on 360 and PS3 without a pointing device (although I wonder if a Move or Kinect version may appear before the game releases). Viva Pinata did this well and could serve as a good model here. Secondly, the sheer flexibility and complexity of the game world needs to be tamed and moulded into something with enough focus to be enjoyable -- without undermining the joy of mucking around. Black and White never quite nailed this, always retaining an impenetrable veneer that made it hard work for newcomers.

But more than these technical issues, the biggest risk here is that it become derivative in all other areas apart from the game engine. There is a real opportunity to create something entirely different and unique with the tools From Dust has at its disposal, and I'll be interested to see if Chahi has the conviction to match his art style and mechanics with equally unusual game challenges, play structure and grownup engagement with broader cultural themes.

From Dust will be released on XBLA for 360, PSN for PS3 and PC via Steam late 2011.

Written by Paul Govan

You can support Paul by buying From Dust

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Paul Govan writes the Reporting Gamer column.

"The problem with video game news is that there is so much of it. I've made it my task to sift out the noise and bring you news about games I think you should be excited about."

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