Dust: An Elysian Tail takes you on a journey of a lost soul who only knows himself as Dust. You’re introduced through a battle sequence. shortly after you’re awoken by Fidget a N who is sworn to guard a sword that has found it’s way to you. Dust is the side scrolling action RPG platforming game created by artist and animator Dean Dodrill.
As you progress through the world you find that you have no memory of who you are, or you past. And that you must find out what’s happens to yourself, and what is going on in the world. You’ve given many choices as you progress, you meet a variety of characters and have the chance to help them. You first make your way to Aurora after saving a couple from being attacked by a group of monsters. This then leads into why the monsters are attacking, and what you can do to help the people of Falana.
The production behind this game is extremely high for an indie title made by one person with the addition of a cast and indie music production team. Dust offers everything you would expect form a larger team of people working for bigger studios or publishers. This title has really set a standard that more developers and studios should follow.
The game’s audio does a very good job of setting the mood. Every once in a while you will hear subtle tons setting the mood as you progress through a dark and dull forest. Or something more upbeat while in battle. The audio is a perfect match and doesn’t become tiresome or repetitive.
All the audio work from music, voice acting and sound effects has been done extremely well and adds just that little bit extra to the creative and detailed hand drawn world and overall experience.
As you start out you will notice that the get has an extremely detailed hand drawn world. The world it’s self has its own weather system, as well as creative interactive elements which show the extreme attention to detail. One example of this is while using your wind attack, all the trees and parts of the environment will move and swap, or your tracks in the snow later in the game. The whole game is riddled with tiny bits of detail, even if it’s not the main focal point.
All the characters are very fitting for the game’s world, even with such variety. With each new area you enter there will always be a new standard of enemy or NPC to interact with which you haven’t seen previously. With such a great variety in enemies and environments every area feels fresh and deliveries a different experience. You won’t be able to fight every enemy the same way, and you will need to tackle each area slightly differently to progress.
The game holds up extremely well even when the screen has masses of enemies. You won’t find any screen tearing or slowdown while playing this title. So you’re also engaged while fighting and amazed while exploring.
As you start out you’re slowly introduced to various characters and their situations. Each character has something to say with their own dialog and side quests. Not everyone may need your help, but every character you encounter in the game has something to say. Just like the art style, nothing has been neglected here either. At times some of fidgets mumblings can seem a little out-of-place, or irritating, but this plays into the love hate relationship with her and how you strangle her one minute, but listen to her the next.
At times you may know what’s going on, where as others are clouded and unclear until you complete the next objective, but this just seems to draw you in further. You want to know what happens and why you’ve been bestowed with this burden and why you can’t remember what happened.
There are hints all throughout the game that tell you what happens, but nothing is really clear until you reach a certain point. Some of the plot twists are obvious. At times I felt that I wasn’t really just playing a game, but taking part in an interactive movie and filling in the areas between the conversations with my own personal experiences.
The games combat and progression and fairly simple, you have several attack buttons, jump, dodge and a few other moves. You have to work for your extra moves, so you will need to progress some through the game to learn new abilities from orbs found around the various areas. Upgrades aside, the combat is very fluent. There is next to no learning curve, so if you’re new to the genre, or a veteran, anyone can pickup and play this title without struggling. The game is intuitive and starts you out slowly, then introduces new additions as you progress.
One of the biggest draws is that combat may be simple, but it’s extremely hard to master and become a perfectionist. Much like every other hack and slash title you may play, everyone has a different standard of playing. Even through combat is a large focus in this title, you also have side quests and arenas to compete in. The arenas are mainly to test your skill on a hazard filled obstacle course while your fight the clock and collect point collectibles.
There are very few reasons to hate the gameplay in this title unless you’re just not a fan of the hack and slash genre. Everything works as it should, you won’t run into any issues with the controls as they’re fluid and simple.
I’m far from a fan of anime and its art styles, but once I started playing this title, I couldn’t put it down. The game does start slow and eases you in to new environments, enemies, skills and play styles as you progress. Unlike a lot of side scrolling hack and slash games, there is far more depth to this title over most. The game won’t bog you down with hours of customization and stat menus, but it does offer character leveling, a light conversation system and progressive upgrades to Dust.
If you’re an avid hack and slash, platformer or RPG enthusiast, this is a must own title. If you’re not sure, definitely try the demo. This is one game that I wasn’t sure about until I got my hands on it and played it. The game has intuitive controls, an amazing style of art concept. The story is extremely varied and offers plenty of side quest content to keep you busy between the main story, and the music ties it all together into a perfect package.
Dust: An Elysian Tail offers everything I would expect from a high production title, but for a fraction of the price. If you’re concerned that the game costs too much, then let me reassure your interest. A standard playthrough while looking for everything will clock in somewhere about 12+ hours and possibly longer.